Hitherto consumed only by northerners, the local tea is now consumed by people of diverse origins.
National integration may also go through what we consume. After ‘eru’ from the Bayangui people in the South West, ‘achu’ from the North West precisely Ngemba people, ‘ndole’ for the Duala people and ‘mbongo’ of the Bass people, which have been erected to national dishes, ‘‘Chai” from the norther part of Cameroon is beginning to establish itself as a national drink. Chai is a locally brewed tea from a natural herb that grows in the northern part of the country. From a local drink mostly consumed in the northern part of the country, Chai has conquered the national territory and is now consumed by people from diverse origins in Cameroon. It is customary to see young men at strategic corners of the city or parading the streets with flasks hawking the cherished drink to customers that keep increasing by the day. A tea cup cost FCFA100 and it could be blended with real tea, ginger or limes according to the taste of the customer and the purpose for consuming the tea.
Though no scientific study has been conducted to ascertain its veracity, the consumption of chai is said to have many therapeutic qualities. Besides its aroma, Chai is said to have therapeutic qualities such as fighting cardiovascular diseases, weight control, rheumatism, weight control, sexual weakness and also acts as a deworming agent. Chai also leads to the purification of blood and clears the esophagus of smokers. According to Habib Tale, a chai vendor in the Ngangue neighborhood in Douala, he can sell from five to eight flasks of tea a day making a daily income of about five thousands as profit. He says chai is better than conventional tea because it is free from any chemical contamination as it is extracted from a natural herb, boiled for about four or five minutes, then sieved and sold to customers. Most of the customers are men from northern extraction but more and more people from the southern part of the country are beginning to consume, women included.
“I love drinking chai every morning because it gives me tonic for the rest of the day”, said Tata Gilbert, a carpenter. I like it because it clears alcohol from your eyes after a night of heavy drinking”, said another customer. ‘I am a smoker and I like drinking chai because it clears the phlegm from my throat and purifies my blood”, said yet another consumer. Even people who are not used to drinking tea at home, develop the habit of consuming chai, thereby expanding the market for this locally brewed tea. Some say it is cheap and one does not need to go through the boring process of preparing tea as it is served ready for consumption.