Banjari Chai in the Indian Thar Desert

In March 2023 and during my 10-day bikepacking expedition in the Indian thar desert; I was offered liters of tea by rural communities in Rajasthan. Rural Rajasthani’s believe and practice “Atithi Devo Bhava” – “A Guest is Akin to God” and this starts with offering a cup of tea.

It was my pleasure to have conversation with rural Rajasthan over a cup of tea offered by Households, Village shops, Puncture making shops, Village heads, Temples, Gurdwaras, Schools, Forest department, Dhabas and the most unique one – By Goatherds in the Indian Thar desert under a shade of tree!

“Banjari Chai” is a Hindi word that translates to “Nomadic Tea” and what makes this one unique besides its yumminess is the process of making it. 

31st March, 2023 was the last day of my bikepacking expedition in the Indian Thar desert. I started in the morning from Motigarh village towards the city of Bikaner which is 60 Kms afar. It was after around 10 Kms that I spotted a herd of goats in the desert and my love for goats drove me closer and closer to them.

I took permission from Madar and Shikur Bhai – The Goatherds to spend some time with their goats. I absolutely loved watching them eat, hearing their sounds – Baah …. Maah and observing them walk. What adds as a background music to all this observation is the melodious sound of ringing bells tied around the neck of goats.

Madar and Shikur bhai loved my bike and I loved their goats. We had a conversation regarding each other – They were amazed to know about my way of exploring rural Rajasthan and I was amazed to know about their capabilities of managing goats. They produce unique sounds to command their goats – To make them move, to make them eat or to make them rest.

I bonded along well with Madar and Shikur bhai with more and more conversation regarding Goats – My love. Very soon they welcomed me for a cup of tea and I was happy to accept the offer. I started bike walking with them and was expecting that I will be offered a cup of tea at their home which must be a kilometer away or less. Little did I know that the Bhais had a plan to offer me a Delicious Banjari Chai!

Around a Km of bike walk and we reached a water source point. The goats rested near to the point but did not drink from it. I was curious to know the reason and the bhais told me that it rained yesterday and it is cloudy today and hence the goats are not feeling thirsty. The bhais took rest under a shade of tree and soon started preparing for tea. It was certainly not what I expected but what a luck I have that I witnessed the process of making Banjari Chai!!

STEP 1 – Collect Firewood

Shikur Bhai collected firewood from desert trees, plants and grasses like खींप – Kheep (Leptadenia pyrotechnica), फोग – Phog (Calligonum polygonoides), चग – Chag (Crotalaria burhia), कीकर – Kikar (Acacia karroo), कुमतिया – Kumatiya (Acacia senegal) etc. Shikur bhai also told me that he prefers to collect firewood from dead plants/grasses and fallen branches of trees. I very much liked the environmental consciousness and minimalistic actions of Shikur bhai.

STEP 2 – Ignite Firewood

Shikur bhai started crushing firewood from Kheep, Phog and Chag plant into small pieces and placed them on bare sand. He then ignited this firewood mixture using matchbox and placed the firewood from Kikar and Kumatiya tree on the already ignited firewood mixture. The wood was on fire and the Bhais were all ready for making banjari chai.

It was at this moment that my bike fell down – Perhaps it could not control the aroma of Banjari Chai. I was thinking about the skills of bhais in knowing and executing this process. They knew exactly the type of firewood to choose for pre-ignition and the type to use as a main fuel source.

STEP 3 – Make Tea

Madar bhai already had his Tea making vessel (चाय की तपेली) out from his bag and all the ingredients ready for making Banjari Chai. The milk was from goats and I was very much excited to have this tea. What adds to the minimalistic actions of making this tea was the way in which Madar bhai stirred the contents of tea. He used a pair of firewood branches to hold and stir the vessel. I loved it.

STEP 4 – Drink Tea

We had a conversation (चाय पे चर्चा) while drinking tea. I told the Bhais that I loved their way of preparing tea and asked them if they prepare their lunch the same way? Madar bhai told me that they eat lunch at their home.

STEP 5 – Clean Vessels

When Madar bhai used the vessel for making tea I noticed that it was super clean but after the tea was ready the vessel was full black from outside – certainly coated with carbon soot. I was curious as to how and when Madar bhai will clean it. My curiosity was answered instantaneously. 

Madar bhai cleaned the vessel in two phases (i) Using Sand + Water + Leaves (ii) Using Ash + Water

STEP 6 – Take Care of Goats

Madar bhai splashed sand on the burnt firewood mixture. I was curious about his actions and asked him the reason. He replied that he loves his goats and that they might get hurt if they accidently walk on the hot burnt firewood mixture. I also think that his actions were good for the environment as this step drastically reduce any rare possibility of triggering wildfire in the desert

Time to Say Goodbye

I thanked Madar and Shikur bhai for allowing me to spend time with their goats and inviting me for Banjari Chai. It was delicious. I demonstrated them as to how I make food – Using potable stove, stove windscreen, butane gas cartridge, water and ready to eat food packets. They liked my camping gears and I liked their minimalistic and locally relevant method of making Banjari Chai.

I gifted them a couple of soup packets that I had and asked them to have it in future. It was time to move and take rest under another tree. It was time for Goodbye.


  • I am grateful to Travel Unity and Hospitalented for providing me scholarship under “Discover Your World Travel Scholarship” programme for this expedition. The scholarship amount was USD 100 which partially covered my expenditure during the expedition

  • I believe that the process of preparing Banjari Chai can become more sustainable and environment friendly with the use of efficient and potable cooking stoves powered by solar energy

12 thoughts on “Banjari Chai in the Indian Thar Desert”

      1. प्रिय भाई उत्कर्ष, सादर जय जिनेंद्र!
        आपके प्रयास अत्यंत सराहनीय एवं अनुकरणीय हैं। आपके अंग्रेजी में लिखे वर्णन बहुत सृजनात्मक हैं, फिर भी एक बात अवश्य कहूँगा कि प्रयास करके अपनी बातों को हिन्दी में भी लिखें ताकि अधिकाधिक लोग इसे पढ़ें तथा उन बातों को आसानी से समझ सकें जो आप सब तक पहुंचाना चाहते हैं।

        1. जय जिननेद्र अर्पित भाई

          मुझे अच्छा लगा की आपको मेरा लेख अच्छा लगा. मैं आपके सुझाव से भी सहमत हूँ. हिंदी मैं लिखा लेख कहीं और ज्यादा लोग पद सकेंगे. मैंने मेरी वेबसाइट पर आटोमेटिक ट्रांसलेशन की सुविधा डाली है जिससे गूगल ही इंग्लिश को हिंदी मैं कन्वर्ट कर देगा. उम्मीद करता हूँ यह उपयोगी होगा

  1. ये राजस्थान की मरूस्थलीय चाय है जिसका स्वाद आप को किसी भी होटलों में नहीं मिलेगा @Utkarsh sethia

  2. Gangaram alawe kDSS barwani

    Biyar Geels hai aap na thakte, na harte hai. Kis mil ke phatar ke Bane ho aap. 700 km sakil se chalna. Gajab ka. Hope.

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