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Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Affair With Tea

Some bonding are eternal. One expects and hopes these to be between humans but it is often found to be more profoundly maintained between a man and his habit; his unconditional love for something he enjoys silently in his solitude. My perpetual love affair remains with my early morning tea that I enjoy making myself. Over the years, that affection has grown deeper and stronger to ultimately make us inseparable. 

Every morning, I enjoy the sight of the dry leaves divulge its flavour in to the boiling water. I take one last glance at the mixing before hurriedly closing the lid fearing it’s fragrance’s escape. Few impatient minutes pass by until I reappear before my beloved to add just the right amount of milk to enrich the flavour but to retain the essence. Some may disagree with the milk part and many might refuse the sugar. But in my opinion, they compliment the leaves like they were made for each other; to be united at my kitchen. A minute under the closed lid, a perfect melange appears and a perfect colour of a happy compromise emerges.Watching the morning news, as I take the first sip, it fills me with an aroma that takes me back in time, thus making me reminisce our several previous dates. I find myself transported to the backdoor steps of my Mangalore house, where I as a child enjoyed this special moment. Somewhere there our association had begun.

My maternal grandmother had this rule at home - The first thing one gets at home after brushing their teeth would be a cup of tea and some snacks or a slice of bread to chew along with that blissful sip. My mother introduced that tradition in our house. A morning tea thus became an integral part of my life even before I knew what this relationship meant. On Sundays and during holidays, my paternal grandmother boosted my infatuation further by offering me the mid morning tea that she was accustomed to. The evenings would end with another cup of tea with some tasty hot savouries specially relished during the Monsoon season while watching the rains soak our lush front yard. I also cherish some great tea moments with my Muslim neighbours. Everybody has their own style of tea making and the nuances are noticed when closely observed. I liked their tea a lot. But it always remained that early morning date, which I relished the most and could not refuse it even when I had to travel alone to other cities. 

Whether it is in those lonely rooms of Bangalore or in the US, this lovely relationship was never abandoned. There always had to be a cup of tea in my hand before I can think of anything else. When I am traveling in a different city or country, I always step out of my hotel to a local tea stall and I find myself privileged to be amongst many like minded lovers who are immersed in this enjoyable and unavoidable morning date. But, I must say that my affair elevated to its highest level when I met my soulmate in Ceylon tea.

I was introduced to Ceylon tea in Hong Kong youth hostel where I stayed. While, I was there, I also visited a lovely all-tea shop and bought a mud pot to enrich my tea drinking experience. For the first time I saw how there could be a store only dedicated to tea and there were a bunch of crazy lovers like me.




I did try a lot of Chinese tea but none fit my taste. After returning to India, I totally forgot about this encounter with Ceylon tea and continued with my Indian flavours. It was in last December that my backpacking trip to Sri Lanka turned this infatuation into a true love affair.

Ceylon tea was nothing like what I had tasted before. I was so fascinated by its natural flavour that during my travles in the country, I would have several cups of tea in a day. For the first time, I enjoyed black tea, lime tea, flavoured tea (Apple, Strawberry, Litchi etc) and the mild citric taste of Ceylon tea made this a refined experience. I had after all found my true love.  Moreover, a visit to a tea factory in Ella made me understand the different grades of tea (Pekoe, BOP, FBOP etc) thus allowing me to choose the right type of leaves for the respective tea I was preparing (With or without milk).



My romance with tea has thus found a delightful conclusion. Being aware of the fact that though we cannot be certain about our emotions towards another individual, I can affirm that this sentiment I share for tea is eternal. Sitting in a tea shop in Colombo, I enjoyed my almond tea along with a cheese cake. That was one royal date we were on.




My morning dates were often accompanied by other guests, such as snacks, savouries or biscuits; special Mangalore Sonte (A local snack made of friend sweet potatoes). These have lately been replaced by more healthier options such as Almonds, Pistachio and walnuts. But after all the tea is what that is the most important part of this date. And Ceylon tea has brought the right aroma into my life that no human can perhaps bring. Fortunately, there is at least one true affair to cherish in a lifetime. 

I leave you with this dialogue from the movie, "The Best Marigold Hotel" - 

"Dunking means lowering the biscuit into the tea and letting it soak in there and trying to calculate the exact moment before the biscuit dissolves, when you whip it up into your mouth and enjoy the blissful union of biscuits and tea combined. It's more relaxing than it sounds."

14 comments:

  1. Aah! Loved reading about this tea affair. Nothing makes me more happy than a hot cup of ginger tea any day, any hour of the year. Tea tradition in my house is with my Dad brewing the first morning round of tea for himself, mum and me. Then, after breakfast mum and me have another round of tea with ginger and my favourite ingredient, some mint leaves. The aroma is rich and lingering. My mum makes the evening tea. When I am out for work, I always head to my regular tea maker bhaiyya's stall near People's Book House. His cardamom tea is to die for. Such simple pleasures associated with tea. Feel so good. Enjoyed reading this with a steaming adrak chai in my hand. :)

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    1. :-) True, Loved your story too. I occasionally enjoy some ginger in my tea as well. Just a little, so that it does not dominate the taste of the tea leaves which I love so dearly. :-)

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    2. I totally forgot to write about the supplementary snacks that go down with tea in my house. Like your maternal grandma, my maternal uncle introduced the tradition of bread slices as accompaniment with the morning tea in my childhood. Bread dunked in milk till us kids were about eight years old or so. We looked forward to visits from the Khaari-biskoot wale Uncle with a tin trunk on his head doing morning rounds of our society. He would have freshly baked fruit buns, plain buns, khaari- toasts-naankatai- all sorts of lovely tea snacks us kids gorged hungrily on empty stomachs. :-D
      Some days we also dunked hot chapati/roti rolls in tea. My granny insisted on chapati replacing bread in our diets back then. Now, it's usually an oat cookie or two with the tea, but I long for those days of shared tea snacks with cousins. Your post took me back into such a nostalgic era of childhood memories. Thank you. :-) May our tribe of tea drinkers grow well and large in numbers. :-)

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    3. True, I remember such snacks being sold in big wooden boxes carried from house to house. Also, Khaaris are a delight with tea. I also loved a specific Mangalore snack made of sweet potato along with my tea. I had to go back and include some of the details on the snacks after seeing your comment. Thanks. Among biscuits, I like Parle-G. :-)

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    4. Oh, good ol' Parle-G, how nice! I have fond memories of Bakeman's biscuits from CSD in childhood. Got introduced to Parle-G after coming to Maharashtra. :)

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  2. It seems you are a serious tea lover and you just having fun. You are obsessed with tea and you experienced different taste. That’s just great! I really like the way you explain about tea affair. I’m fascinated that one humble plant can be rolled, processed, teased into so many creative permutations. My tastes aren’t that refined yet but I would say I like certain teas from certain brands and some of them are found at the grocery. It is the only drink (other than water) that I drink all day, every single day. I haven’t ever really given this much thought. If it makes me go “OMG” and my eyes bulge out of my head, then it’s too much), I don’t generally purchase it without having tried it. However, I do consider myself a “taster” rather than someone who commits themselves to certain teas. That is to say, I enjoy trying new teas, having several cups of a tea… but once I’ve finished the package, I don’t usually buy it again (Except when I'm in love with its taste. (Any Persian will tell you that they love to drink Chai, pronounced Cha-ee (We call it Chai in Persian). Tea, in general, is what Persians drink in the morning, after each meal, and not to mention throughout the day. Additionally, the first drink that one if offered when visiting someone else’s home is usually tea. Iranians make tea in their own way. Have you ever tried tea with Persian style?

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    1. Wow, No, I have not really tasted Iranian tea. I am sure there are some outlets in Bangalore that sell them. You have made me want to try that. Will do that. I too love to try different flavours. I still will though Ceylon has dominated my taste for the time being. What brands would you suggest?

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  3. Great write-up. I liked it.
    Even my day starts with tea.

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  4. What a lovely - and lasting, it sounds - relationships you've developed with tea. Your description of your morning ritual is much like mine, but my love affair is with that old fellow named Starbucks, who was born and raised right here in the neighboring town of Seattle. Try as I might to break free of his hold on me, I keep coming back for more! (Great post!!)

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    1. Thanks. Good to hear about your similar association with Starbuck coffee. :-)

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  5. Coucou,
    J'aimerais beaucoup aimé le thé car il y a de belle vertus et j'adore le rituel qui l'entoure mais je n'ai pas encore trouvé une saveur que j'apprécie ♡

    Bisous

    Manon

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    1. :-) Vous devez essayer "Dilmah" c'est une marque de thé ceylon. Je l'aime beaucoup.

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    2. Je te remercie, j'en prend note ♡

      Bisou et Bon été

      Manon

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