Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tea-amine Square

The mornings that I don’t wake up to my daily cup of hot spicy, milky tea are the days that I know I’m going to be grouchy for the rest of the day.
I’m a bit of a tea connoisseur. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit far as I’m barely out of my teens. But I am definitely a tea aficionado so much so that I can tell apart Early Grey from Jasmine with ease. It’s quite simple actually, since they all have a particular taste. Thank god, for Prahlad Kakkar’s makeover of the historical ‘Tea Centre’ which serves everything from Orange Blood Tea, Hibiscus Tea to Kashmiri Khawa at very reasonable prices so students like me can achieve a temporary feeling of a refined sense of taste So I thought it’d be a good idea to impart some chai-gyaan to the uninitiated.
Native to southwest China, tea has been drunk by the Chinese for many centuries. It was introduced to Europe in the early seventeenth century and by the middle of this century, tea was well-established in both France and Britain, firstly as a medicinal brew, but later ceremonies for the drinking of tea became a popular pastime amongst the well-to-do, with fine cups and saucers, teapots and tea caddies adding to the ritual.
Teas are named after their leaf size, their type and place of origin, and many are blended, a practise that began centuries ago, when people realized that blending gave a more a balanced brew, the characteristics of different teas and complementing and enhancing each other.
Blending of several different teas is done with a view to reducing deficiencies in a single tea and producing a balanced brew with good body, aroma and flavour. Cost, of course is inevitably a factor as well. There are more than 3,000 different blends of tea available. The more popular ones are Earl Grey, which is a blend of Indian and Chinese tea, scented with the oil of Bergamot, which gives the tea its characteristic citrus flavour.
Black Tea on the other hand, are fully fermented teas, and all English teas are made using various blends of black teas. They come mostly from India, Sri Lanka and Africa. Unlike green tea, their leaves are dried immediately after picking, the plucked teas for black teas are first allowed to wilt on drying racks, then bruised by rolling, and lastly fermented in the open air. This fermentation/oxidation process causes the leaves to turn red-brown anad acquire the flavour and strength of the black teas.
Darjeeling tea, is the most expensive of all black teas as their leaves are grown on the foothills of the Himalayas and are considered the finest of all teas for its superior flavour.
Ceylon Tea is another Sri Lankan black tea which are grown at an altitude of 6000 ft.
Our very own Assam tea is an extrememly important tea-producing area. They are full-bodied, providing strength to many blends.
The Orange Pekoe which is hard to find unless you go to a fine-dining restaraunt, is the most fragrant of all the teas. The word pekoe once meant white haired in Chinese, indicating that the leaves of this tea were sometimes tipped with white white. Orange blossoms were then added for that extra tangy flavour.
With the ‘anti-oxidant’ revolution that have seemed to take over our lives, how can I possibly not talk about Green Tea.
Celebrities and skinny models swear by Green Tea as a magic potion to shed off those extra kilos. There might be little or no truth in that, but what is a given is that it aides digestion like nothing else.
Unlike black teas, where the leaves are fermented, green teas are dried immediately after picking, preventing the oxidation that causes the leaves to blacken and the flavour to develop. The final mild brew has a fresher, more astringent taste, with none of the body or depth of black teas. They are also brewed with mint and other herbs like twigs and stems, even.
Fruit-flavoured Herbal teas are the newest trend in the world of pretentious tea-drinkers. The more exotic the fruit flavouring, the better it sells. These teas are also known to have certain functions for the body.
Camomile Tea is thought to soothe and calm the nerves, relieve stress and induce sleep. So it’s a good idea to swap this with that glass of milk you drink before you go to bed.
Peppermint Tea has a distinctly minty flavour and is highly recommended as a digestive to be drunk after a heavy meal. It is said to act as a tonic.
Apart from these popular ones, Rosehip Tea, Lemon Verbena and Dandelion Tea are sweet, high in Vitamin C and have diuretic effects.
But at the end of the day, nothing perks me up like my masala chai I get from my chaiwalla at the Mohammad Bakshi Chowk lane for three bucks a glass.

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