Drinking tea is part of our existence, it is the highest used beverage in India, may be not much less of a habit, even outside India. But the manner it is made, and consumed, is not proper, at least very original taste of tea is sacrificed. General way as it is prepared, is to first boil water vigorously, and then dust tea is poured, and boiled for a considerable time vigorously. After full course of boiling, it is strained. Then spoons of sugar, and thickened milk, is mixed and stirred well before drinking. Often, tea drinker after a few sips finds the tea less sweetened, adds further sugar, before fully enjoying the cup of tea. To the tea drinker, existence of sugar and milk, is more important than tea. The drinker is not aware due to a force of habit, that he is really drinking a syrupy mixer of sugar and milk, rather than tea real. But whatever, this is the common practice of preparing tea, in India.
If any of you ever visit an Army /BSF/CISF establishment , you will see their mug-full of tea, tastes same in whichever part of India you might be located, for their method of preparation is same. What they do always– they have a giant size saucepan, which they fill it with water from tap; pour milk, sugar and tea, in cold water itself before putting on the burner, and boil for an hour, then strain into a big drum and distribute by riding a cycle to their personnels spread over several points. It is remarkable that their tea taste same wherever you may be geographically located.
As for me, in my childhood, my common breakfast would be eating chapattis after soaking in the excessively sweetened glassful tea, often there would be previous night’s left-over excess chapattis made use of next morning. I know many of my readers would have the same practice. Actually, those were the days when economic condition of common Indians, was not as good as of today, people in general had to grow up like this in deprivation, could not afford fashionable dress and food as of today. It is a good sign that many poor of those old days, are now well off, and leading high standard of life . This is without any special talent of their own, Just like rising level water lifts all the boats on river, similarly general rising economic condition of the country improved their lot also….. It is ludicrous that same old people, turns now hypocrite, shows off their wealth, and looks down upon those who unfortunately missed the bus to wealth. These neighbors of ours put on airs and graces, as if they are wealthy Americans doing us a favor by condescending to live as our neighbors for a precious few days, whenever they want they may abandon us to get back to their abode, America. It is not my experience alone, I am sure, it is your experience as well, and you have quite a many among your friends, only that you don’t have time to ventilate your dislike, as I have been doing. Their ordinariness, lack of culture and hollowness , is seen through their wealth and huge make-up. I pity them, like Jesus, I pray, ” Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Coming back to preparation of tea, my likes in childhood has changed from that syrapy mixer to strong hard and flavoured black tea. I have turned wiser after being diabetic to cut off sugar consumption. I don’t use milk and sugar anymore. I use loose Darjeeling tea at Rs 80/-per 100 gm. In Kolkata, its availability was easy, but in Mumbai buying loose tea is not in fashion. I searched vigorously in the market, and found out similar Darjeeling tea sold by HASHMUKH TEA. HASHMUKH TEA has a chain of retail shops in various places in Mumbai city, they are 90 years old shops, and selling high quality Darjeeling tea with reputation. I have a great faith in them. Without milk and sugar, my tea is strong and bitter which I find quite invigorating, and charges me smart.
From person to person, making of tea varies according to tastes. Some prefers dust, others half-dust, still others, flavoured long tea leaves, put into from just-boiled to vigorously boiled water. Way side tea stalls even prefer boiling for half hour. Boiling the tea leaves, especially tea dust, releases too much of tannins which can cause stomach upsets, in fact it does.
When it is the question of making of tea, it is essential that I mention the name of a great Kolkata born English writer, George Orwell—he was a great connoisseur of tea. He wrote how to prepare tea to get the best of it. He elaborately explained his method spread over 13 pages in his ‘ The collected Essays, Jounalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 3, 1943-45, under the title ‘ A nice cup of Tea’. He prescribed 11 golden rules of which I mention five only, that too, duly modified by my own experience—
1.- Tea must be made in small quantity, in a tea pot , made of china or earthenware.,2.-The pot should be warmed beforehand . This is better done by placing it on the hob than by swilling it out with hot water., 3.-Tea should be loose in the pot, otherwise it won’t infuse properly. Tea should be strong , 4.- Only just-boiling water should be poured in the loosely spread tea leaves in the pot, tea-bags is not a good idea. 5.-Tea should be drunk without sugar, putting sugar means destroying the flavor of tea. Tea is meant to be bitter, by sweetening it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
In balance, my idea is that you may taste tea, preferably, Darjeeling tea, without mixing milk and sugar ie retaining its original bitterness , and if you can drink it for 15 days straight, you are bound to like it, won’t revert back to drink again the syrapy tea. Try it, drink the right tea for your stimulation.