Monday, November 13, 2006

Sipping Tea in San Francisco

That brings me to my renewed passion for fine teas. Like most Indians, I was brought up with the morning and afternoon tea rituals. Tea in India (cha in Bengali and chai in most of North India), is almost always served pre-mixed with milk and sugar.

Tea made by Indian chai-wallahs (tea vendors) and restaurants are usually prepared by adding tea leaves, sugar and milk together to the boiling water. It is also common to add cardamom or crushed ginger to the boiling tea for flavor. Other spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon are used to make Masala Tea.

Tea at our home has always been special, made with a blend of Lipton Green Leaf (for the aroma) and Brooke Bond Taj Mahal (for body and color). We put the tea leaves in boiling water, cover the tea-pot and remove from direct heat. Warm milk and sugar are added only after the tea is poured out into tea-cups.

The Kashmiris make tea which is quite distinct from anything else I have had in the rest of India. The tea is thick, sweet and garnished with finely chopped nuts. They call it Kehwa.

Many of the fine teas are best had without milk or with very little milk. The exquisite flavor and taste of Darjeeling tea, Jasmine Tea or Earl Grey have revived me after many a long journey in hotels and flights around the world. ‘Beats going to the bar sometimes!

Here's a short video of the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel where I was contemplating all that is Tea over a cuppa Darjeeling :-). The ornate ceilings and large dimensions seem more European than American!

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