Confessions of a tea lover

  • Chitvan Singh Dhillon, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 06, 2015 12:59 IST

Ah! Finally winter has made its presence felt. Though I love autumn and spring as well for their cheerful cadence and warm days but hey I'm true-blue scorpion and so I enjoy when the days shorten. It's the perfect sleeping weather. I get to pull out my favourite pair of corduroys, turtle neck sweaters and mufflers. Wait, am I missing something here? Oh yes! Winter is also the season to bring out the quintessential tea kettle. Personally, I drink hot tea all year round, but I find it particularly alluring and soothing once the delightful winters set in and along with that the mellow sunshine.

As a tiny tot, my mother introduced me to the joys of a great cuppa. She hails from an aristocratic Sikh family where a cuppa of finely brewed Darjeeling is taken very seriously. So much so that she inherited an 18th century custom-made pure silver tea-set and an emerald-studded strainer from her grandmother as a part of her wedding trousseau. It's something she treasures.

My mother is a tea connoisseur, a borderline fanatic. In our family, we could choose from orange pekoe tea, First Flush Darjeeling, Earl Grey, English Breakfast et all with either milk and sugar or with fresh lemon and honey. A fine art, tea drinking is one of the most typical, and it requires a highly trained mind, a pedigree, oodles of finesse as well as a vigorous palate to appreciate it to the full. Sadly, people dub it as nothing but a "British hangover" or something elitist but I guess there are some things money still can't buy.

The trick is to infuse the tea leaves in the purest spring water that has been brought just up to the boil, but not beyond it. Serve it in petite porcelain cups and saucers, beautiful in themselves and of subtle colours or floral prints. That will enhance the natural beauty of the tea. The key is to appreciate the colour first, followed by the scent and ultimately the flavour. Empty the mind of all its burdens and troubles and give it over entirely to the enjoyment and soothing action of the tea. Take it into the mouth while still piping hot and allow it to trickle slowly down the throat, rolling it with the tongue. Pause between each tiny cupful and meditate upon the delight it has given you and, as a warm glow suffuses your being, give yourself up to the tranquility and quiet contentment that it brings.

The most wonderful thing about tea is not only does it taste great, but now we are discovering how good it is for our health. Green tea is rich in a compound that blocks a particular enzyme needed in the digestion of starchy foods. If you drink the recommended amount of green tea while eating a meal or snack high in starch, your blood sugar will only increase by 50% of its normal rise. Amazing, isn't it?

How can I forget, we're all Punjabis at heart, and winter will never be complete without the good ol' fragrant ginger-cardamom chai with extra sugar in an earthen Kasora. So now that foggy mornings beckon, it's time you get your kettle, some of your favorite tea-cups and tea out, and warm up your insides while treating yourself to a warm cup. It's a lovely way to usher in the 'contemplative season', a time to mirror back over the happenings of the year gone by and nestle in while dreaming of the times ahead.

So, what's brewing in your cup?

(Chitvan is a freelance journalist and a poet at heart)

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