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There’s more to tea than you think

Infuse Assamese tea with cloves and ginger, try Suleimani chai with lemon, as this beverage expert decodes the city’s tea-drinking traditions. Read on for more.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2011 19:45 IST
Rochelle Pinto

You’ve definitely been there — desperate to complete a last-minute work assignment, but not without a chai break. Now before you reach for that pack of biscuits, consider the right tea and food pairings that gastronomy writer Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal is trying to promote.



Having recently hosted a tea pairing workshop with gourmet provisions store Nature’s Basket, Rushina says, “We all love tea, but what we don’t know is that even within Mumbai, each community has their own version of

chai

. There is the Suleimani

chai

, the Gujarati masala

chai

, the Assamese dark tea, which is among the best in the world, and every community has already perfected the right snack to pair their tea with.”



Rushina also mentions different tea variants suit different times of the day. “Fruit and herbal teas have qualities that make them suitable to particular hours of the day. A light infusion fruit tea is perfect to have sip on, as you unwind and get ready for bed.”



Here’s the expert advice on popular tea pairings:


Masala

chai

With this Mumbai classic, Rushina recommends biting into something equally spicy: “With the Gujarati masala chai, which has been brewed for a long time and has quite a strong flavour of its own, I personally love a spicy thepla with mango chutney pickle. It’s masochistic, because the hot tea will add to the burning sensation, but it’s delicious.”



Irani chai Enjoyed by the city’s Irani community and by anyone who’s stepped into Kyani or Koolar, the sweet, milky concoction is best paired with

brun maska

. “Nothing beats stopping by a bakery at 4 pm when the bread is hot out of the oven, generously slathered with butter, and paired with a cup of Irani chai,” says Ghildiyal.



Suleimani chai This clear tea flavoured with lemon, enjoyed by the Muslim community, is usually served with a slightly sweet bread to complement its flavour.



Ukalo A Gujarati special served around the Opera House area, this is actually not a chai at all but milk which is boiled with all the masalas that go into chai.



Kashmiri kahwa Rushina informs that this is not as readily available in Mumbai, but is a very pleasing digestive tea made by using very few green tea leaves, topped with saffron, crushed almonds and sugar. “It’s traditionally eaten with sweet breads, but I like to eat it with a spiced Mascarpone dip paired with sweet rusk,” she says, adding, “It’s brewed using a special tea leaf called Bombay Chai, but I suppose you could substitute it with another kind of green tea since you’re only using very few leaves.”



Assamese tea Recommended for mid-day, the flavour of this dark tea can easily be customised by adding lemon or spices like cloves and ginger, perfect for the Monsoon.



Says Rushina, “The dark flavours of the tea along with infused spices, cut through oiliness of snacks like chilli cheese toast. Given that you’ll be drinking this between breakfast and lunch, when you’re feeling a little peckish, a cheese sandwich will really hit the spot.”