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For the love of tea

For French chef Gregory Bazire, sampling the spice-laden milky masala chai has been a life-changing experience

brunch Updated: Dec 16, 2017 14:35 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Ananya Ghosh
Hindustan Times
TEA,chae,Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House
Tea is having a renaissance of sorts right now

A humble cup of masala chai changed Gregory Bazire’s life. It was 1998 and his wife was just back from a trip to India. Along with memories and pictures, she had brought some spices. “One day she made some masala chai…something she had tasted in India. It had ginger, cardamom, cloves, pepper, and for me, it was love at first sip! This was strange as I was not really into teas. In fact, I was an out-and-out coffee person. The year was 1998,” says the French chef, as we settle down for a chai pe charcha at the Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House over some rum and raisin Darjeeling tea. “This one is especially dedicated to India’s love for Old Monk!” he quips.

Bazire enjoys his evening cuppa at the Taj Mahal Tea House

Bazire’s love for masala chai led him to experiment with Indian spices and that eventually made him leave his country and relocate to India in 2005 and start his own restaurant in Goa. Le Poisson Rouge soon became one of the top innovative global restaurants. But there was something still missing. Ten years into it, it was again tea that got him closer to his food dream. He got an offer to create an elaborate tea infused food menu for an upcoming tea house. “I absolutely loved the idea and grabbed the offer. You can experiment with various cooking techniques as well as flavour combinations. Since there are so many different kinds of teas, each distinct in their flavour, the possibilities are almost endless. Also, you can infuse the tea by poaching, braising, steaming…and each will give you entirely different result! I loved the challenge.”

But what is surprising is that even though he took up the challenge, Bazire had never really tasted tea-infused food. “ I didn’t even have any elaborate research on different kinds of teas, their origins, I will not be able to have an elaborate conversation on orange pekoe! I work with different kinds of teas and in different forms…I am a cook and my only focus is on the flavours and what pairs well with what,” he explains. He puts ground tea leaves in pasta dough, poaches his pears in jasmine tea, uses matcha in a Semifreddo and also uses pickled tea leaves in chicken rolls. “A friend of mine had got me some pickled tea leaves from Myanmar and I loved the idea. So now I make my own! I boil the tea leaves and then marinate it in lime, chilly, sesame and lemongrass to pickle them.”

Bazire’s Karipatta tea is a hugely popular milk tea that is perfect for a winter evening. It pairs well with upma, poha and pakodas

Apart from infusing tea with food, Bazire’s menu has some unique concoctions of teas. From chocolate to coffee to and pink guava to turmeric, he has mixed tea with the most unlikely of things. For the conservative tea aficionado the very thought of putting karipatta (curry leaves) in tea might be cringe worthy, but a sip will definitely tickle your taste buds. The flavours work surprisingly well! “If you want to have Darjeeling tea as Darjeeling tea, or Earl Grey as regular Earl Grey, you can buy the tea leaves and brew them in your home. Why will you pay for the same at a tea house!” says Bazire.

Chai risotto at the Taj Mahal Tea House

However, ask him about his favourite kind of tea, and the man who experiments with teas the entire day and comes up with a different menu every season, still sticks to his old love. “Masala chai. I love the thick brown tapri chai where they keep boiling the tea the entire day with all the spices. Also, for me, drinking tea is an experience. It is your time with yourself. You sit by the window with a cuppa and read or just let your thoughts brew in the silence.”

Matcha Semifreddo is a must-have at the Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House

Matcha Semifreddo (serving 4)

Ingredients

•100g matcha cream

•2 egg white

•50g sugar

•50g hung curd

•5g matcha green tea powder

•30g sponge cake

•40g white chocolate

•20g almonds flakes

Method

1. Beat egg white with the sugar like a meringue, add the matcha.

2. Wash the hung curd and add the first mixture into it, slowly in order not to break the fluffiness.

3. Slice the sponge cake and shake it .

4. Take a 1/2 sphere moulds and start filling up with matcha cream.

5. Keep in freezer for at least 5hours .

6. Roast the almonds slivers and chopped them fine.

7. When you remove the Semifreddo coat it well with the almonds.

8. Do a circle of warm white chocolate, place the Semifreddo on top and dust a little bit of matcha powder around.

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From HT Brunch, December 15, 2017

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First Published: Dec 15, 2017 21:48 IST