My obsession to make perfect tea was kindled by a Sardarji in Delhi. It was 4.30 on a Feb morning in Delhi. The cold chilled my 60 kilo zero fat, frail figure which was yearning for heat. I owed a thousand apologies to the Madras sun and vowed never to utter a word of despair about its 40 degree, 100% humid weather. I needed that heat now. My eyes half drooping, i saw a bright light coming from a Sardarji’s shop and hurried towards it.That’s where i discovered TEA!
TEA – a divine drink made out of Elaichi, Ginger and milk and just enough sugar. The sweet bitterness hit my mouth; the bitterness enveloping the top of my gums and the sweetness occupying my tongue. It felt like Garuda Utsavam in Kanchipuram where the Sanskrit Upanishads are recited in the front of the chariot and the Tamil Prabandham from the back in total synchrony. I found love for the first time and my face was smitten with it – TEA. Is this the Gods referred to as “Somabaanam”?
Armed with the discovery of the taste of this wonderful drink, i set forth to replicate it in my own kitchen. 2 full nights of you tube research – sardarjinis, aunties, uncles and even a Caucasian gave their advice on how to make the perfect tea. Elaichi, cardomom, jaggery, 3.5% milk, half&half, 2% milk, water, distilled water, chilled water, warm water, crystallized sugar, fine sugar, cut ginger, chopped ginger, scrapped ginger, 3 roses, assam, darjeeling, ceylon, nair kadai – all of them tea leaves. I had everything set up in my kitchen. My kitchen looked like the kurukshetra war zone – infantry, cavalry – name it and it was there. The amount of permutations and combinations would have set a world record of all sorts. I had to come to a choice – i did – elaichi, ginger,3 roses tea leaves, 2% milk (health conscious, u see ) and SFO tap water.
Gas on, vessel on the stove and water hissed its way inside the heated vessel. I could see the water releasing their bubbles. Elaichi, scraped ginger, and the tea leaves went in. The whole concoction turned black like the Paarkadal. The cold milk followed it a few moments later subduing the heat and wrath and replacing it with the brown
familiarity of our skin. It was like the calm after the storm. In excitement, i watched the final moments of tea being born. It was like looking at a super fast forward version of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. And when the froth started forming, i switched off the gas and watched the tea meekily surrender inside the vessel.
Time to say goodbye to the gang – the elaichi, ginger and tea leaves were filtered. And lo and behold – on the table stood now a white mug with the ELIXIR of life – TEA trapped inside – fuming, hot and sexy!
My hands, trembling with joy, reached out to that white Taj Mahal and all the while my eyes feasting on the brown alcohol inside! My eyes closed as my hands took the mug closer to my mouth and my nose already twitching from the aroma automatically moved a little higher to make space for the mug to meet my lips. And at that moment, “ Balaji, filter coffee ready! Did you doze off on the sofa?”- my wife shouted at me.