Cultural differences

Tea, my forever friend and companion

10:25 AM

I spent my weekend getting over the trauma of having my living room splattered in wet cement and learned to live with the hopefully temporary grey ceiling patch up work.

I took it easy, no big plans, no big social events, just a date with myself in a coffee shop browsing my Twitter feeds while Ishita was at her Gymnastics class.
One feed let me to a blog post about Chai, and how according to the writer, there is a chai for every season. 

As a tea fanatic myself, I could not agree more with that statement. After all, I am the girl who once upon a time had over 20 different variety of teas stored in her kitchen cupboard. The only difference between her and I is the same there is between my husband and I.
No matter how hard I tried, I m really not a big fan of milk in my tea, not without a LOT of add-ons and tons of sugar.
I keep thinking this has to do with milk, I never really liked milk for as far as I can remember (as far as the early childhood I can remember to be exact).
But just like there is a milky chai for every season (and I suspect every occasion), there is a black, green or white tea that will do just the same.

In the Winter I usually gravitate toward rich flavourful teas, mostly black brews with strong fruity and spicy flavours. Comes Summer and my allegiance switch to greens, with light citrusy and preferably flowery or grassy notes.

And of course, as I once said, there are teas for every mood. There are pick me up teas, relax me teas, soothe me teas, happy teas, god what a day teas, anxiety buster teas. Because, yes, tea does fix everything (well except crumbly concrete ceilings that is).

In my home, don't be surprise to be asked "Which tea?" if you replied by the affirmative to my first question: "Do you want some tea".
Tea is taken very seriously in this home of mine. If you were to drop by right now for a cup and a chat, this is what you will have to choose from:

Coconut green tea, plain green tea, tulsi masala tea, tulsi ginger, Kashmiri Kahwa, Darjeeling, Earl grey, peach flavoured ceylon, banana green tea, camomile, Jasmine tea, lime and lemon, and apple cinnamon.
A few of them being tea-less infusion, but still a hot brew nonetheless.

This thing for tea is something you will find more and more as you go toward central and eastern Europe than you would find in the South and West of the continent where coffee dominates. In Switzerland the easter you go, the more people will gravitate toward tea in as many avatar as possible.
One of the biggest tradition being to finish the day with a herbal infusion just before bedtime or as close to it as possible.

When I first moved to India, this was one of the toughest thing to do without. Fruity and herbal brews as I knew them were rare and expensive. I did many years without them, trying to find solace in a cup of bitter tea that is more suited to a desi Chain than it is to a black and sugarless tea.
This is one of the things I am glad changed over the years.

How do you like your tea? What is your favourite? 

21 comments

  1. I have no problem with the Indian chai. It seems all the best sorts of tea are exported all over the world (ha, I could find a better Indian tea in a local supermarket of a provincial Ukrainian town than here). Here if we don't add milk and sugar and cardamom and so on, it won't taste very inspiring.

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    1. I remember a Vir Sanghvi TV show 6-7 years ago on TLC where he once talked about tea in India when gourmet tea houses and shops were really just starting in Indian metro. He said the exact same thing you did, the best tea leaves India produces are meant for export, and the cheap low quality stuff is what is sold on the domestic market because there is no point of using high quality leaves making Chai the traditional way. Boiling the leaves with the water will kill the subtle flavours any tea brew might have had.

      Luckily, it is now a bit easier to find decent teas in India and if you go to a good cafe, where they have speciality tea, they will serve the tea in a teapot or french press with the milk on the side rather than boil everything together.

      I remember how uninspiring the regular supermarket bought pack of 500g tea leaves meant for chai taste without anything added to them :-) As you said, not very inspiring.

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    2. Anonymous7:55 PM

      It's not only the tea leaves. Everything meant for export is the best quality. Even the salwar suits. Because my aunt who lives in the middle east bought us some really good material from there. And when we looked at the label. Made.In.India. Heck one of my moms friends told us that the Indian export stuff they get in Australia.. Indians would think it was coming from Germany or something. I wouldn't have believed it myself when I got to sample a dove cream which my uncle bought from Saudi Arabia. Hard to belive that Hindustan lever which uses third class preservatives in jams and juices here actually makes such nice hand creams and lotions only for EXPORT.

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    3. This is one of the reason why I tend to stay away from those big multinationals in India, they do use substandard chemicals and preservative that aren't allowed to use abroad. What I found though is that if you turn to smaller more local brands and Ayurvedic cosmetics you generally get a much better quality. It cost a tad bit more, that's true, but not as much as the big brands imported stuff.

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  2. I absolutely love chai tea with sugar and cream, but at night I prefer peach or citrus or pear, light sugar or honey and no cream.

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    1. I think the thing I find the hardest getting used to is the sugar and cream, or milk in India. I never liked milk and cream much, and I am really not much of a sugar in drinks person either :-)

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  3. Anonymous11:43 AM

    I am an Indian but never really liked the Indian way of making tea. Boiling that to a bitter concoction almost poisonous and adding tons of sugar with a lot of milk is horrendous enough for me, but to flavour it with spices and stuff? Oh my that is so not tea. That is almost some heavy beverage which you can drink when you're a but hungry and also in need of a drink. I like the British way of making it but the funny thing is I've been making it for years without even realizing that's how the English actually made their tea. I do like the south Indian coffee though. Also what's with us Indians adding masala even to tea? Like we weren't getting enough of it in our subzis and curries..Lol

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    1. I don't mind the spice in some tea, a Kashmiri Kahwa has to have some, but it is a light tea without milk, and I can drink it without sugar.
      I think that if I were to have Indian Chai I would rather boil the water first, then let the tea and spice infuse and only then add the sugar and milk rather than boiling everything into bitterness. But I am not much of a milk in tea person.

      That said, English breakfast tea tastes good, even if I won't go for it daily. There is just the right balance of flavour and milk in English tea.

      Another thing with masala, is that it can easily overpower the taste of tea, and often does in India.

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  4. Oh I love my morning & 4 pm milky chai!
    I don't use a lot of masala & mine never gets bitter. You have to boil the milk here anyway.
    In the warmer months I just add a couple of cloves and a green cardamom, in the colder months I just add a little cracked black pepper and fresh ginger.
    The kahwa my Kashmiri husband makes with the green tea & the saffron os some potent stuff! Turns your tongue fluorescent green too!

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    1. Yeah some Kashmiri Kahwa can be very strong too, but wow, turning the tongue green! What goes in it for it to do that?

      I found a very basic kahwa brew in tea bags that is mild but still flavourful, I think it contains mostly cinnamon and green tea, I will have to check the composition on the pack to be sure. It's light enough that I can even enjoy it in the warmer days if I find myself in the mood for it.

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    2. Traditional Kashmiri kahwa has a super potent green tea with a lot of Kashmiri saffron and sugar in it. Then it's simmered in this big samovar looking thing. HOT STUFF!

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    3. Yes and then you dilute the samovar brew with hot water and add almond slivers to it right?
      I checked the composition of my tea bags, it's 50% green tea, 30% cinnamon and 20% cardamom. the other spices including the saffron can be added while the tea is brewed from those tea bags I guess. With my dislike of sugar in tea, I am totally fine just drinking it as it is infusing the tea bag in a mug of boiled water.

      I think the Mumbai climate, even in the Winter, isn't really the ideal climate to enjoy a spicier kahwa that has been steeped and infused a long time.

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    4. I've never seen the kahwa from the samovar diluted.It is usually strained into small cups and then almonds, and possibly raisins or even walnots are tossed in. It is VERY STRONG as in gives heart palpitations.

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  5. Anonymous9:30 AM

    I like the zinger teas, the fruity ones, like raspberry and plum. I only put sweetener in it, no milk. I also like spicy teas with cinnamon, for example, in the winter. I'm not a fan of milk in my tea, so I'm not crazy about black tea. It needs milk, but I don't really want milk in it. My true love is coffee - mocha coconut or caramel drizzle, made in my Keurig, with sweetener and cream. I limit myself to two cups a day, but sometimes I'll drink four cups on the weekend. I do that for a few weeks until my reflux returns, then I cut back again. Do you ever use loose leaf tea? I don't, but I'm curious about how it compares to the tea bags.
    Susan

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  6. Susan, for some reason I received the notification for your comment but it hasn't been published on the blog.

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  7. Cynthia, nice post :)
    I am a huge tea fanatic. Got loads of tea brands and varieties at my home too.

    Tell me a tea that is sleep inducing. I am struggling with bouts of insomnia and need some comfort to sleep easy.

    Regards,
    Smita

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    1. The best sleep inducing teas are technically not really tea, but herbal infusions. The best if you have insomnia is camomile tea. You can find it in tea bags easily. Other bed time "teas" are fruit infusions, in India Typhoo and Tea-A-me have a couple of these. Twinings also had a mango infusion strawberry one if I remember well.
      There are other brands as well, what you want to look for is that in contain no actual tea in the brew.

      But yeah, if I am really stressed out I usually make a cup of camomile, it is really effective at soothing and relaxing me before bedtime. I am a life long insomniac myself, so I know the struggle. I usually stop drinking caffeinated brews by 5-6 pm at the latest and I always end my day with an infusion either herbal or fruity.

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  8. oh, great !
    I am going to get these.
    I recall I do have camomile with me.
    Let me try tonight.

    Million thanks...

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  9. I have tried and tried but I just don't like tea. I'm a coffee person.

    http://lilithsofia.blogspot.se/

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    1. I stand in the opposite camp, I tried coffee a lot, even forced myself to drink it in Swizerland because it is more of a social thing to do. But I don't like it unless it is a heavily doctored mild coffee with tons of add one and sugar :-) I have no problem ordering one in Starbucks mostly because they taste more like dessert than coffee.

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