From the morning sip to the midnight sleeplessness, I have always been assisted by this unique concoction called ‘tea’. A concoction of simple delight, and far less poisonous than coffee, or any other beverages we might opt for in a day. The morning tea for me has always been a combination of aroma, light liquor with a dash of lemon. While working throughout the day, I opt for the perfect masala tea blend. Now, what exactly is a ‘masala tea’?
Tea- the way most drink it.
Well, in India the real ‘tea’ is served on the footpaths and roadside tea stalls. That tea is often scoffed at by many elitist tea drinkers but believe me, millions of people survive and are energized by this ambitious concoction which is commonly known as ‘Cha’, ‘Chai’ or ‘Tea’. The morning drinkers are treated to a fresh batch of tea, made in the very traditional way by adding tea leaf, milk and sugar to a pot of boiling water, wait a minute! There is a little change in the process. The water, milk and sugar are first boiled together then tea leaves are added to boil some more. This mix then comes to a full boil and for 2 minutes it is kept on the boil to get a thick liquor. This tea tastes best early in the morning and in the early hours of the evening as the rest of the day the concoction gets mixed, remixed and over-boiled, and the tastes vary according to the boils.
Many a times, special herbs and flavors are added to it to make the sip a notch better than the usual serve. Common spices include Cardamom (elaichi Chai), Ginger (Adrak chai), Cinnamon (Masala chai) Pepper Corn, Basil (tulsi), Nutmeg etc. The variety which is available in the beverage outlets (not stalls) uses the same spicy concoction with all the spices available in powdered form and with dust tea leaves.
The magic of drinking from clay/earthen pots:
This tea is best served in earthen cups as a slight flavor of the earthen pots adds to the taste of this tea. Incidentally earthen cups also maintain the PH balance of the sip and helps in good digestion. Earthen pots also increase testosterone level and increases virility. 😀 Well mainly the heat of the tea is absorbed by the pots and thus prevents scalding of the taster’s tongue. With very high sugar mixes, this tea is the best energizers for people who are constantly on the move (literally) and need to be on their toes.
Leaf used: Tea dust leaf, Assam variety which is used for strong liquor.
This tea is the milk less variety of the ‘masala chai’ and has to be served with a dash of lemon and sugar. The roadside vendors sometimes add a pinch of salt or a tablet of Hajmola (local ayurvedic digestive) as taste enhancers. The taste is very earthy and has a sweet sour and a salty (if added) taste vastly different from the light honey lemon concoction available in tea bags and in outlets like Barista’s where this concoction is served with ginger pieces in the tea cups.
The Masala tea that we know today became famous with the Indians for its medicinal qualities. The spice concoctions were used for various purposes like treatment of common cold and stomach disorders but when the British administrators popularized tea, the concoctions just acquired a special taste as tea leaves were added for a unique flavor. Ginger specifically has always been used in India for its excellent medicinal qualities and hence added to tea.
Imagine this: On a rainy day, with unexpected showers when we get wet, a cuppa of hot ginger tea with dark clouds promising more rain, works as a rejuvenator. Stay young, stay addicted. That’s the tea of life for you.