Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to make a Perfect Cup of Tea...

This post was written as a guest post for fellow blogger Aarti Krishnakumars blog.....and my brief was to write something on "travel" or "recipes"....as usual i muddled it all up and mixed both for a 1000 words of pure nonsense

The Travelling Recipe Of The Receptive Traveler.

There was once a    gentleman born in a place called Italy who was extremely curious by even modern standards and in the course of transacting business trips went further and further until he went halfway around the world to the furthermost end of the biggest empire of that time. There he was feted and fed by the reigning emperor and was shown around everything of importance except one particular secret. Now there are conflicting reports on whether the secret involved a thin gluey thread like substance produced from boiled worms or whether the secret involved brewing the leaves of a plant to produce an invigorating (intoxicating/) drink. Both versions may be true but more on that later. He ended up stealing the secret and coming back to gain great renown for introducing it to European society. By now you might have guessed that the above mentioned participants in the reality show are Marco Polo, the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan and either silk/tea depending on who you talk to. 

But before taking a journey to the far past- let us set our time machine to the recent past and examine the circumstances surrounding the evolution of the author into an expert chef. The government of tamilnadu is a capricious beast and bureaucrats are often indifferent to the plight of the normal citizens and especially its employees. My mother, a government servant was all of a sudden transferred to Madurai when my dad, another one in the family subsisting on government employment, was already working in Tanjore and I was left all alone in the house in Chennai to fend for myself. At first it was a big chance for me to party all the time and all the guys in the apartment complex kept coming over pestering me to organize party after party in my suddenly available empty flat. But after a time I put my foot down as I had to end up cleaning all the debris the next day all alone- the party goers having disappeared at first light to their respective floors.

Living alone-the one thing I missed more than my mother and father, (please keep that to yourself and don’t phone my parents) was my hot cup of morning bed coffee. Many times I used to be late because I was used to waking up to a steaming cup of coffee and refused to get up until I got one. Gradually I decided to learn the fine art of making a cup of steaming hot coffee. My mother was very particular about using only Narsus coffee but having decided to learn it the remote way- through phone counseling- I decided to start off with Nescafe instant- something which tasted like hot water and sugar, Nescafe Regular and finally conquering the art of mixing the right proportions went on to the pinnacle of coffee-making- the making of a hot brewed filter coffee- Narsus coffee-besh/besh, romba nannna erukku.

As mountaineers who having conquered one peak move onto the next one without a pause merely for the bigger challenge- I moved onto learning to make tea. This was also prompted by my gym trainer’s advice that tea is better than coffee for health reasons. I bought the usual beginners training device of tea bags and after experimenting a lot- learned the perfect way of making instant tea with tea bags. Milk is a definite no-No in the initial stages. You brew a cup of instant tea with a half cup of steaming hot water and dip your tea bags in, gently swirling it around to release the tea essence and judging by the color and steaming smell, you add the milk in increments taking care to preserve the tea taste and not smother it with milk and finally sweeten it up with sugar to suit.

Ingredients required for instant tea:
  1. Hot boiling water,
  2. Tea Bags……Regular (that green tea is better crap is just bs)
  3.  Milk- warm 
  4.  Sugar
  5.  A large enough mug- for unlike coffee which tastes better in a dabara/tumbler tea is better in a porcelain cup.
Once you have mastered the basics of making instant tea – you move onto the next stage- making Real tea from powdered tea leaves. The ingredients for the recipe are identical to the one mentioned above. You start of in a similar way with making the boiling water (remember Boiling and not hot) and put in the tea powder to make the decoction. If you think two spoons are enough, always put in an extra spoon, because the stronger it is the better it tastes- a dull, insipid tea is better poured down the sink and start again. The milk is added as an afterthought sparingly and sugar is added to take the bitter-hint of the tea- but not completely, for too sweet a tea will not give you the lingering after taste on the back of your tongue as your hurry to catch up the bus to college. The leftover decoction can be placed in the fridge for making a cold tea in the evening- for any friends who turn up suddenly and try to stick around the house when you are desperate to lock up and go out- nothing clears them out like a left-over freezing tea, unless it is a left-over  soup made a couple of days back- tomato soup preferably- as it congeals into a gooey mass better- and as you press them to share your hospitality, you can see them fly out your house like superman. 

So to come back to our receptive traveler, who would have thought that Marco Polo who had gone sight-seeing would remember to bring back the recipe for the divine brew called tea- something which the Chinese had guarded jealously for centuries since the Chin emperor discovered its making by accident. Especially when there were so many other interesting brews to bring the recipes back. So hats off to our Receptive Traveler Marco-Polo who produced the first Patent theft in history. And as we all know the Recipe for tea travelled around the world in the subsequent centuries to come back to Darjeeling, just across the border from china, for the best brew. So again, a Hats off to the Travelling (much-travelled) Recipe for Tea.

P.s. this post was written as part of a challenge given by a fellow blogger to just use the title and write a post. The author does not claim any expertise in making tea, parting or chasing away friends. Any accidents, culinary or otherwise, resulting from the use of the above recipe will not be entertained on the authors behalf and any complainants in person will be treated to the authors version of Mushroom Soup. Chef’s beware.


  1. You are quite a story-teller doc. :)


    PS: As regards making tea, here's my (connoisseur's) recipe for brewing tea:

    Apparatus required:
    1. Kettle
    2. Tea-pot
    1. Tea leaves (Nonsuch - available in Nilgiris or Lipton -Green label)
    2. Milk (optional)
    3. Sugar (optional)
    Of course water too.
    1. Put required (n+1 tea-spoonfuls, where n is the number of cups) tea leaves in pre-warmed teapot.
    2. Boil water in the kettle and pour into teapot.
    3. Keep the lid on the tea-pot for 1-2 min.
    4. Pour into cups and add milk and sugar as per taste.
    4. Serve.

    1. thanks V...will try out your recipe the very next time my mom gives me access to her kitchen...