My better-half’s family is made of rabid coffee drinkers. Any hot beverage that is not coffee is scowled upon.
My family comprises hot beverage drinkers. We drink any beverage, even water, if it is hot and sweet enough. While my better-half’s family has no rules on when to drink said coffee, mine does. Wake up to two doses of coffee in an hour’s interval. Have a tumbler-full of strong, milky, sweet tea post siesta. Either coffee or tea with the evening tiffin and at night, anyone less than 40 years of age had to drink hot milk, sweetened with sugar or sugar candy, and often spiced with turmeric, saffron and/or pepper.
Tea is special to my family. When I was a young girl, and the extended family met at the ancestral house for some occasion or the other, the afternoon tea time was party time. Large cauldrons of tea would be made and consumed amidst unruly ruckus of my relatives. My aunt still makes the best tea, whether or not she adds ginger, lemongrass or cardamom to it. Not surprisingly, while I don’t dislike coffee, given a choice between coffee and tea, I go for tea, thanks to my aunt.
I tried converting the better half to the tea religion, but until now, I have been largely unsuccessful. Of course, the reason is that I make horrible tea, even if I say so myself. Finally disgusted with my own inability to make tea worthy of my aunt, I googled “how to make good English tea” and landed on a write up by George Orwell on eleven ways to make the perfect tea. What do you know? My favorite beverage recipe by my favorite writer. My day was made. He even places “Indian” tea ahead of the “Chinese”. Take that, Chinese tea!
I don’t have a tea pot. I don’t have a kettle. Still, I made do with the utensils I had and followed the instructions as closely as I could – except the last step of not adding sugar, nope, that one does not have gobblefunkist written on it. Brought water to full boil, added two spoons of tea leaves to it, switched off the flame, closed the vessel and let sit for two minutes while I heated the milk. Strained the tea decoction, added milk and two spoons of sugar, stirred it with a warmed spoon and as I took my first sip of the hot, sweet beverage, I was, for a split second, transported to thirty five years ago, to my grandfather’s house in Triplicane, where my parents, aunts and uncles sat in a circle, playing cards and being largely rowdy while my cousin and I sat in a corner, oblivious to the adult noise, but gossiping about our school friends, all of us sipping my aunt’s tea and feeling its aroma fill inside us with the joy of togetherness.
And no, I am still unable to convert the better half. The kid, I am glad to say, has travelled my way. My aunt would be so happy.