I am doing what wine tasters sniffily call a blind test. In front of me are two cups of tea, but not the kind you are thinking of. One is Korakundah tea from the Nilgiris; the other Puttabong from Darjeeling. Both are organic single-estate first-flush premium teas, which in plain English means that they retail for Rs8,000 and Rs10,000 per kg, respectively. Both are gifts. I have dusted off my Korean celadon cups in their honour.
Writing about the fine things of life can be an exercise in frippery. Many of us, and certainly the readership of Lounge, have expensive hobbies and passions—for gadgets, motorbikes, watches, cars and cricket—that the rest of the world doesn’t care about. Korean celadon fits this equation. I can wax eloquent about their translucent crackle glaze complementing a good cup of Korakundah but for the guards in my building who do just as well with chai drunk straight up from a paper cup, Korean celadon is a pie in the eastern sky. They don’t care a jot about it.
Tea, on the other hand, most Indians care about because it is ubiquitous and egalitarian. Whether it is brun maska with chai at Dadar station at dawn, or “Nair, single tea”, at a tea shop in Kochi, we all drink tea. Except that we Indians do something that tea connoisseurs find scandalous: We add milk and sugar to tea, thus detracting from not only its taste but also its health benefits. The casein in the milk binds the beneficial catechins and tannins in the tea so they don’t get released into the bloodstream, thus nullifying their antioxidant effects. Citrus, on the other hand, increases absorption of tea’s beneficial catechins, which is why adding lemon to tea is okay. If you must add honey, I would recommend Himalayan honey from Under The Mango Tree, owned by a college classmate of mine. Ideally, tea, like whisky, should be drunk neat.
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