Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Indian Tea: Make your own brew

Tea like elsewhere is brewed in various manner in India. The most popular is the black leaf from Assam and Nilgiri. Black and green tea from Darjeeling are of premium variety consumed by connoisseurs and the upper class.   

Black tea brew is less popular in India but is consumed by many whence milk is a difficult commodity. The chai is popular all over India and is brewed with addition of cow, buffalo and goats milk. In rural India sugary brew is much preferred as a tradition. 

Masses like plain and simple chai without any addition, milk being an exception. But in winters some other forms of tea are consumed. 

My best combination is shreds of ginger and cardamom added to the boiling liqueur. This is a wonderful mix and gives relief from cold and indigestion as well. Some consumers add a dash of lemon to black tea. Another good addition to the brew is cinnamon. If you add in right quantity the flavor and aroma is magnificent

Some health conscious drinkers add lemon grass especially to ward of cold and bad throat. For me ginger does this job well. There are various mix of masalas available in packets all over the country. Some of these are fine blends and add to the taste of the brew.    

Many with subtle taste add varying quantity of milk in black tea. I like chai this way it is mostly available in cafe, restaurants and Indian Railways. Read more on Chai Tea in India.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tea in India

Of all the conquerors the British had a long lasting impact on the people of India. They introduced many things that are still a part of Indian society. Like the English language, tea was propagated during the Raj and both have proved beneficial.    

Tea leaf grew since ages in the wilds of Eastern India and China and was unheard of in many parts of the country. Early morning intake was milk and jelebi a spiraled  sweet made of flour deep fried and then dipped in tons sugar syrup. The leafs were used as medicine during the 18th and 19th century in the country.

The plantations came into picture during the late 18th century. The promotional campaign started by Indian Tea Association slowly and painstakingly popularized the hot beverage all over. The brew made inroads into the heart mind and tongues of the people of this country.   

Today India is the largest producer of tea leaf in the World. The blending and tasting is an art that few can master and these are the masters who deliver the finest brew to our doorstep. Tea is grown in Assam, Darjeeling, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These are high quality leaves and have found favors in International Markets.

Chai is the most popular form which is brewed with addition of milk and sugar. The masala chai in addition contains herbs and spices which are medicinal in nature and add to the flavor and taste. Most popular addition in the brew is ginger, cardamom and garam masala.  This tea is consumed mostly in winters.   

The most popular form is the black leaf consumed all over the country. It is made into chai and rarely drunk without addition of milk. The chai stalls are ubiquitous and most visited. It is a favorite past time of India to visit these stalls relaxation and friendly chat.   

A cup that cheers

In gloomy weather it is the cup that cheers. On a dark rainy day the clouds hang over you like bales of cotton soaked in black dye. Nothing can be more depressing than this while many would lean on Bacchus I prefer hot sizzling tea.  

This moment is best to consume the black tea and if it is from Darjeeling enjoy the Aroma as well. The hot beverage is a bundle of delights bad weather or good weather the brew gets you roaring. For long winter walks a flask and a mug will rejuvenate you and double your capacity to fight the bitter cold.  During my birding tours in the North this works the best in snow covered mountainous regions of Nainital

There are millions on Earth who reach for a cup of tea the first thing in the morning. Some drink this beverage all day long and for some it is a ritualistic or ceremonial indulgence. In summers you can sip tea during early mornings and late evening but not during the day unless it is ice tea. The ice tea is a recent introduction but has not caught the fancy of connoisseurs and regulars. 

Tea is all about robust aroma and subtle taste that tingles your taste buds no end. I am loggerheads with those who go for dark chai with flavor of over cooked burnt out constituents. Herbal tea is another thing that I cannot fathom this concoctions of  exotic herbs contains no tea leaf  and is more beneficial for the sick and ailing. But tea is health, tea is fun than why go for weird concoctions?   

Tea & Gujju Accompaniments

The best way to have tea is to drink it with some yummy snacks well many do. There are some traditional goodies that go down with this wonderful beverage in India.  The most common is the standard gota, bhajia, chewda, sev, and biscuits which go well during the evening tea session.  

A more generous savory would be the Indian Samosa which is very popular in North and Central India. Aloo Bonda is another savory that goes well along with the chai. The main ingredient in both the accompaniments is Aloo or potato which is mixed with lot of spices. The Samosa mix is then enclosed in a pancake shaped triangular by hand and then deep fried.  Aloo Bonda mix is dipped in a gram batter, shaped into round balls and deep fried.

People with western taste prefer cookies and cup cakes with this brew. But nothing beats the traditional Sev or Chiwda which is available everywhere and is ready to eat.  My personal preference is Samosa from chosen roadside stalls. This is one of the yummiest snack food available in India that beats its western counterparts like burger and pizza hands down. In Gujarat a type of samosa invented is flat crisp and small. They are  stuffed with lentils, potatoes etc and served with different types of chutneys. These are also known as Navtal ke Samosa they work well with tea.      

For those with desire to stomach something heavier then Aloo Paratha and or Bhakri with white butter is best during the breakfast. Sandwiches also go down well with the breakfast chai but nothing beats the two described here. Gujaratis have mastered the art of making different types of Indian breads right from Kakhara, Dhebra, Bazre Ka Rotla and many more, these are excellent accompaniments. Another yummy that goes down well is the Dhokla or its variant the Khaman. Methi na Gota and Handwo are a treat for snack lovers.   

Gujarati cuisine is one of the most varied in the World. Traditionally bent towards vegetarian, the number of snack foods are astounding. The Gujjus have stomach for light food but some dishes can bend you over.