An Evening Tea Ritual
- Anish Sah
The Wild Side
There is a wild side to the downing sun, best viewed over a sip of rich, aromatic, mud-shaded tea, served in a ceramic cup.
This is a brief, rapid phase: the azure blue sky of dawn, after taking an extensive mid-day burn, is now trading pigments: from blinding white with tinges of blue, to sweet lavender with a soft glaze, to fiery orange with touches of ember, to majestic aubergine, in swift, wild turns, like a child undone by sheer delight!
Down below, on the porch of a country cottage, seated on an elongated rocking chair with my better half, I take a gulp…
The grandeur of an evening tea ritual commences with the brewing of tea. A slow burn, aided by correct proportions will decoct a brilliant red, translucent liquor, which darkens in shade by the passing second, each increment adding bitterness to the tea.
The old secret to the magic of Chai is the intrusion in the passage here, as a shot of milk is added to the brewing tea. The next few seconds are a visual landslide-the translucent liquor instantly turns opaque, but, if you are quick enough to observe, you will watch the red translucency briskly dissolve into the swirling brown liquor…
After a slurp, I let out a sigh of delight and cast a glowing smile at my wife, who quietly takes it in, as if in small, passionate steps. She likes her tea warm, much in the same fashion.
Many years ago, I took her on a long drive on a fine, rainy day. We had been married for a month at the time.
“Sometimes I wish there was a proper tea house in the city, especially for weather like this” I had remarked.
“Oh, no matter. Let’s stop at that tea stall. It looks promising” had been her matter-of-fact reply.
In hindsight, promising was an understatement. The humble tea stall rather had us dropping our jaws in utter surprise(and subsequent delight) at the bittersweet taste of its tea, which was mixed with carom seed. The tea maker had taken ages to brew the tea, and then, with an honest smile, and in one fluid motion, served it in frustum-shaped corrugated glasses, better known locally as tapri chai glasses.
“Didn’t you like the tea?” I remember asking her, as she hadn’t sipped her tea in quite a while.
“Oh, I actually did. But, I don’t drink it this hot.No worries.” My eternal odyssey of tea memories would no longer play as a solo act. It had developed the flavors of a duet.
Now, if a duet is thought of as any playful engagement between two people, my favorite kind would be banter. I have always regarded it as a potent dressing for a fun evening tea conversation. Having said that, there is no dearth of potent dressings in the lavish spread of tea accompaniments now awaiting us. In fact, there is something of banter between the rustic, sweet, and tangy, in-house tamarind chutney, and the spiced up samosas it dresses, over which of them made the savourer smile. All this, while there is a dearth of napkins on the table, that have all been used up in wiping tears even as we continue laughing.
Reader, we must leave you now, as the first crew of nocturne has entered the stage. There is still the sun’s last trickle and an odyssey that’s turning the page…
But, before we do that, here’s our parting shot-
While the first crew of nocturne is still at bay,
reader, allow me to ask where is your applause
A little good-natured banter before we part
should keep you coming back for reasons anew.