Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Gentleman to the “T”

A few days ago I visited my ex-boss, more of a friend, guide and mentor. A gentleman to the “T” and an even better business man. This time the visit was not for keeping in touch or a casual acquaintance, but for the fact that he is suffering from the dreaded “C” which is, unfortunately, on its last stage and I felt I should atleast drop in a friendly hello and keep him company for a while.

A man who I look up to only because of his perseverance in fighting his illness and moving on with life as though nothing has affected his day to day activities. I had an enlightened chat with him about the various going-on’s in my life and the conversation conveniently veered towards food. Now, this man, before his entrée into the world of business had taken up a management course in hotel & catering, a fantastic cook himself and more so with the abundance of knowledge of the finest foods in the world. A well traveled person who has tried and tested many varieties of the cuisines in his travails. He was a walking talking dictionary of food and, for a change, a person, who had as much passion in eating as he had in making food.

He had made himself comfortable with a cup of tea and his audience which comprised of me and a small group of his family members quickly got enraptured in his tirade about the “perfect cup”.

He started off with a dose of how the mushrooming coffee and tea bars make commercially appreciated tea and instead connoisseurs of tea would probably leave drinking tea forever if they tasted the variety we got in most of these places. He even gave an insight into the tea tasting profession which is much revered in tea growing states and a particularly high end job which pays handsomely. A little gyaan on the various stages tea went through to finally get nitrogen packed in most commercial brands was discussed and then he finally got down to how one should brew the perfect cup.

Now, I do not know if it was the stages involved in brewing the perfect cup or the fact that I brewed a cup step by step the way it was reiterated to me – but there is something meticulous about brewing tea the right way which finally satiates your senses, mind and body like how fine wine would.

A coincidence that recently I should get a whole bag of flavored teas from one of the finest tea estates in Sri Lanka, which got me tearing open a box of Jasmine Tea and getting down to brewing my own little tea cup the connoisseurs way.

I started off by pulling out a small cottage shaped curio ceramic teapot which was the only ceramic teapot I had and coincidentally from Sri Lanka! (yes, the first thing one should do while on an attempt to make tea is to get a teapot which is ceramic) and proceeded to the first step in tea making.

The teapot, well washed and free of any out worldly smells is to be warmed. Now we can, of course, not warm it over a flame or in the oven, so the warming of the pot is done by pouring hot boiling water into the pot, closing the lid and pouring out the water through the spout in about four minutes.

The tea is then spooned into the hot pot to a ratio of one spoon per person and one small extra for the pot. The lid is closed and the tea should be given a minute for the natural heated vapors to soak in. This step ensures that the leaves are gently made accustomed to the heat they would be subject to in the next few minutes and more so in getting the natural oils and flavors (in case of flavored teas) activated for the final brewing.

Warm water is brought out, to be sure its not boiling, and then poured gently into the tea pot. At this point, once the lid is closed, you must not shake, stir or touch the brew, but leave it to settle for not more than 5 to 7 minutes depending on how strong you would like your brew. 5 minutes is an excellent time for flavored teas whereas 7 for other high-ended pure teas.

The tea is then strained out carefully into individual cups, take in the sweet aroma, drop in a cube of sugar to sweeten things up and you are set to enjoy the perfect cuppa. For pure teas you can add milk or cream as per personal preference.

Some of the finer points to be noted:

No boiling or zapping the tea into oblivion as you would then be practically burning the leaves and having a mish mash of bitter flavors

No re-heating should be done – as this method is only for instant drinking and meant to be that way

No using boiling water when commencing with the actual brewing

Time bound and precision inspired, as only then will you enjoy the real and actual flavors

The steps for the perfect brew can be used for any tea possibly made by mankind

This way you'd be proud of the fact that it’s a world of difference making it the way it’s actually supposed to be made. Try it one fine day when you have all the time in the world, I assure you, its nothing less than a relaxing spa treatment.


Lav said...

loved the tea pot....i remember tasting the same in china....making a fine cup differently..

sanam said...

Love this Nikhil, thank you for writing about him :)


nonchalantgourmand said...

It most certainly is unique - these little things matter ... and is my early morning fix most of these days...

Sanam - Hope he could read it :) he'd be happy, if ur hanging around there, read it out to him... he'd be thrilled...

julia manke said...

a ceramic tea pot is definitely on my shopping list this evening :) I read your blog (even though am not a food enthusiast as such) every so often and it is a nice breather in my otherwise busy work schedule...

nonchalantgourmand said...

Thanks Julia, I appreciate appreciation :)
I'll try and keep my readers entertained as much as possible ...