I savour a cup of tea more than I do a cup of filter coffee, in spite of my South Indian roots, much to the surprise of many relatives who come to know of this fact about me for the first-ever time.
A cup of chai somehow means a lot more to me than just a morning or afternoon drink. It means a bit of sunshine in a cup; it means waking up my senses and giving my body a good start to face whatever lies ahead in the day. It is a signal to my brain that night has ended and the day has started, or that afternoon has ended and it is time to start winding down my batteries in preparation for the evening and night. It means me-time, as rare as it is getting these days – time to savour the liquid as it runs down my throat and enters my belly, warm, warming me up too a little at a time. It means time for reflection; time for relaxation; a break in the routine. Of course, these same purposes could well be served by a cup of coffee too, but I prefer chai any day.
I cannot, just cannot, for the life of me, gulp down my tea in a minute and rush to whatever task is waiting for me. I need to drink it in mouthfuls, small ones, feeling each one of it course down through me. It is not a good idea to interrupt me while I am doing this, too, for you might encounter a very grouchy me in that case!
That said, not just any chai will do. I need my chai to be perfectly prepared – an almost full glass of milk, about a quarter of a glass of water boiled together with just over a teaspoon of tea powder, two teaspoons of sugar, and a hint of home-made masala, all boiled together twice and strained well. No fancy cups and saucers or mugs for me; I want the tea in our old well-worn, steel davara and tumbler. Only specific brands of tea powder, with no extra herbs and roots added. No tea leaves or dust for me either.
Tea made by anyone else, even my Amma, is not the same as the tea made by me. I don’t prefer drinking tea anywhere outside either, for the very same reason, though I have liked the tea at a couple of roadside shacks in Ahmedabad (much to the chagrin of Amma!). There have been times when I have rushed home from outings just so I can make tea at home and have it in peace. I don’t like having my cuppa after 5.30 in the evening so, whenever we are out, we either find tea that satisfies me or we rush home so I can have it before evening sets in. Strange? That’s me.
If that makes me sound like an addict, let me hasten to assure you that I am not. As much as I love my masala chai, I can do without it for at least a few days at a stretch. I did without for most days of my pregnancy, thanks to a protein drink that my gynecologist had asked me to use instead.
The OH was recently reported to be saying of me: ‘Whenever we go out, she never asks me to buy her this and that. All she asks for is a decent cup of tea in the afternoon.’ Someone is surely thanking his stars for getting a fuss-free wife, but can’t fret enough at all the fuss she makes over tea.
Tea or coffee? What does the trick for you? How do you like your cuppa?