I was pleasantly surprised to find sachets of some very interesting teas in the mail one morning, and equally dismayed to find they were meant to be written about. I’ve never been an avid tea drinker, preferring to hold my sorrows firmly by the neck and dunk them repeatedly in copious quantities of strong, black coffee. This strategy has rarely failed me, except of course for that time when I sat staring wide-eyed at a wall in a state of catatonic, coffee shock for three days. Tea, has therefore been invited home in its lesser avatars, primarily for those who like their tea strong, sweet and milky, for an audience that includes me on Sunday mornings when hot, stuffed parathas are being served out of a smoky kitchen topped with spicy pickles, chilled, whipped yogurt and dollops of white or yellow butter.
The past six months however saw a change. I quit my 60 cigarette a day habit and a short while later, began to experience flavors like never before. Tea and single-malts began to replace coffee and vodka as the liquids of choice in my house and soon, I had a tea station! I still didn’t know however, how to evaluate tea. The amber-gold sachets were therefore deposited into a box at the tea station, awaiting the arrival of knowledge.
Fortunately, I happened to meet Mr. M.P. Verma, a very well read septuagenarian, with whom I share a range of interests. He turned out to have over 40 years experience working with tea gardens as well as contributing his expertise to the University of North Bengal at one point. Mr. Verma kindly consented to drop by and take Indu and me through a session on tea appreciation.
While his first comment was a mildly disdainful, “This isn’t pure tea!”, it was soon followed by interest. From the many available, Mr. Verma chose to work with Tranquilitea, a blend of Sencha green tea and chamomile flowers.
Tea of Life Teas - Variants
|Name||Flavor Addition||Brew @ 90° For|
|Tranquilitea||Chamomile flowers||4 - 5 minutes|
|Earl of Green||Bergamot, lemon and orange peel||2 - 3 minutes|
|Body and Soul||Lemon, lime and hint of ginger||2 - 3 minutes|
|Casablanca Nights||Moroccan mint, orange, orange blossoms, hint of Assam black tea||2 - 3 minute|
|Royal Jade Oolong||Osmanthus flowers||4 - 5 minutes|
|La Vie en Rose||Rose petals||2 -3 minutes|
|Blue Jade||Blueberries, hibiscus||4 - 5 minutes|
|African Beat||Rooibos tea, mandarin, eucalyptus, hint of chili||4 - 5 minutes|
White cups were the order of the hour and they were dug out of reluctant cabinets. A 2.5 minute tea timer to time the brew, a second white cup to hold the liquor and a white plate to examine the infusion quickly found their way to the table and laid in front of Mr. Verma. The sachet of Tranquilitea was then split open and the dry tisane examined. Water was then nearly-boiled (“As soon as you hear the bubbles raging”, said Mr. Verma) and poured over the contents of the packet already in the cup. The timer was flipped over and I imagined I could hear the sand falling through the hour-glass during the silence that ensued. Mr. Verma did pipe up to inform us that timers such as the one we were using gradually became ‘faster’, due to the sand particles becoming finer due to erosion and therefore falling through faster.
When the requisite 4 minutes and 30 seconds were up, a point halfway between the recommended four and five minutes, the liquor was strained into the second cup and the infusion; the leafy/flowery matter spread out on the white plate. Both were carefully examined by Mr. Verma. On straightening, he pronounced the tea to be of high quality and proceeded to explain the qualities of the liquor and the infusion. Here’s what we experienced from this variant:
- Appearance: The look of the dry tea, before brewing indicated a clean pluck and processing for green tea. After brewing, a quick examination of the bright green infusion brought out the second leaves, first leaves and the buds alongside some damaged leaves. The proportion of the damaged leaves however was quite low, making this tea a very high quality one. The appearance of the liquor in turn was bright bronze, and largely clear with some sediments, mostly from the chamomile flowers.
- Aroma: The aroma of the dry tea, before brewing was clear, clean tea with a hint of chamomile. After brewing, the liquor had a fresh, green/grassy aroma with clear overtones of chamomile, which was quite refreshing. I must mention here that the clear, berry tones in the Blue Jade variant were most pleasing and very reminiscent of a chilly day with mild winds and a warm sun; a variant you really must try.
- Flavor: A mildly flavored variant with enough tannins to give it character, combined with the distinct, rounded influences of chamomile makes Traquilitea live up to its name.
- Mouthfeel: Clean and cleansing.
If you like tisanes and enjoy green tea in multiple flavor variants, do check out Tea of Life.