Ammi(mother) used to say “The colour of the perfect tea is golden; just like the colour of the skin of almond. Any thing else is not tea!”
I can’t say how many other teachings of her I follow, but this one, I kept in the first shelf of my cabinet of her memories. And perhaps its more of a trigger for me, just like a blessing from her, that I seek refuge in.
I grew up in a typical Pakistani house hold. My mother just loved to cook for us: the best biryani I’ve had till date, the best trifles and not to forget the qeema that I still wish I could learn to cook like her.
The only thing that remained exclusive to and for her was that cup of tea!
We used to order special kind of tea leaves from some shop in the old Karachi city. And no other person, not even our maid was allowed to touch her tea. Twice a day, of which the evening one was her favourite, she would herself, put water in the pot, let it boil, then add tea leaves, sugar, and cover and let it brew for few minutes. Then she’d heat the milk separately, and pour the tea in the cup, add milk, stir and sit in the corner and sip and enjoy her little magic potion.
And yes- we, as children, were not allowed to have tea. So until about 9th or 10th grade, tea was not much of a thing for me.
As I grew up, I learnt how to cook. I am a foodie myself, so didn’t take much of an effort. Yet for some reason, I could not get the tea right. By this time, I was also occasionally honoured to make tea for Ammi. Too strong, too light, too meh. So after every attempt, I would tell myself not to try it again.
My college days were where I actually started liking tea. When preparing for exams, studying late night, I would ask her to make me tea and she would gladly make two, and bring to me, at which time, both of us would kind of have a break and sit and sip together.
That was the time when I used to think one can’t fall asleep after having a cup of tea. My mamoo(maternal uncle) would always have tea right before hitting the sack and I would think how on earth? Of course now I only laugh at the thought of this thought as now my day ends with a hot cuppa tea, just flipping channels in my corner of the house.
It wasn’t really until I started working that I started having tea. There were meetings, workshops, seminars and being a Pakistani tradition, tea was always part of these.
When I’d come back from work, or on a weekend, some times my sister would make tea, and I still remember Ammi saying “It does not taste like tea-its tastes like dirty socks!”
Good old days….
Dubai was when and where I actually discovered or say rediscovered my love for tea. I would watch people enjoying this weird mixture of water, sugar and flavoured evaporated milk, with a hint of tea leaves in the name of tea. Nightmare!
I even witnessed one part water, three parts of milk and sugar, with a teabag floating somewhere in that liquid, being called tea.
Tastes can vary and every one has the right to enjoy what ever they like. But calling alien mixtures tea is injustice and for the love of tea I just can not bear it.
I know there are so many different variations of tea even in that one part of the world from where I come- some like tea with milk/cream, some just black, some with no sugar while some with sugar and some like my brother too much sugar or say tea in sugar. Then there is this famous Pathan ki chai which is usually found in a small shabby roadside cafe, very strong and brewed for hours. And as so many go by the trend only, so the Masala chai is also ‘IN’ these days, wherein a lot of different spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves etc are added to the tea.
But like someone once told me in Colombo, Sri Lanka, until you brew the fragrant tea leaves in water and let it stand few minutes, how can you call it tea?
My household, the first utensil I bought was a proper steam kettle. it makes that sound like a steam engine when ready, and its shiny and I love it just like a little girl loves her doll!
Most likely it is because of my mother’s love for tea, or because the man in my life also loves tea and so it is double the bond or may be it is just my own liking.
Of course its not the same every where I go, so when out I prefer coffee because my tea tantrums are not tolerable for and by most. Even when sick or bed ridden, the only thing I do not and would not compromise for is my cup of tea.
And I believe so I say “The colour of the perfect tea is golden; just like the colour of the skin of almond. Any thing else is not tea!”