A family member casually remarked that I had missed an occasion to celebrate International Tea day, given the tea fanaticism that marks my daily life. Most of the world drinks this brew in varied forms and with different additives ranging from milk, sugar, honey, lemon or sometimes just plain black.
My fascination with tea began in my childhood when my uncle, being a tea lover, introduced me to the brew in my school days. That started my lifelong association with chai though my taste and affinity for it evolved over time. The fragrant masala chai that I drink daily unlocks powerful memories right from my childhood to the sleepless nights and early mornings during my college days when I simultaneously pursued two different degrees, the chai breaks with friends from the campus reading room before the finals and more recently, the late nighters, that is inherent in a corporate environment.
The short work trips abroad tested my tea affinity. I almost always skipped breakfast on mornings on those occasions and lined up outside the nearest Starbucks for a chai tea latte, the closest affiliate to my chai back home. I had experimented with a few other outlets tasting teas blasphemously labeled as chai before settling in on the starbucks solution. From Hong Kong to Singapore, Sydney to Tokyo this solution worked well for me so much to a point where I would locate the nearest Starbucks before I enter my hotel or serviced apartment. When work opportunities forced a permanent relocation, I had to look for more permanent solutions. Just like the character in O’Henry’s All for a cup of tea, I scouted out the Indian grocery shops and noted their delivery times, their adherence to the brand I ordered. My chosen grocer learnt not to mess with my chai brand though he often took liberty with replacing my preferred dhal and other food brands. My husband’s preferred go-to-brew became a mug of masala chai when discussing serious issues though he had no particular affinity to caffeinated drinks.
Back home, I made it a point to show off my tea brewing skills to my closest relatives and family starting from the amount of tea powder to be used, the tea masala (home made or bought) that should be used in conjunction with just the right amount of milk and the art of filtering it after brewing it for just the right amount of time. While I may win no culinary prizes, my chai making skills caught the fancy of my family and friends and the labour of love marked a turning point in increasing the number of tea drinkers in my social circle.
Needless to say, the tea affinity continues!