A long, deep breath of Calcutta air during the winter months, bring with it the smell of freshly baked tea-cakes, komla lebu, boroline, fulkopi-r shingara and of course, freshly brewed tea.
Cha and boroline – these two apparently mundane and disconnected things, are the primary weapons of mass survival for the sheeth-katurey Bangali, during the cold, cruel months of winter (“Orey Baba! 18°C it is). Some might argue that the Monkey-cap easily topples these two, but honestly the kids these days have managed to gravitate towards skull-caps, beanies or even ear-muffs, which double up as ear-phones, thereby pushing the monkey-tupis in the periphery.
Well, I have always been a tea person, much like the rest of my family. The first thing I do after reaching office is to nag my Canteen-Dada to give me my mug of hot water to dip my tea bag into (my stash at office currently has Moroccan Mint Tea, Tulsi Green Tea and Earl Grey).
Also, there’s no better fuel to a jomati session of adda than the good, old cha. As I catch up with my friends after office over bhanrs of milky, sugary, slightly burnt tea, all the day’s stress melts away. For a jazzed up version of the drink, I love the fruit-teas by Typhoo. They are equally great in both, hot and cold, avatars. My favourite is the iced version of the black current tea.
Now, the thing about tea is that, it is never complete without ‘TAA’ or the accompaniment. While the biskoot is the most common of those, other popular options range from muffins, to shingara, telebhaja; from sandwiches to muri-chanachur. The more adventurous ones will even fold up a non-suspecting luchi, dip it into the cup of sweet tea and bite off half of it. Having tried this myself, I can assure that this duo makes for a good pair.
My favourite place for a good tea is of course the Nathmulls in Darjeeling, West Bengal. Closer home, there are a few Calcutta tea houses which I love like the Dolly’s Tea Shop in Dakshinapan or First Flush in Golpark.
Dolly’s is the place which made me fall in love with tea, and made me understand that it is so much more than a syrupy hot brown liquid.
But having said that, I hold my brown, syrupy, slightly burnt tea very close to my heart too. From keeping me awake in office post lunch, to being the accompaniments to fluffy, butter cookies of the local bakeries, this version of the drink has it’s own uses and of course, it’s own fan club.
So be it the elegant cup of Darjeeling tea, also known as the champagne of teas, or the sweet milk with overboiled tea dust in earthen cups, tea is a friend, a caregiver and a confidante for most of us. It is a part of all our lives in the most innate sense. It’s just that we often take it for granted, like we do to our closest ones.