east and west

new_first_flush_tea_leaves.jpg In my country there is a very-very definite N-E-W-S cultural dis-tinc-tion.

I had read about this in geography books in school. They tell you on TV, in ad copies. Now I am certain. I mean now I know.

Take Tea for instance.   2leaves-n-abud.jpg

It’s amazing what happens to a simple cup of tea as you change directions within the same country.

Here’s how they make it in the East, where it is grown: A Bengali would let the water boil very well before adding the tea-leaves. Thereafter the leaves would be allowed to soak until the flavour is released. It would be either on simmer or if the leaf is fine, the stove would be turned off. The pot would be covered to protect and hold the flavour. Only a dash of preheated milk would be added to neutralise the slight natural pungence of the tea. Sugar would be added in the pot while boiling the water or while the brew is soaking in the lidded pot. In formal occasions sugar is served seperately but that is only a formality. The  stirring with the sugar cools the tea. So it is avoided. So, you have a nice aromatic cup of Darjeeling tea in your hands. Nestle the silky smooth bone china in the cup of your hands if you like and enjoy your tea with your eyes, your tongue, your nose and your mindgolden-brew.jpg

Come over to the West now, how tea is brewed here: Boil the milk mixed with water (more milk, only a dash of water is preferred) and sugar. Add the leaves. Add cardamom, elaichi, bay-leaves, ginger and whatever other spices that you can lay your hands on. Let all of it simmer together on the burner without cover until it’s heavy and thick. Strain and serve hot. In a steel glass or a cup, any cup, could be a thick rimmed coffee mug. Now you have a thick, heavily spiced, creamy concoction that tastes more like sweet broth meant for the old and the convalescent than tea as we know it in the east.


Culture meter reading: in the west they are hard working and less finicky and more happy-go-lucky with life. Everything has to make sense, even a cup of tea should taste like something more substantial than just tea (leaves). Nobody would waste a quarter of an hour just soaking tea.


In the east, life is easy, with the fertile gangetic plains, abundance of rainfall and plenty of river water. The general idea here is everybody would live for a hundred years atleast. So there is no hurry. The practise is to take their own time over everything, be it making a cup of tea or working through a file or composing poetry.


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