Tasted by millions of Indians every day, there can hardly be any other drink or concoction found and savored universally around all streets and corners of India. The way we have it, is also uniquely Indian. The tea leaves, usually CTC ones (Curled, Torned and Crushed) ones are boiled directly with water and then sugar and milk are added. One common addition is of crushed ginger and cardamom. The taste that comes out of this, is loved by majority of Indians. But this is not the way the tea was originally planned to be. During my recent trip to Taiwan also known as Republic of China, I came to know through a very different and elaborate tea making process, what the tea actually means.
We were on a trip to Wutong Foundation, an NGO named after wutong tree nested by Phoenix bird. We were there to understand their love for environment and sustainability. As courtesy, they also invited to their tea drinking ceremony. I had not participated in any such event earlier and was not knowing that tea making could be so surreal and artistic.
After going around the place and talking to volunteers on issues of environment we were ushered into a hall. The hall had a very long wooden table and we were seated around that. At three places along the table, three men wearing a traditional Chinese shirt were seated with very calm composure. We were introduced to them as the persons who would be presiding over the tea making ceremony in a traditional way. To begin with, there was a very small tea pot in front of them, which was placed on a small and hollow metallic plate with pores on the top. Besides them, there was also a small fire place on which another metallic pot(kettle) with water was placed.
After seeing us all seated comfortably and exchanging pleasantries in a soft voice, the gentleman picked up the kettle from the fire place and poured the water from it, around the small pot placed on the metallic base. He virtually bathed the pot and the extra water got drained inside the metallic base of that pot. He did not add any water to the tea pot directly. After waiting some more minutes, he picked up the pot from fire place again and now poured the hot water into the small pot which was full of dried up tea leaves. He filled the pot with hot water and placed the lid back. Nothing more was added. He waited for few minutes to allow the tea leaves to be brewed and then lifted this pot to pour the tea from tea-pot into small ceramic cups that were placed in front of us. The tea was really full of flavor and the aroma. One could smell it very clearly. All of us were asked to smell the tea first and then we took a sip. The gentlemen repeated the process over many times in next almost an hour and all of us got plenty of sips in turns to satiate our yearning for the tea. The tea we were having was unlike what we have in India usually. The aroma and flavor coming from the high quality of tea leaves was refreshing and rejuvenating both for senses and for the palate. The smooth hand-body movement of the gentleman who were making tea for us made the tea even more special and arty.
I felt that tea we just had, was the real tea actually. The taste of the tea we normally have though is good to my taste, but perhaps not tea in strict sense. It can perhaps be more appropriately called as the Masala tea, because of the multiple ingredients used to make that. I like what we have, but now I also know for sure, what is a good tea and I don’t need to go to Taiwan to enjoy that taste and aroma. Coming back to India, I did not forget to get some good Chinese tea. I love that having in India now. Thanks Wutong!