Dried tea leaves placed in beautiful china, drenched by the slow yet intense heat of the stream of trickling water. They unfurl, and dance to emit vibrant colors to the tune of the droplets, letting the water to waltz with its flavor in perfect harmony. The music continues, till the tea leaves can move no more, devoid of its flavor to the last molecule. The rhythm of the boiling molecules fades, and the tea leaves settle down at the bottom of the beautiful china.
This is the story of every tea leaf. Like the wick of the candle that burns to bring light in darkness, the tea leaf knowing that it is going to wilt soon, dances brilliantly to add that tinge of flavor to every cup of tea.
There is poetry in its dance; there is romance in its unfurling. But in its agony lies a great taste that tantalizes the taste buds. A cup of tea – a ritual, a habit, a companion for gossip, a rejuvenator of thoughts, whatever you call it, you would not think of the agony of the leaves when you sip this amazing drink called tea.
It was not until recently that I started enjoying my cup of tea. I always thought I liked coffee better. But when the coffee at work made me feel sick, I switched to tea or tea bags. And mmmm.. I must say, I have started looking forward to that cup of tea. Today when I came back after making myself a cup of tea, I looked up the word ‘tea’ on Google. My favorite Wikipedia told me the history behind the drink that I was sipping and had started to enjoy. What caught my attention is the agony of the leaves.
It takes almost twelve years for this tiny leaf to grow and actually be ready to dance in somebody’s teapot. All for that one moment, the final waltz…
Tea is the most common drink in India, and each dialect has its own name – chaha (kannada), chaaya (Malayalam), chai (hindi), chaaya (telugu) and many more. And every time it’s made, every way its made, it tastes different, giving itself its unique identity. Like the variety of names for ‘chai’ the variety of sources is also huge and sometimes humorous. The “roadside tea” served at the stalls by the roads pour the tea from such a height and it falls perfectly in the narrow glass frothing up with bubbles from the milk. The “canister tea” served in tea stalls have it pre-made in a big canister with a tap. You do wonder if the canister has been washed, but nevertheless enjoy the tea. Then the “luxury tea” served in exquisite china that you may forget to enjoy the taste for the fear of breaking the cup. The “visiting tea” served when you visit someone’s place, so much so that the hosts think, that if they serve any less, then it would be an insult; And you the guest, wondering how you may politely ask to reduce the level of tea in the cup. “My-mothers-tea” that most people claim to be the best tea, in the world, even if it is just to make the mother happy. Then the “high tea” and “low tea” and somewhere in between, categories defined by the “high” “low” and somewhere in between people, incomprehensible to me. Oh and the “work tea” which you consume when you want to take a break from work, or to enjoy a chat with your friends at work, or to release pressure. This is self-made and you can make it, as you like it. “Rainy day tea” made and sipped piping hot on rainy days, relaxing on a chair, looking at the drops of rain playing music. And last, but not the least. “just-like-that tea” – there is no rhyme or reason, but you just have tea, because you have nothing else to do.
Tea, however it is made and however consumed will not fail to tantalize your taste buds, reminding you of the waltz that made the tea leaf alive.