Tea, a drink like no other!

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Ever heard of Aam Papad Chai or Bael Fruit Tea? Or Jasmine Pearl, Rosella Crab Apple, Infused Chrysanthemum? No… these are not flowers of the nursery but some of the exotic teas being offered. Tea has been a staple beverage for Indians for long, and it has now gone beyond the ubiquitous masala chai. Flavoured teas are the toast of the season. They come in different unique blends.

As says tea sommelier Anamika Singh, “People are becoming more tea-educated. They are keen to experiment tea with unusual flavours.”

Fun with flavours

Take your pick from teas flavoured with flower petals, herbs and even chunks of fresh fruits and spices.

At Cha Shi and Café E in Delhi’s upscale DLF Emporio, one gets to savour interesting varieties, including the Bael fruit tea or the Hibiscus Infusion that has brown sugar added to enhance taste. Besides, there are the organic varieties, of which Langlai Organic Tea is unique. It has a thick brew and is very good for health.

The Cha Shi, Delhi.
The Cha Shi, Delhi.

Another place which celebrates tea as a lifestyle drink is Cha Bar, nestled in Oxford Bookstores across India.
A rich, full-bodied, strong flavour, or a mildly fragrant masala chai or a diet tea, you name it and Cha Bar has it. From its kitty of at least 150 varieties, if not more, there is a tea for every mood and occasion. Enjoy the zesty flavours of clove and ginger in ‘Truck Driver 100 Mile Ki Cha’ to ‘Bollywood Masala Mix Cha’ or ‘Cha Hindustani’ with a combination of many spices.

If you read ‘Kathakali Chai’ on the menu, don’t mistake it for a dance form; it is a tea flavoured with star anise, clove, mace and fennel. The presentation is as authentic as it can be. So if Truck driver chai comes in a glass from the typical multiple glassholder, the Moroccan tea is offered in pretty coloured glasses from kettles crafted specially for their bars. Next time you are there, take your pick from exotic and cultural blends like the Moroccan Mint, South African Rooibos, Decaf and ayurvedic teas with healing powers, to  the Chinese Lapsang Souchoung, Verbena Tea, Licorice, Fruit Melange and Japanese Genmaicha. The list goes on.

Chaayos and Tea Trails are other outlet chains revolving around tea. Chaayos justifies their tagline, ’Experiments with Chai,’ customising desi chai in 12,000 ways! Their USP, though, is the Chai Frappe. Their Aam Papad Chai, where dried aam papad is mixed in black tea, is quite a popular choice, says the manager.

A range of tea at a Chaayos outlet.
A range of tea at a Chaayos outlet.

One can experiment 80 varieties of tea at Tea Trails, including chai brewed with adrak, pudina, masala or lemongrass and the Taiwanese or Tapioca Bubble Tea.

Tea Trails also offers tea-infused food menu. The signature tea-infused dishes include Burmese Tea Salad, Tea Marbled Eggs and Tea Infused Thai Bowl. Uday Mathur, the co-owner says, “Brewing tea is an ancient art which is seldom paid attention to. We at Tea Trails understand the importance of brewing and steeping high quality loose leaf teas to perfection, without which, the experience of drinking tea cannot be enjoyed to its fullest.”

Chefs across the country are glorifying tea as they whip up exotic dishes with tea as one of the main ingredients. Sharad Dewan, Director, Food Production at The Park, ­Kolkata, has been experimenting with flavoured tea-cupcakes, cookies, biscotti and even ice creams.

At Masala Library By Jiggs Kalra, there is Wild Mushroom Chai, which is actually a soup served as tea. Chef Saurabh Udinia says, “The wild mushroom chai is representative of the British Tea ritual.” Brewed in a kettle, the hot water is replaced with hot mushroom broth. The truffle oil crumbs substitute milk powder. The dehydrated mushrooms replacing the tea leaves add to the wonderful aroma of this chai, “making it a much desired beverage.”

Tea is savoured at the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity as a ritual where you can sample varieties of tea from the in-house Signature Blends. Marissa D’Rozario, Director of Outlets, Pluck & Pling, suggests signature cocktails like Ananda Brew, a decoction of house blend masala tea with vodka and hint of orange zest, or Amelia with earl grey syrup and bourbon. According to her, a must try is their innovative tea mocktails and iced teas with floral and herb tisanes like the Valley of flowers — a blend of rose, chamomile, lavender and marigold or Chilled Sensation — a blend of hibiscus, lemongrass, mint and fennel.

So there is a riot of flavours to choose from in tea these days — in loose form as well as in tea bags. Perk up your tea experience, relax and enjoy.

After all, Hamilton urges us to enjoy the soothing benefits of drinking tea: “relax, sip slowly, and savour… take a moment to just be.”

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