For millions across the nation, a few minutes each morning is spent holding a cup, mug or glass of tea or chai, warming their palms in the snatched solitude afforded by the ritual of tea drinking. During the Indian monsoon, these moments become more than habit; a source of warmth against the chill and the wet. Spiked with spices or brewed with a careful selection of herbs, each pot of tea is skilfully adapted to the season’s requirement.
From centuries past, regular consumption of tea has been highly recommended in Indian and Chinese medical systems. Not only is tea rich in anti-oxidants, significantly lower in caffeine than coffee but also an excellent aid in weight and stress management. Moreover, natural compounds in green tea might protect against several cancers, including those of the prostate, GI tract, lungs, breast, and skin.
During the damp and dreary months of monsoon flooding, a cup of masala chai offers spicy relief; its harmonious balance of milk, tea, spices and sweetness counteracting the chill of the rain. Common to the spice mix are cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper; all of which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties fighting against cold, cough and the flu. Their robust, bracing flavour warms the body and uplifts the spirit.
Another spice based tea beverage is the exotic kehwa from Kashmir (not to be confused with qahwa; another coffee drink).
Made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods and occasionally dried rose petals, it is an aromatic beverage perfect when rained in on a special evening. Be sure to use organic spices for a true flavour without harmful chemicals.
However not all teas need to be such an elaborate process. Even a simple brew of ginger in hot water with a dash of honey is a great herbal tea, perfect for soothing an irritated, sore throat. Or steeping ginger and mint together is a wonderful tea to settle an uneasy tummy. Many people also add tulsi or holy basil to their teas as a home remedy against the common cold, flu and a whole host of other illness. Its sharp taste adds a definite kick to the beverage making it ideal for the monsoons.
Across the world, people customize their tea beverages in numerous ways. Allowing black tea to steep in a teapot, poured into cups and lightened with hot milk is recognized as the English tea after the British manner. A significant mark of hospitality in North African culture is the offer of Maghreb; a brew of green tea and mint leaves, sweetened with sugar and ceremonially poured into dainty glasses. Po Cha is the Tibetan drink of choice; a energy boosting concoction of black tea, milk, yak butter and salt. Rather salaciously named is the Pantyhose Milk Tea from Hong Kong, a mixture of black tea and condensed milk served hot named for the sackcloth bag that looks like a stocking used to filter the tea leaves. An eye-catching beverage is Noon Chai; a pretty pink tea made with a special blend of leaves, milk, pistachios, almonds and salt, also from the Kashmir region. Also noteworthy is the Japanese Matcha, a jade green tea partaken as part of a special tea ceremony.
While purists only consider green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea (all made from the leaves and buds of Camellia) as ‘real’ tea, the ‘tea’ moniker is today applied to a mind-boggling range of beverages from herbal brews to fruit based teas. These are infusions of naturally occurring botanicals, are usually caffeine-free and available as 100% organic products. Herbal teas, sometimes referred to as tisanes can be broken into three categories: rooibos teas, mate teas, and herbal infusions. Rooibos tea, or red tea, is made from a South African red bush and is delicious hot or iced. Mate tea is considered the coffee lover's favorite tea. Made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, it has a similar flavour profile as coffee. Specifically blended to improve well-being according to Ayurvedic practices are herbal infusions, which improve health and well-being by addressing various minor ailments such as indigestion, insomnia, stress, weakened immune system and anxiety.
Sipping one’s favourite brew in a few moments of calm is a universal desire. Now having your preferred blend is easier than ever. A wide range of teas and tisanes are available at all our outlets including the online store. So go on, take a break this season and sit by a window with a cup of steaming hot tea on hand. Spend an hour watching and listening to the rain as you relax with preferred brew.