Friday, October 20, 2006

The red tea

I first discovered rooibos tea in the US. I was introduced to this aromatic native South African herb by a friend. It is rich in antioxidants and is caffeine-free. Add hot milk, sugar, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon and the resulting rooibios chai is heaven.
Although India produces so much of tea, a few years ago, I never even saw an ad for green tea which is supposed to be high in antioxidants and very healthy for your system. The same for brown rice. I first got to know about these healthy options courtesy Anjali Mukherjee's weekly column in Bombay Times in the 'Times Of India'. The TOI was a treat in those days. Those were also the heady post Sushmita-Aishwarya-Miss World-Miss Universe days. Anjali Mukherjee is a reputed nutritionist who counselled Miss Indias. I grew to be a big fan of hers. Along with her, there was the admirable Ramma Bans who trained young, budding beauty queens such as Yukta Mookhey to be slim, strong and fit. Her recommended execises were a part of my staple reading, too, though I did not actually do all of those exercises. I picked up some other exercises from the TOI and other sources though.
The Chinese have a fascinating array of teas - white tea, green tea, tea flavoured with this and that and what not. Until I went abroad, I did not know that there are so many teas, in fact, till I got acquainted with the Internet, I did not know that tea is a generic term for the essence of boiled leaves and herbs. Until then, the only tea I knew was the regular, black chai. 'Chai' in the US , means black tea, flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, etc. I still am not accustomed to black tea and coffee. In fact, the way we Indians make coffe, it is practically milk flavoured with a dash of coffee unless you make it extra strong. So, when an American talks about a regular cup of coffee, it is very different from what we Indians mean.
Rain pouring outside, green leaves getting drenched outside in the rain...misty coldness..what else is needed? A cup of hot chai in your hands, warming you up. Truly heavenly!
Now I know why the Tibetans, Ladakhis, Kashmiris and practically every mountain region dweller in China/India and other Asian places, love their steaming cuppa.
My Kashmiri friends were the ones who told me about the different types of chai they drink, the sweet 'kehwa' and the ornamental 'samovar' used to boil tea.
And recent research proves that tea, within limits of course, is actually good for you. If you get a chance, do try the rooibos.

Thank God for chai. Annie has a great
post here on chai.

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