Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More inspiring blogs and a little paradise for tea lovers

I had said there was more to come from my side.

Well, here are are my favorites from my wanderings on the vast ocean that is the Internet...

The Unlost is a blog by a girl who has decided to challenge the status quo of slogging away in a cubicle at a job you don't like just to buy security and some material things. Her posts are hilarious and touch a chord with lots of folks, young and not so young.

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Balance in Me is a site devoted to, as the name suggests, leading a life of balance, inner peace and harmony. It has loads of useful information and lovely guest posts. Check out the post on Women's Day. It has a beautiful ode to womanhood and a lovingly put together list of links to other inspiring blogs and sites.

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Recently, I chanced upon the website of a tea lounge in San Francisco through Leo's Zen Habits blog. This is a group of tea shops that are part of the establishment called Samovar Tea Lounge. Do check out their blog. They have interesting interviews with other bloggers, writers and technology people.

What I love most about Samovar is their Zen philosophy of living life in the present moment and the brewing and enjoyment of a fine tea symbolizes just that. 

I am a big fan of tea, especially Indian masala chai (a concoction of black tea and milk with ginger and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, sometimes even fennel seeds and black pepper). There is nothing like a steaming hot cup of tea while contemplating life, listening to music and watching the rain or snow outside.

I am trying to watch my caffeine intake but I give in to my tea cravings at least once a day.

Tea is a ritual for many families. The Japanese are known for their elaborate tea ceremonies. Tea is symbolic with the British way of life and hospitality. For me, growing up in India, I would have tea late in the afternoon with a pastry called 'khaari biscuit', which is a multilayered, salty, empty pastry puff or 'rusks', a hard, crunchy, slightly sweet bread or some other biscuits, and a newspaper spread out before me. 
Note to American readers: Biscuits in India are more like crackers, not the dish that is available in McDonalds and other places. The Indian term is probably from the UK because where else would Indians have derived it from? 
I miss the many varieties of biscuits in India, ranging from the cream-filled ones to the plain dipping Marie biscuits. Lately, I had a craving for Britannia Bourbon - the chocolate cream filled biscuit that is a little more expensive in Indian grocery stores here in the US.

Although I had heard about the health benefits of green tea, thanks to nutritionists such as Anjali Mukherjee who used to counsel contestants for Miss India and write columns in newspapers such as the Times of India, I never saw it regularly sold in grocery stores in India many years ago. These days, green tea has become more readily available. It was after I came to the US that I was exposed to the notion that tea did not mean just the tea leaf, Camellia sinensis. The fascinating array of herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile and lots more, claiming to benefit people in many ways, ranging from relieving stomach disorders to menstrual cramps, is simply staggering.

I learnt about Chinese oolong and white tea, too, which basically differ from black tea in the level of oxidation and maturity of the tea leaf. There are many varieties of Chinese teas and we came across a few of them in the World Spice Merchant store near Pike Place Market in Seattle. I had never seen full leaf teas in India, let along oolong and white tea, which is surprising since India is a major tea exporter. [There are a lot of items that had somehow never become commonplace in India such as tofu given the proximity of nations such as Thailand and China and that is also very strange.]

The sheer number of flavors that can be added to tea such as orange blossom and peach expand the recipe list of this fascinating leaf even more. Tasting tea becomes the act of a connoisseur, just like tasting wine, with its myriad subtle aromas.

I have tried the Darjeeling Full Leaf Organic and Assam Full Leaf teas at Peet's Coffee and Tea and I can vouch for it, there is something about the aroma and satiety of sipping a full leaf tea that dried tea cannot equal.
I wish Indians (and people in other nationalities) followed their passions and opened up such unique establishments, in line with their philosophy and oriented towards customer service. There would be clean restrooms, a safe, cozy place to meet up with your friends and chat and one would get exposed to simple gastronomic pleasures.
Sula Wines is an agro-based establishment that was set up by a budding Indian entrepreneur which is such an example.

'Chai kadas' (tea shops) in Kerala, where the public gathered to gossip and discuss politics, and Irani tea shops in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) were iconic. The 'cutting chai' (a half glass of strong, milky tea - even the glass has a typical shape) sold on the street side in India can still beat the tea served at five star hotels.
My college room mate from Kashmir told me of the many cups of tea they consumed in a day, one of which was intriguingly called 'kehwa' (if I remember it correctly). It was through my Kashmiri friends that I probably first heard of the 'samovar' and even got to see one.
I would love to try all these some day including Tibetan tea with yak's butter.

A long time ago, I had also written about another beloved tea of mine, the red tea, known as rooibos (pronounced as roy-bos), from South Africa. This has no caffeine and brims with antioxidants.

I am off to make myself a cup of tea and when I visit San Francisco, I surely am hoping to check out Samovar.

Note: There was a typo in this post, 'newspaper' had been typed in mistakenly as 'newspapaer'. Sorry about that. Thanks.


Veggie Belly said...

You know, for all the years I've lived in India, I've never had Chai at a chai kadai! Shame on me! Very nice to have met you :) Your writing is wonderful :)

Lotus Eyes said...

Hi Veggie Belly,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment and for the compliment:).

It was great meeting you, too. I tried a few of your recipes and loved them. Keep up the good work!


Lotus Eyes said...

Hi Veggie Belly,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment and for the compliment:).

It was great meeting you, too. I tried a few of your recipes and loved them. Keep up the good work!


Therese said...

Hi Lakshmi,

THANKS FOR THE SHOUTOUT! (Sorry I just saw it now! :)

& thanks for the tea introduction... I'm normally a coffee drinker but I ought to try some new things, I think! ;-)


Lotus Eyes said...

Hi Therese,

You are more than welcome! You deserve many more shout outs:).

While you are in Portland, do try the 'Tao of Tea'.

I started experimenting more with teas myself after coming to the US. And, yes, I do love my cappuccinos and lattes:).