• Chefs & Recipes

    Tea- An Indian Staple

  • –  Anamika Singh 

    If one was to see the infusion of the two leaf & a bud, it would seem like the sun has seeped its energy into every sip of this elixir of life.

    From the morning cuppa to the one that keeps us convinced during the day that life is beautiful to the last mug that tucks us to bed, this beverage which has a history dating to 2737 BC has indeed captivated the nation in all its glory – Tea. You will be surprised to know that if you do not prune a tea plant to the table height that you normally see in an estate, it would become a tree that would reach 30 feet high! In fact the mountains of Yunnan are a home for these 100 year old mystical tea trees! In India the tea growing regions are more than just Assam & Darjeeling. Kangra & Uttarakhand to the north, Nilgiris and Munnar to the south, Bihar, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Assam and Darjeeling to the east. It is important to not only the mind but also the palate. Each brings with it the distinct taste and history of the medicinal plant that is now dunked with the unthinkable tea bag, clouded with more milk than water, drunk rather than sip. The emphasis to explore cannot be emphasised enough.

    The tea is scientifically called Camellia Sinensis and can be categorised into two main varieties, the Assam variant which is indigenous to Assam and the China variant which has its roots in China. The former is bigger in leaf and is usually used to make tea in which one likes to add milk and sugar, CTC (crush, tear and curl which is a method of manufacturing tea). But there are estates that also make the orthodox or the long leaf variety of tea that is again defined by the method of manufacturing which is flavourful just by itself. The leaves are bigger and plump. Do keep in mind that when the tea leaves are plucked from a bush, only the tender  two leaf and a bud or one leaf and a bud is plucked. Here the bud is referred to the unopened leaf. And this unopened leaf which is beautifully young and delicate is that which makes the white tea or as it is popularly known as silver needle tea.

    If you were to look at tea across the globe there are more than 10,000 made from the varieties of Tea that have been mentioned above. Just like wine, tea is an agricultural product and is affected by the weather, the terroir, the location of the plantation, the altitude, the seasonal changes, the method of plucking, how the leaf is processed and eventually the way it is brewed. All of this makes the camellia sinensis a beverage that believes in precision and purity.

    The classification of Teas is made by the process used to make each one of them. The color and the appearance often denotes the different categories such as the Black, green , white, oolong, puerh, yellow tea. Hence the a green tea is not made from a green bush or a black tea from a black bush but it is the method of manufacturing that gives it its intrinsic qualities.

    I personally love my mug of handmade flowery green single estate Manjhee Valley from Dharamsala & the High Mountain oolong from Taiwan, not one or two or three but i invariably sip close to 12 to 14 of those huge mugs. Hot teas are an old favourite and many tea houses across country serve various connoctions and varioation on the classic chai. But with the heat never seeming to cool off completely no matter whatthe season, the cold teas & the ice teas also seem to have settled into hands that hold the pen, work the tab or rock the cradle. From flavours to naturals to fruit infused and at times with dash of alcohol, the cold beverage is the innovative addition to many menus in restaurants and hotels.

    There are two ways to make cold tea. I am not in the favour of iced since addition of the same dilutes the tastes and eventually one is sipping only water with a hint of pale yellow& in some remote corner one might  get a whiff of peach, lemon or rose or lavender.

    Mizudashi is the Japanese method to make a cold brew. It works beautifully with Teas such as Sencha, Jasmine Peals or Matcha. The Tea is infused in room temperature water for 8 hours, strained and served chilled.

    Iced chai with chai jelly

    You will need

    • 1 litre water
    • 2 tbsp black tea
    • 5 green cardamom pods, slightly smashed
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4 slices ginger, slightly smashed
    • 1 star anise
    • ⅓ cup evaporated milk
    • ¼ cup granulated sugar
    • 5g agar-agar powder

    Instructions

    1. In a large saucepan, bring the water and spices to a boil. Add the tealeaves and sugar, boil for 4 minutes more.
    2. Strain the liquid, return half the liquid into the pan and bring back to a boil. While stirring add the agar-agar powder. Continue to mix and boil until the powder is completely dissolved.
    3. Pour into a mold and allow to set for at least 30 minutes. Cut into small 1-cm squares.
    4. Put the remaining tea liquid back into the pot and add the milk. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes more. Cool completely.
    5. To assemble, put a few jelly pieces into a glass with ice. Pour the milk tea and serve immediately.

    Vanilla and cinnamon masala chai

    You will need

    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 to 2 tsp. sugar, or your favorite sweetener
    • 1 tsp loose tea leaves
    • 1tsp. whole dried ginger or ginger powder
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1tsp. cardamom powder
    • 1 tsp cloves finely ground
    • 1 tsp nutmeg finely ground
    • 1tsp. star anise powder
    • ¼ tsp vanilla scraped freshly from the pod

    Instructions

    1. Boil the water
    2. Pour all ingredients except milk into a saucepan.  Place over medium heat.
    3. Allow to heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the water.
    4. Add milk.
    5.  Stir the chai, scraping the bottom to avoid scalding the milk. When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and stir well.
    6. Bring to a boil once again, turn off the heat and stir well. Allow to steep for a few minutes.
    7.  Strain carefully into a cup, and serve.

    Matcha Latte

    You will need 

    • 1 teaspoon (2 Scoops) Matcha Powder
    • 1-1/2 Tablespoon Water
    • 1 teaspoon Raw Honey, Or More To Taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
    • 1/2 cup Whole Milk
    • 1/4 cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

    Instructions 

    1. Place the matcha powder in a deep bowl or mug. Heat the water to 160ºF (70ºC) and pour over the matcha powder. Use a matcha whisk to first bury all the powder under the water, then whisk vigorously in a back-and-forth motion until the matcha is completely dissolved.
    2. Add the honey and vanilla bean paste and whisk until incorporated.
    3. Heat the milk and cream in a small pan set over medium-low heat. The milk/cream should be between 60-70ºC. Froth the milk/cream. Pour over the dissolved matcha.

    White Chocolate Chai Latte

    Yields: 2 cups

    You will need

    • 1 cup water
    • 2 black tea bags
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ – 1 cup (80 – 170 g) white chocolate*

    Instructions

    1. In a medium saucepan, bring all ingredients except for the milk and white chocolate to a boil. Once boiling add the milk and bring to a boil again. Turn off the heat and allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors blend. Reheat again until hot, then strain mixture through a fine mesh. Add white chocolate and stir vigorously until melted and smooth. Gently reheat again on low heat if needed.
    2. Pour drink into 2 mugs and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon, if desired.
    3. Serve hot.
    4. * If you prefer a drink that’s not too sweet, half a cup will be enough for a moderately sweet drink with a noticeably chocolate flavor (but I always want more chocolate).

     

    Anamika Singh is the Director at Anandini Himalaya Tea.