It’s my mom’s birthday and I thought I’ll do all the work in the kitchen today. I did the dishes, we went out for lunch and I decided to make evening tea. I make tea for my dad and myself everyday at 3pm after an afternoon nap, as we have both retired from work and are chilling at home. I make substantially good tea. But today, it tasted horrifyingly bad. I have never made tea for three people before. Besides, it was the first time I made tea after going to a tea tasting event at Infinitea, and I don’t think I can make nice tea anymore because what I had at Infinitea raised the benchmark to something I can’t reach.
You must be thinking, oh what’s all the fuss about? It’s just tea. Well, whether you’re thinking so or not, I think making beautifully blended tea is an art that requires a good deal of practice. You boil it too much, it gets acidic; you add too much milk, it loses its flavour; you make it too watery and it sucks. A Geisha goes through years of practice before making the perfect tea, imagine! (I’ve been reading Memoirs of a Geisha a bit too much.)
Anyway, I have always had tea at places where they first slam a steel tumbler onto the granite slab, pour some tea decoction into it, then take a huge ladle, scoop out a good amount of milk from a barrel and lift the ladle as high as their hands can go, while tilting the ladle and pouring milk into the tumbler simultaneously. This tea usually costs around Rs.10.
At Infinitea, I had a completely different experience. Not like I’ve never been to a tea parlour before, but I’ve never really been told what and how exactly to go about drinking tea. For instance, I never knew that green tea goes best with lemon and lime mousse. Forget the flavours. I never even knew that the textures of mousse and tea go well together! So here’s what the menu for the Winter Tasting evening looked like.
Since it sounded so fancy, I decided to dress up like a fashionable socialite and go. By my standards, what with the bottle green pants, a belt, a MK bag and everything, I was as fashionable as possible. But by normal-ish Mount Carmel College standards, I was dressed in daily college wear. Hehe. I felt good about myself anyway, and that’s what counts.
The evening went really well. Nuvena and I spoke to the founder of Infinitea, Gaurav Saria, for over an hour. He is an ambitious, happy, married chap who loves his tea, and doesn’t take the easy way out as a chef. If it’s going to give him better results, he doesn’t mind having to go a notch farther to reach his goal. He gave us one of the first few batches of his fresh macarons. They were incredibly tasty! Finger licking good, if I may steal KFC’s tagline. “Most people in Bangalore make macaroons. That’s the easy way out. I have been working on these fellas for years and still haven’t perfected them,” he said about the macarons. That’s how much he knows he stuff. Who knew macarons and macaroons are different things! For many minutes there, I thought he was just pronouncing it wrong. Haha! (Macarons are delicate, meringue sandwich cookies made with egg white, sugar and almond flour. Macaroons, are made with egg whites and coconut. No almond here! Macarons are 2,000 times more difficult to make!)
The five teas served to us were top-notch, perfectly concocted and started from light teas and ended with the quintessential masala chai. Every tea tasted surprisingly different, and was made from fresh tea leaves, as opposed to packaged tea powder or tea bags. Did you know that the stuff in tea bags is just the dhool (dust) that remains after the actual tea leaves are packaged? Sigh… We were taught that good quality tea leaves are harvested, sun dried, ground in slow moving grinders, that just touch the tea leaves a bit, just enough to shred them a bit, then sent into rollers to be shaped and come out as ready to use tea leaves. We tasted tea made from oolong tea leaves. (And here I was, thinking Oolong is just a pervert character in Dragon Ball Z!) Oolong is one of the finest qualities of tea apparently, originating from China. The British actually brought it from China and planted it here in Darjeeling when they ruled. Now, India is the largest grower and consumer of tea, and the second largest industry, worth around Rs.10,000 crore! Man! There’s SO much to learn about everything in the world.
Anyway, I must say, the delicacy that accompanied every tea was every bit as delicious and rich as it sounds on the menu. I could feel the lentils of orange and lemon in the respective mousses burst in my mouth with a juicy flavour. The Belgian Chocolate Pot de Creme was out of the world! It was a little creamy bit of heaven. Every sip of tea helped wash out the flavour of the accompaniment, so every bite tasted refreshing.
I find such evenings very entertaining mostly because I love to observe people. There was a little girl sitting opposite us. She held a Harry Potter book in her hand, wore a Half Blood Prince t-shirt and Gryffindor socks. I would have absolutely envied her when I was her age. I struck a conversation with her and she said her favourite house was Slytherin. Haha! She was adorable.
It’s on days like this that I learn to appreciate the knowledge other people have, of things I’ll probably never learn. Did you know that it’s good to not wash your tea cup with soap because tiny particles of the soap remain even after you wash the cup off? It’s good to let the tea stain stay, because it’ll season your cup and make your tea taste better! Every minute topic has so much to learn about. So on this day, I learnt that tea is not just tea. Of course, it tastes awesome when your mum blends it with all the love in the world, but there’s an infinite(a) amount to learn about it. : )
That’s that. It’s what a real tea party looks like!
Thanks for dropping by! And thanks Nuvena, for making the evening happen! : )
Thank you Gaurav for hosting such a fun evening. And thank you Shaam for these awesome pictures!
Until next time.