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Notes from my library of teas

Black tea flavoured with cherry is a great combination and matcha does well with some sweetness

Floral and berry blends for the experimental tea drinker. (Istockphoto)
Floral and berry blends for the experimental tea drinker. (Istockphoto)

In another avatar, I used to work in a children’s library. My favourite part was having all the books I wanted to read available. The next best part was having someone ask for a recommendation and watching the magic happen as the book and the reader met. It never got boring, it was in fact contagious. For, it took me to books I may have missed otherwise.

I have been feeling a bit like that with tea. I suppose a tea nanny is not unlike a librarian. I get messages from friends—old and new—asking for recommendations. The most recent one was from a friend who said she was giving up coffee. “What can I drink when I wake up at 5am that won’t make me miss coffee?” she asked. I chose a roasted Darjeeling, but also sent along some green tea blends and tisanes, including some pure lemongrass from Manipur. I assumed she would go for the roasted Darjeeling. Until she messaged to say that the lemongrass was the one for her. I couldn’t help but think about how she had gamely tried every tea I had sent her, trusting me to find her one she would love. It made me question my own biases. I confess to being partial to straight teas rather than blends. So, this week, I have tried to be a bit more adventurous.

I do enjoy spices with tea, as everyone who likes their masala chai does. That’s an easy-to-like combination. I struggle with floral blends. I have never been a fan of dried flowers in my tea. Or fresh flowers on my food. The only floral teas I have actually enjoyed are jasmine pearls (where the jasmine only scents the tea and is not seen) and a geranium white tea (because I didn’t know it had flowers in it).

Since I clearly have some way to go with floral teas, I settled for fruity blends. I chose two teas that had tart berry/cherry flavours. One was a mixed-berry flavoured matcha. I used the mixed-berry matcha to make a milkshake ( has a few milkshake recipes). I blitzed a teaspoon of the matcha with milk and a heaped tablespoon of condensed milk—I had read that matcha does well with some sweetness.

The milkshake was not tea as I know it but it’s such a great beverage option and it comes with all the goodness of matcha. For someone who is new to matcha and wants a familiar bridge, this does the job remarkably well. And for those who complain that young people find tea too fussy, this is perhaps a great way to showcase its versatility.

The other tea I tried, also not an Indian one, was a Sri Lankan black tea from Nuwara Eliya that was flavoured with cherry. Another great combination. While I steeped it in the conventional way, in hot water for three minutes, I caught myself thinking I would use it in summer to make iced tea or a cold brew, or maybe even popsicles.

The Mixed Berry Matcha I had was from and the Lanka Cherry Tea was from Radhikas Fine Teas and Whatnots. The pure lemongrass tisane is from CC Tea.

Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. @AravindaAnanth1

Also read | How tea became 'chai'

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