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 (Matchasecrets.com 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 TeaCupsFull.com 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'