Hibiscus Tea #SherylPuthur

Hibiscus-Tea1

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Hibiscus tea is made from the dried flowers of the hibiscus tree and is a popular drink in Egypt as well as in other countries. While you can drink hibiscus tea hot, my preference is for it to be chilled.

So if you have hibiscus tea bags, cut the tea bag and drop the leaves/powder into the water, add sugar and boil it. If you have very few tea bags add very little water – preferably only a little more than a teacup. The tea needs to be strong for the flavour to emerge.

Once it has boiled, put it aside to cool. After it reaches room temperature, transfer it into another vessel, post straining it. Then keep it in the refrigerator to chill. Once it has chilled sufficiently, pour it out into glasses and serve it.

Hibiscus tea looks like sherbet but has a very kokum-like flavour. And much like kokum juice, it is cooling and refreshing.

For those who feel tea is boring, hibiscus tea is the one to change your perception. It can pass of for a party drink instead of the usual carton juice. But, keep in mind you ask for it to be chilled because when hot the flavour is… diluted.

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How to: Strong Tea! #SherylPuthur

If you like your tea strong and have only tea bags at home, Never fear! Cut the tea bag and add the contents directly to the water and let it boil.

For one, you wouldn’t have to use too many tea bags for one mug of strong tea – keeping all those lovely tea bags for a rainy day when you require brown comfort.

Sip and settle back to relish your lovely mug of tea…

Sulaimani Chai #SherylPuthur

Sulemani 2Oru sulaimanilum oru ithri mohabbat venam. Athu kudikumbol lokam ingane pathake vantha nikyanam – Kareem ikka

A little bit of love should be added to every sulaimani you serve. When one has that, the whole world should come to a standstill.

One of the most beautiful quotes in praise of sulaimani chai and it comes from one of my favourite films on food – Ustad Hotel. It is clear that the writer Anjali Menon and the director Anwar Rasheed love sulaimani chai because of the focus given to the experience; the frequent moments when Kareem ikka or Ustad is pouring out tea, is presented as special.

Sulaimani chai also known as Solomon’s tea is said to be invented by the wise King Solomon. Besides imparting wisdom, he was known for his fine knowledge in spices and his experimentation in the culinary arts. According to legend, he used these very arts to bed the Queen of Sheba.

So the story goes that from the moment he set his eyes on her he realised he wanted her. But while his lust overpowered him, she saw it only as an intellectual romance. He tried everything to seduce her but she remained steadfast.

The end of her visit was drawing near so he hit upon a desperate plan. He placed a condition on her that if she asked for anything, anything at all after the final meal she would have to sleep with him. She agreed; certain that there was nothing else she required. So Solomon made the meal very spicy and plied her with wines. But they did not assuage her thirst so she woke at night and asked for a drink of water…

Well, this could be just a legend but you never know, maybe if Solomon had brewed this special tea for her, maybe she wouldn’t have held out for so long.

There are many ways sulaimani chai can be made and enjoyed, but my favourite or the one that gives me the best results is something I first had at a local tea stall at Wayanad. I asked the lady for the recipe and so this is it –

Boil the tea leaves/powder with the sugar (in case you prefer honey, add it just before drinking. When the tea is too hot, the flavour of the honey gets dulled). The amount of tea leaves added depends on how strong you like your tea. For me, when I make a mug of tea, I add one flat teaspoon and may sprinkle some more if I’m not satisfied. You have to gauge depending on the colour or your memory of the flavour.

Use fully fermented tea leaves or black tea for this. Darjeeling tea is generally the most easily available.

After the tea has boiled and the leaves have slowly settled at the bottom of the vessel, pour it out. Now squeeze half a lemon into the mug or if you’re sharing this moment with someone, use a full lemon! You can also add lemon rind into the tea. Some people prefer to add the lemon while the water is almost done boiling. I suggest you squeeze the juice but add the juice sacs of the lemon into the mug after you’ve poured it in; else you lose it in the dregs of the tea.

You can drink the tea exactly like this or you can end by adding mint and basil leaves. They give a lovely flavour and are healthy besides. If you prefer a spicy undertone to your tea, you can boil cloves, cardamom or cinnamon with your tea leaves.

So enjoy this intoxicating concoction and let’s hope that your world stands still.

For the Love of Tea #SherylPuthur

Tea is a love affair and for me it properly took off when I was fifteen. Prior to that, I used to be addicted to coffee but over the years my coffee consumption has become something of an annual engagement. Do not get me wrong, I don’t particularly dislike coffee but its hold on my heart has waned. So now for me drinking it is like a nostalgic exercise.

Tea on the other hand for me is almost a sacred experience and I prefer to share my tea-moment with someone who doesn’t cloud my ‘aura’ as probably Phoebe from FRIENDS would put it.

Tea is obviously not a new fascination. It revolutionised trade and became suddenly the past time that everyone in the west wanted to indulge in. It even gave competition to the coffee houses of England.

Each community and culture has its own way of approaching tea. Most have raised it to an art form and have stylised ways of appreciating it. For instance, in Japan, the ceremony for drinking tea is already known. The thing is, while it is stylised, it is also a humble and philosophical experience. The ceremony is called sadou – way of the tea. It implies that tea will bring you to a better understanding of self or maybe even a dismissal of self.

I believe every tea has a story and sometimes it is the story that comes up between the tea and the drinker of the tea. So I want to tell you stories about tea, its history, and my recipes of perfect brews. I also want to discover new teas and share them with you. I have my preference for non-milk tea but I’m going to explore even the so-called scorned territory of milk tea.

So let’s embark on this journey, for the love of tea.