Oru 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.