Food Writing · Vegan

To Tea, Transformations & Traditions

I guess you can take me out of India, but cannot take India out of me- especially when it comes to chai.

I live in a coffee lovers country. I should really be running into a Starbucks and running out with a cup of black coffee. I just haven’t gotten there.
I love my tea. I love the snacks that accompany it. I love the tradition of sitting down midday, to take a break – to sip a cup of tea!

I was the only one laughing and clapping when Mrs. Travers said, “It’s blasphemy to drink tea from a paper cup,” in Saving Mr. Banks.
Teatime is a ritual- one with delicious tea, not one of the herbal tisanes that fall under the tea category these days. It is a time to sit down and reflect or a time to rest and read something, a time to socialize or a time to do nothing. How can that be done while drinking out of a paper cup?

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Catching up on a magazine with afternoon tea.

Some of my favorite memories of grouping up in India and times spent with my mother, involve afternoon tea. My mother and I sat in the quiet dining room, in our large bungalow, at the end of the quiet street and chatted and ate after our afternoon nap. The servants had all gone home, the street vendors had retired for the day and the kitchen and dining room was still. The ceiling fan made a constant sound, as it circulated the aroma from my mother’s home ground spices that were steeped in her masala chai. I cannot be certain of what I drank, but that didn’t matter. I got to sit down in the quiet space and have a homemade pasta ni puri, chevdo or sev from my mother’s panjra (pantry.) I got to sit down with her in the quiet ritual of sipping tea with only the sound of the ceiling fan, slurping of tea and crunch of fried food.

I want to recreate that time. Everyday.
Here, in America tea is not as popular. Neither is teatime.
My mother is not with me. People, especially in New York, do not have time, to take a break; to stop and sip some tea.
So- I spend many a days, especially cold winter days, enjoying this tradition on my own. On some ambitious days, I go over and do the whole tea drinking ritual at one of the places that offer tea time.

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Teatime at Mandarin Oriental, NYC

I have changed what I eat with my tea and have learnt different foods to enjoy with tea, from the tea tastings I have been to. Yet it is not the same as when I was in India. A lot of my photos are of foods and snacks, that over time, have become tea time accompaniments. That has not taken the place of my desire to have ‘TeaTime.’

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Transforming traditions- trying green the with mint leaves.

Fortunately, a couple of days ago, I managed to fulfilled that desire. I had a few Asian friends visit me, my parents still in town and we met for tea. The time we spent, eating, drinking, talking and laughing made me want to write, share and remember the evening. I baked my vegan chocolate chip muffins. I also made some Vegan, cucumber sandwiches developed from my time having tea at the Mandarin Oriental and my mother made her masala chai. We spent hours talking and understanding different cultures. I am thankful I get to have times like these, even if there are only once every few years.

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Here’s clicking our tea cups to more teatimes like these.

 

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