No two cups of tea are the same. If you have ever traveled in India, you would realize that.
Let us first start with the no star hotels. These are the small numerous joints around the road side where tea has been simmered in the same pot from before I was born. It is boiled round the clock and by the time it comes served it is thick. Biscuit will stay suspended in it without drowning. It is strong, sweet, milk and it is like drinking eclairs. It is occasionally spiced with ginger, cardamom and a host of other things.
There is a legion of followers for this sweet concoction called tea, including myself, in times past. I do not know how I could stand so much sugar then. Even today, occasionally, it is that kind of tea the tongue prefers, though I cannot understand how. Maybe the tongue has its own memories.
Next come the hotels with a star next to them. Not so numerous, just one or two. Here the tea is still brewed for a long time. The thickness of the tea reduces slightly. Biscuits can be dunked in. And when the order is with less sugar, you get the sugar on the side. So we now add the sugar ourselves. We pay more for the convenience of adding sugar to your liking. The price is now double.
Add another star to the name of the hotel and we will see how the tea comes here. A whole tray is delivered. Tea, milk, sugar, spoons etc etc. I make my own cup of tea, to my liking. More sugar, less sugar, more milk, no milk, any variations. I make it for myself and for my family too. I pay more, do more work to get my cup of tea ready. All this mixing and matching later, the tea is now just warm and not boiling like the no star hotels. Pay more, do more and have a warm customized cup.
I now start gathering leaves to pay for the hotel with the most number of stars. Let us see how much they make me work in the garb of convenience. First I need to put on expensive clothes and put my nice and some times arrogant foot forward to even enter the hotel. That in itself has doubled the effort. Next I have to order my pot of tea. Then I have to answer a series of agonizing questions about the type of tea I prefer. Ceylon tea, Malabar tea. Leaf tea or dust tea. I feel I am facing my viva voce examination for a Doctorate in Teas.
After facing the interrogation and passing through flying colors, I get the tray delivered. The tray also got bigger. There is hot water, an array of tea bags, milk, sugar, some lemons, spoons, napkins etc etc. Everything else except tea takes the center stage. Now we pour some warm water, steep a tea bag, add a spot of milk, a dash of sugar. After all the drama we end up with a tepid cup of tea that I wonder what did I pay for. I paid for some hot water, I did the rest of the thing myself. I could as well boil the water myself. Maybe if I go to a place where there are not enough stars in the universe to put it next to the name, then they will give me a bottle of water and an electric kettle and ask me to boil water to the temperature I “like”.
Isn’t it easy to just pay for the tea and get a steam mug of tea delivered.