Friday, 23 August 2013

War Zone: Calcutta and Tea





War Zone





Fortune Cookie:

如果你是怕搖骰子,你永遠也不會扔了六。

 If you are afraid to shake the dice, you'll never throw a six.

Calcutta is a dark place. Even in the sunlight. Poverty leaves the people there the poorest of all city dwellers in India. Per capita they earn 27 pence a day. Just under a quarter live below the poverty line in Calcutta. People in rural West Bengal bring in 21 pence a day. The scene at Siliguri Railway Station in rural West Bengal was as rugged as anywhere I've ever been on my travels.  I stayed overnight in the station retiring rooms. It was flooded.



Breakfast at Siliguri Station


Rice with a splash of dal.
Poor Siliguri.
A frontier town for Bangladesh and Nepal.
Half of Bangladesh asleep on the station platform.


If you like this blog visit its twin GuerillaZ the travel blog at the end of this link:


http://guerillaction.blogspot.co.uk/



Calcutta Slum

It isn't surprising to see then that a cup of chai from a street vendor comes in at 3 pence. The tea comes in ceramic cups which are used once and thrown into the gutter. A cup of tea in a western style café costs 110 pence. Four days income to the average Kolkatan.





Over in three sips.




Broken pottery chai cups in the street after use.

There is no getting away from it. India's real story is the crushing waste of human talent beneath the poverty. I have been to Calcutta twice in the last two years. I have spent two weeks there. The second time, only in March. Unfortunately I was so sick from dysentery that I couldn't take a single photograph or visit even one place in the city.




I have spoken to lawyers in Mumbai, civils engineers in Delhi, ex-patriates in Kochi and restaurant managers in Calcutta. All testify to the money lost through Bakshish and the use of the law to squash the little guy. Mistry's novelistic (A Fine Balance) diagnosis and description of the issue in India reaches critical mass at the point of lost and disappearing funds in the subcontinent. According to two sources India has more than enough money to eradicate the poverty described above. Just the money is in the wrong hands.


Life in Calcutta (8 mins): www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMfzwTLQ0to


I have spent seven months in India and, like the situation in Africa, something is terribly wrong here.
Politics doesn't mix with tea. It doesn't mix with anything much. But when you have been to a war zone and there is no war you have to ask the question.

If you like this blog visit its twin GuerillaZ the travel blog at the end of this link:


http://guerillaction.blogspot.co.uk/



Back to a fuller appreciation of teas next time.


It's incredible. All the purposes tea can serve.



Happy tea drinking!









Also coming soon: Tea Drinking in England.


If you like this blog visit its twin GuerillaZ the travel blog at the end of this link:


http://guerillaction.blogspot.co.uk/
Next Post: Tea in Viet Nam

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Masala Chai: dust to dust




I would like to welcome the first visitors to Singing Bird from Mexico and Norway



Dust to Dust



Fortune Cookie

智慧之語      

All progress occurs because people dare to be different


When I started on my trip of India and East Asia I was drinking mainly a beverage made from black tea dust. Brooke Bond tea dust. It's the way Indians go with their Chai tea. It's strong and it's cheap.
This site is Singing Bird. It's both a tea and a travel site.

I love both.



 A tea plantation in Munnar, Kerala, South India


*

This blog is about the joys of travel in pursuit of different teas.

I have a love of tea that blossomed like a flowering tea only six years ago. Not drinking alcohol or even coffee (I occasionally indulge when I am away from the UK) means that tea has become a treasure to me.

I began to think about tea, its provenance and the subtle and not so subtle flavours its bears.
There is a genealogy of tea. Begun by the Chinese and taken up by the British, the Japanese, the Indochinese nations and many others with a compatible climate. Kenya for example.




If you like this blog visit its twin GuerillaZ the travel blog at the end of this link:


GuerillaZ


*

This is Kochi in Kerala

They make as good a Chai tea here as any I have tasted.

If you can take tea sweet and spicy--

take a look at the recipe below.





On Making Proper Chai

I was telling someone proudly how I used black pepper during the making of my Chai tea when he told me that on no account should pepper be used; only cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The way to make satisfying Chai is as follows. I found this to be as tasty as anything I've had here.

Take 5 cardamom pods and slash lengthwise releasing the some of the black seeds inside. Take a knob of ginger the same size as the end joint of your thumb or even more. Peel, chop and bruise. Crumble cinnamon bark to make a small mound.

Put all ingredients prepared so far in a medium-sized saucepan.



A chai tea stand in Calcutta.


Add not more than a centimetre of water. Boil for 2-4 mins. Add 1 pint of creamy milk. Add 2.5 teaspoons of black tea dust, builders tea bag or loose leaf black tea if you have it. Add/dip second bag to adjust the strength.


Remove from the heat at boiling point. Pour into a teapot. Take to the table and add a spoon and a half of sugar to each cup. Makes 5 small cups. Adding a sprinkling of chopped dried chilli makes for extra zing. Cloves, cumin, star anise and vanilla are all used in different regional versions.



Writing is an activity I spend much of my time doing. Drinking tea I what I do when alone at the keyboard. In India it was a pot of Chai. In China Yunnanese green tea. In Laos a cheap Oolong I brought with me from England.


 In fact before I left the UK I packed 5 teas to travel with me. Chun Mee from China, Camomile in teabags, Chinese Oolong, Indian green tea and Yunnanese white tea.

All for different reasons.

It's incredible. All the purposes tea can serve.



Happy Tea Drinking!










Also coming soon: Tea Drinking in England.



If you like this blog visit its twin GuerillaZ the travel blog at the end of this link:



http://guerillaction.blogspot.co.uk/