I think the fascination with “free” stuff / reduction sale is a Malayalee phenomenon. If you actually think about it, which business owner would want to dig in to their profit, just so they could give you something ‘free’ for buying their product? I have tried to explain that simple truth to my mother. But nothing worked. She would jump in to an alien space ship if they told her the trip is “free”
So we bought brooke bond green label. Few of the free gifts we got were, a tiny sewing kit ( kind of the ones you used to find it 5 star hotels, few skeins of thread, a needle and few odd buttons), a black comb ( which my mother might still have) and a pencil !!
In Chengannur house, my grandmother had 2 coffee plants and she made her own coffee whenever she could. And on a good day if Amma wasn’t home, Ammachi gave me kattan kappi and ghee (black coffee with ghee). Ammachi didn’t own any coffee mugs. She only had drinking glass. Because I was a child, she waited for the black coffee to cool a bit before serving me. She put the sugar and ghee in the glass first and then the coffee. I loved to see the ghee melting and floating to the surface and then I had to gently stir the coffee, so enough sugar would dissolve and I could enjoy the drink. ( it was a a bit tricky. I loved to drink the last bit of thick, almost dissolved syrupy sugar at the bottom of the glass! First you tilt the glass and suck in as much of the thick sugary syrup that would slide down the glass and then you use your finger and start licking the left over and how much I struggled to get the sugar stuck at the bottom of the glass that couldn’t be reached with my fingers..tilt, shake, slurp…ah, the joy..)
The first time I remember reading about tea was in one of my dad’s novels. It must have been a travelogue translated to Malayalam ( I couldn’t read in English then). It was mentioned that this dude after escaping from some jail in Siberia, walked to India and arrived in Kashmir and the locals gave him Saffron tea. ( to this day, I don’t know what book it was or who the hero in the book was, all I remember is the saffron tea!) I didn’t know what saffron was, but I had promised myself, one day I will have saffron tea! I had to.
Then my father started bringing Lipton Yellow label tea bags from mid east. And my mother in her eternal quest for saving money, used to split open the tea bag and make tea for 5 using the tea dust from one single tea bag. Needless to say, I was never a fan of tea!
The first time I had “real” tea was in George’s house in Mysore. His chef made a proper tea in a teapot ( following all the protocol like warming the tea pot first, one tea spoon for each and one for the pot, cover the pot with tea cosy, brew for exactly 4 minutes etc) and served it in proper tea cups ( royal doulton!). May be it was the novelty..but I was hooked. He was using orange pekoe tea (Kotada). I didn’t even know there were actually different types of tea. I felt kind of ‘small’ that I didn’t know anything about tea ( what with having a family member who is a well known tea tester!!).
So I was going to learn about tea..