Tea is the most popular beverage all over the world. Although tea is grown mainly in China and India, it is relished by people all around the globe.
Many variations of traditional steeped variety exist depending upon the innovations done locally. For example, in India people like to drink milk tea. Then there are spicy teas lik ginger tea and cardamom tea.
Tea has been said to be good for health as it contains many antioxidants like flavonoids. Beverage is addictive in nature that’s why whole world craves for it in the morning.
Eggs are also consumed all over the world. Mostly hen eggs are eaten. Eggs are very nutritious full of protein, calcium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They are very easy to prepare even by a novice. These are eaten in many forms like simple boiled eggs, omelettes, in egg curry. Eggs are in essential ingredient in various cake preparations, coatings of food, trapping air in many preparations to give volume and fluffiness.
What are Tea Eggs then?
These originated in China as evening snack. The are also called Marble Eggs. In most simple terms the boiled eggs with small perforations in the shell are steeped in tea liqueur. Many other ingredients like Star Anise, Ginger, soy sauce, cinnamon are also added to spice up.
The steeping liquor is made by boiling these ingredients in water and cooled down.
The eggs are hard boiled which take about 7 minutes time. They are removed from hot boiling water and immediately put into freezing bath to stop further cooking.
When these are at room temperature, the eggs are tapped at different places lightly with a spoon to create cracks avoiding the detaching the shell portions. After these these are soaked in the tea liqueur prepared earlier.
After about 24 hours, the shells are removed. The eggs become dyed with the liqueur color. They look like marbles. And are ready to be eaten.
There are a number of recipe pages on the internet. For example the following link.
Tea is the most popular beverage over the world. Its origin is from China. After China comes India in the production of tea. British are responsible for tea cultivation in India. Use of tea leaves to make tea are diverse. From simple steeping of the leaves and drinking the liqueur to adding milk and sugar, there are a number of variations all over the world. Spicy tea is which contain crushed ginger and cardamom.
Then there is a this Boba Tea which has taken the world by storm. It is known by other names like bubble tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk.
The basic ingredients in this tea are milk tea to which tapioca balls are added.
Boba is a slang word in Chinese which means the voluptuous breasts of a woman. The balls represent that. Balls are chewy and milk makes it creamy. The tea originated in Taiwan in 1980.
The Hanlin Tea Room of Tainan claims that bubble tea was invented in 1986 when teahouse owner Tu Tsong experimented by adding balls of tapoica in milk tea. Tapoica is a root of the plant in contrast to being fruit or a vegetable. It’s origin is from Brazil. From there it spread like other things to Taiwan and rest of the world.
Tapoica contains a lots of starch. In the powdered form it is off white colour and is used in many preparations like puddings. For Boba Tea it is turned into spherical balls. Some organic colours are added to make the balls black.
When a product becomes popular, the innovative people start making improvisations. Boba is not an exception. Many variations exist. Like the picture below.
Robert Bruce is the Englishman who is credited with discovery of tea in Assam in the year 1823. But the Singphos, who were the major tribe of Upper Burma and their territory once extended from Arunachal into Assam, beyond Jorhat, and covered large tracts in northern Burma, smirk at this statement.
They contend that they had been drinking and using the tea plants in the food seven centuries earlier than 1823. Griffith also noticed that tea leaves were eaten as a vegetable food prepared in mustard oil and garlic.
A similar salad recipe in Burma, called ‘Letpet’, promised marital bliss. Here the leaves were boiled for several months for fermentation. The resuscitated leaves were chopped and mixed with oil, garlic, fried shrimps, fruits and dried coconut and served to newly wed.
British East India Company tried to plant the seeds brought from China in Assam since 1774. But this did not succeed. They have to resort to the local tea bush which Singphos already grew.
Robert Bruce met Singpho king Bisa Gam to discover tea. As usual, the very Bisa Gaum who helped them grow the exceedingly profitable shrub of tea was charged with taking part in 1857 rebellion against them and was jailed for life and sent to Andaman.
When the East India Company, by the treaty of Yandabo, 1826, annexed Upper Burma to Assam, the Company made a similar treaty with the tribal chiefs of the different clans; at Sadiya When tea cultivation started on Singpho land the East India Company paid a land rent to the Chief.
Irritated over a delay in receiving payment Bessa Gaum hacked off some newly planted tea, little realizing that his destructive act actually helped the industry. The cut plants resurrected and put on vigorous growth, this initiated pruning. To this day the estate where Bessa Gaum cut the plants bears the name “Bessakopie-hacked by Bessa”.
Singphos processed the tea leaves in a special manner. They half roasted it and then dried it for 3 days in the Sun. During roasting, leaves are hand twisted the leaves. After this, tea leaves were stuffed into the bamboo and hung over hearths where other eatables like fish were also hanged. This imparted the tea a smoky flavor. It was called “dhooan chang technique”. It was somewhere between green and oolong teas. It needs some time getting used to.
Indian subcontinent can be accessed on land and by sea from three sides. In the past, invaders entered it through West from the side of Afghanistan. It is protected from North by Himalayas which act as a formidable wall. The mountains which cover the India from North West to North East have been responsible for keeping the invaders entering from the North directly.
lt is also responsible for creating the weather particularly the Monsoon which gives India respite from sweltering heat and helps in meeting the irrigation requirements and bestow bounteous crops to the region. Its snow capped mountains feed the perennial rivers which sustain the life of teeming masses inhabiting the entire northern India.
The people entering from the West mingled with original people inhabiting the region. Soon their population escalated and they were obliged to spread in search of newer avenues where the conditions existed for habitation. In this process they spread over whole of Ganges valley up to Bengal.
The other entry point was the North East where people from South East Asia and China entered India. In comparison to the Western corridor mentioned earlier, terrain here is more difficult. Also people who came and settled in the North East confined themselves to the present Assam and its 6 sister states in the North East.
One reason for this might have been the difficult proposition to expand towards West where already stronger kingdoms existed. Secondly the narrow strip called chicken neck area separating the North East states from rest of India must have acted as a bottleneck which might have dissuaded them.
Assam and the 6 other states namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Manipur in the North Eastern part of India possess enchanting natural beauty.
Due to the lack of industrial progress, the environment is still free of pollution. The natural products are forests of bamboo & teak, crops of rice and vegetables grown on the fertile land on the edges of river Brahmaputra without any application of contaminating fertilizers. Of course most famous product of Assam known all over the world is the tea.
As you travel by car on any road and along both sides are never ending teas plantations. You can see the women laborers with special kind of baskets hanging from their shoulders plucking the leaves and putting in the baskets.
There is plenty of fish in the rivers. The area is rich in petroleum. In fact, the oldest oil well in India was drilled in Assam at Digboi. The original people are mainly tribals whose customs and rituals are entirely different from rest of India.
The most important migrants to come and and settle in this area came from Yunnan province. First to enter the North East region was Sukhapa, who came with army, his women and nobles.
Although initially they did not practiced Hindusim but later Kings leaned towards this religion and ultimately converted to Hinduism. Local inhabitants called them Tai-Ahoms.
As they became more tolerant towards Hinduism, the elements of Hindu mythology entered into their history. Thus it was stated that Brahma created the human beings from a gourd. These people were gentle and pious.
But by the time of Treta Yuga, the moral values declined and Indra became worried and sent his grandsons: Khunlung & Khunlai to rule the earth and bring back the old order.
These were the progenitors of Tai-Ahoms. They descended to earth facilitated by a golden ladder on the Mung-ri-Mung-ram mountains. Thus the Tai Ahoms, as they won over the local people labeled themselves as Eastern Kshatriyas.
I first went to Silchar in 1987 in connection with my job posting there. It is a border district of Assam with Bangladesh. It is in the Barak valley and very poorly connected to rest of India. Most of outside people who go there are from Defense, Government employees and tea garden managers who are entitled to airfare from Kolkata.
Air journey reduces the tiring circuitous journey by train through upper Assam which takes at least 2 days. It takes about an hour and for most of its flight, airplane flies over Bangladesh.
I boarded a flight from Kolkata which was the sole flight in a day. The airports in Assam are make shift structures built at the time of world war by the British for sending the military personnel and arms to the front to confront the Japanese forces. There is no facility for night landing and in the foggy days during winter.
Anyway the plane landed safely after circling over paddy fields and lush green bamboo groves and tea gardens. The airport is about 28 kilometers away from the Silchar town.
I took a taxi which soon was running on the sinuous road amidst the hilly slopes. It was a beautiful sight to behold. All around were tea bushes on the slopes of hillocks. There were teak trees interspersed in the gardens. The womenfolk were picking up the selected leaves and putting them into the baskets hanging on there shoulders. We north Indians have only heard about these things but this was before my eyes as I was amidst this. This was my first encounter with the tea gardens.
During my 4 years sojourn there, it was almost a daily routine to go to far off oil rigs and roads ran almost throughout the lush green paddy fields, along the river on which there were boats in which fishermen caught the iconic Illish (Tenualosa ilisha) fish which is considered as the most delicious fish and Bengali folks are crazy for it and never ending tea plantations.
In fact our oil rig was located in the tea gardens itself. So these were the plants whose leaves are sent all over the world. Most people in the world drink tea.
My second encounter with tea gardens was in the upper Assam. Again there were tea gardens running along the roads for miles and miles and never seem to be coming to an end. The area where we were located was called Sibsagar which, once upon a time was the capital of Ahom Kings who reached the valley from the south eastern side, most probably from Thailand. On the way to Jorhat from Sibsagar one encountered the Tea Research Institute at a place called Toklai. It is learnt that experiments are on to create a tea variety which will combine famed aroma teas of Darjeeling and rich brew teas of Assam.
British knew the potential of area for growing teas. As such the wild tea plants in Assam, India, do not produce a palatable brew. The credit goes to the British whose commercial interests led to the identification of local bushes which tasted like Chinese tea and the local people were drinking it although they did not know the present name. It all changed in the 19th century when the cultivation of tea began in the planned manner. Sir Joseph Banks was among observers of tea plants growing wild in the hills of Nepal in 1788.
In 1815 it was noticed that the people of Assam drank a tea from locally growing plants, but identification of these as tea plants proved inconclusive. In 1823, a Major by the name of Robert Bruce had also learnt of the existence of tea in Assam and sent samples to the East India Company’s Botanic Gardens at Calcutta, who declined to confirm that the samples were tea. Lieutenant Charlton, who was on service in Assam in 1831, sent plants to the Agricultural and Horticultural Society in Calcutta with the observation that the leaves were drunk as an infusion in Assam, and that they tasted of Chinese tea when dried. Charlton’s plants were also denied official recognition.
It was not until Christmas Eve of 1834, when Charles Alexander Bruce, Robert Bruce’s brother, sent samples to Calcutta, that the true identity of the plant was finally confirmed to be tea, or more accurately, Assam tea. It is now known botanically as Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Subsequently there was huge controversy between Charlton and Charles Alexander Bruce as to which of them was the first to ‘discover’ the tea in India.
It was found that tea could be manufactured from Assam tea shrub leaves which was in some ways superior to China tea. Tea planting became popular and there was great demand for land and seed. Thus seed gardens were established with whatever seed was available in many cases. Some were pure China, some pure Assam and some were deliberately inter-planted with both types. Thus Indian hybrid tea was formed, which has great variability and vigour. This was undoubtedly the most important event in the evolution of the commercial tea plant.
Benefits of tea
Tea is good for health as contains many anti oxidant molecules.The latest research into how we live our modern lives often shows how things like pollution or too much sun can be harmful to us. Intermediates that arise naturally during chemical process, called free radicals, can challenge our normal healthy state. Free radical damage has been implicated in diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancers.
It is thought that by regularly consuming foods and drinks that are rich in substances called antioxidants that act to ‘soak up’ these free radicals we can help ensure we have sufficient resources. As well as fruit and vegetables that are good sources of these substances, you can help increase your daily antioxidant intake by drinking tea. That’s because tea is widely known to be rich in a particular group of antioxidants called flavonoids.
For example, there is about eight times the amount of ‘anti-oxidant power’ in three cups of tea than there is in one apple, and every time you brew up in a cup or a pot for up to one minute you about get 140 mg of flavonoids. Who’d have thought something that tastes that good can help maintain your health!
In some districts of West Bengal, India, arsenic is found in the unacceptable levels making the water unfit for drinking. It has been shown that both black and green tea reduced the elevated levels of lipid peroxides and protein carbonyl seen with arsenite poisoning. Both teas showed protection against the decline in antioxidants, including catalase, glutathiones, and superoxide dismutase (SOD), as well as against genotoxicity (Sinha D et al, Antioxidant potential of tea reduces arsenite induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice, Food Chem Toxicol, January 2010). For full article click here.
There is a river which flows near my home. Most of the time during the year, amount of water is very limited except during monsoon season when the rains in the catchment area flush it with plenty of water. For rest of the time, it is mostly a dry bed of pebbles, stones and sand.
People roam in it. Many people immerse idols in it along with the flowers and other things of worship. Flowers are mostly marigolds. Their sometimes get lodged in the clayey soil on the edges of flowing water.
Such plants which grow unattended are called Escapes, and due to no personal care, they tend to flower and fruit as early as possible
Moisture and sunlight acts as booster for germination. Beautiful plant start growing and they blossom. Found this flowering marigold in the bed with one bud and two flowers.
The great Bhupen Hazarika an Assamese poet and singer sang a beautiful song which has the opening line as “One bud and two petals ” referring to the tea plucking in Assam tea gardens. I will entitle this picture as “One bud and two flowers”
For some people, Assam is synonymous with tea. It is not an under statement, it is true because the tea of Assam travels all over the world. Assam tea is known for its strength and Darjeeling tea on the other hand is famous for its aroma. When two are blended in right proportions, magic is created. The people in Assam like their tea brew without any milk added to it. They call it “Lal cha”, the red tea liquor due to beautiful red color. This brew has been proved to be very good for health as it contains many chemicals which are antioxidants. Apart from the tea, Assam is known for the silk fabrics. This silk is so much in demand that the people who go to Assam for work in oil industry, tea gardens and as tourists makes it a point to buy lots of silk sarees and cloth for making salwar and kameez. There are good shops selling silk fabrics in all the big cities.
Silk weaving is an very ancient art of Assam. There are references of silk in the early literature of India. For example, in the times of Chandragupta Maurya, this silk was highly praised by Chanakya. The writer of Alamgir Nama, Mirza Muhammad Kazim mentioned that quality of the silk products in Assam was at par with the Chinese silk.
Three varieties of silk are available in Assam. These are Eri, Muga and Pat. There was a caste of weavers called Katani which specialized in Pat silk. Muga variety is the golden silk with natural color. When I was in Assam at Sibsagar, I saw villagers selling the the silk worm cocoons and someone told me that people here eat these worms as food.
The most famous place for silk weaving is Soalkuchi which is also called the “Manchester of East”. It is a weavers village specializing in the silk weaving. It is said that artisans here were brought to this place from Tantikuchi which was the village of weaver nearby. In fact, the word “tant” stands for the thread.
“Khat khat khat khatsalare sabade prean mor nite nachuyai” was one of the most popular radio songs composed and sung during the fifties of the last century by the present artist pensioner Narayan Chandra Das Of Sualkuchhi.Actually the ‘click-clack click-clack’sound of the loom make the soul of the passerby dance with the rhythmic rattle of the shuttle flying through the sheds of the wrap. In fact the weaving the cloth on hand loom brings the mind closer to the God because of the “Tana” warp and “bana” weft threads are akin to the illusion of this world and we are all lost in the tana bana. Saint Kabir wove the cloth and sung the songs of joy and praise and friendship with God.