Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tea in the street

By Fabian Odum
For the average person in this tropical climate where temperatures, even in the season of rain, could hit as high as 30 degrees Celsius, on a sunny day even along the coastline, it is easy to feel cold on a rainy day.
In times like this, tea drinking has become a culture across the country. Though tea drinking appears to have been dropped on us by the British, tea leaves are primarily a product of tropical countries where it is grown – Kenya, Mambilla Plateau or Sri Lanka in Asia.
Take a walk down the streets of Jos, Kano, Onitsha or Lagos, you will see a preponderance of the popular ‘Mai Tea,’ with an array of the usual paraphernalia for brewing – kerosene stove, aluminum kettles or pots, set of tables for the ‘seating committee’ patrons. The long form helps drinkers sit back to back, intertwined like the intricate basket in times when the place overflows with people.
An assortment of bread, with or without brand names, is usually arranged like a block work of a building foundation while the tins of milk take the shape of a pyramid. All other ingredients need find their place in the centre of the table — spoons, cans of granulated sugar, crates of egg and tins of canned fish.
For the teashop, this is a place where the tea producing companies battle for attention as all the brands show up; it may be the round, square, triangular bags as well as the free-flowing leaves in boxes.
The pot of boiling water is almost perpetually on fire to give the best service to those who want their cup of tea really hot.
Irrespective of the windcheaters, sweaters or babanrigas as worn by some patrons, it is more like an all-men affair.
Women are more discrete; they show up once in a while but the case in some cultures. At the household level, tea drinking is a family matter and where bread and spread (margarine) or eggs are in involved, the kids have a field day.
Tea, nutritionally, has its own functions as stimulant that can improve blood flow among several other good points. Studies have shown that drinking certain teas does indeed reduce the signs of aging. Some teas have also shown the capability to energize drinkers and boost agility due to the presence of caffeine.
The tendency for some teas to help burn calories faster, and thus reduce weight has been known and could be referred to as slimming teas.
Mannerism at tea drinking is another issue; sipping hot tea from the cup with a guttural sound is heavily abhorred in some circles. The table manner is that the sip is done quietly without any sound. If it is too hot, stirring with a teaspoon is the civilized thing to do instead of blowing it with the mouth to cool it.
Teaspoons are left in the saucer and never in the teacup when taking a sip of the tea. The use of milk is a trend that developed much later than the tea drinking itself. Tea was usually a drink so pure and clean, perhaps with little or no sugar. That has all changed now!

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