Sparring Friends – Coffee Vs Tea

Recently I was broadsided by a sophisticated mallu – a WIP with a very few “Row” sides to him. Hell hath no fury as a mallu separated from his chai!

Indu Uvacha: (Angrily)
Perhaps your “Madras Kappa” spirit was aroused by my call to tea that you would make so bold to discount tea in such a dastardly manner for that dark brew? Be that as it may (and regardless of whether you’ll be made to eat your joke when you fly on Malabar airlines), I can’t let you get away with mocking tea so.

Good tea, my man, is a lost art that was practiced everywhere in India, until its place was usurped by invaders from elsewhere. Now, sadly relegated to liquid jugglery at the Nair tea stall or, even more sadly, to vapid jokes about meter long concoction, tea is not appreciated in the land that produces most of it. (And, as if coffee is not put to such feats of elasticity in the roadside coffee shops or the railway platforms all over India. And what about that “tumbler and dabara,” that it is presented in so ceremoniously? Besides, coffee (I feel like I’m clearing my throat every time I say that word), a lowly stimulant and drug disguised as emery boosting drink, originated from the deserts of Ethiopia, thanks to a cowherd. Decoction concoction anyone?

In contrast, myth has it that Bodhi dharma (alas, a non-mallu, Pandya prince at that Shankara – tch, tch) brought tea to China. Even if it’s an exaggeration, since china probably can lay claim to tea much before Bo’s arrival there around 5 C AD, the point is the elixir has been associated with spiritual masters and purification. Bo Dharma is not the last spiritual leader who was associated with it either.

In Japan and China, tea is an art form of the highest order, and tea masters are venerated philosophers and spiritual leaders. The Japanese tea ceremony evolved, allied as it was with Zen Buddhism into a highly evolved, intricate art form that’s prized and practiced by aesthetes and Zen monks even today.
Sen no Rikyu, a 16th Century Zen master, is revered to this date for his treatise “Cha no yu” (lit. “water for tea”) all over the world. (But, what’s the point in recounting this to you Shankara? Will you ever sip a cup of tea in this lifetime?) Here’s an episode, involving Sen no Rikyu (see if you can match it with a coffee story, you coffee drinking luddites!):

The Tea-Master & the Assassin

Taiko, a warrior who lived in Japan before the Tokugawa era, studied Cha-no-yu, tea etiquette, with Sen no Rikyu, a teacher of that aesthetical expression of calmness and contentment. Taiko’s attendant warrior Kato interpreted his superior’s enthusiasm for tea etiquette as negligence of state affairs, so he decided to kill Sen no Rikyu. He pretended to make a social call upon the tea-master and was invited to drink tea.

The master, who was well skilled in his art, saw at a glance the warrior’s intention, so he invited Kato to leave his sword outside before entering the room for the ceremony, explaining the Cha-no-yu represents peacefulness itself. Kato would not listen to this. “I am a warrior,” he said. “I always have my sword with me. Cha-no-yu or no Cha-no-yu, I have my sword.”

“Very well. Bring your sword in and have some tea,” consented Sen no Rikyu.
The kettle was boiling on the charcoal fire. Suddenly Sen no Rikyu tipped it over. Hissing steam arose, filling the room with smoke and ashes. The startled warrior ran outside.

The tea-master apologized. “It was my mistake. Come back in and have some tea. I have your sword here covered with ashes and will clean it and give it to you.” In this predicament the warrior realized he could not very well kill the tea-master, so he gave up the idea.

🙂 See you at tea time, Indu

Mixing comes easy to me, be it language or liquids. When dharu mixing happens first, language mixing is further facilitated! Have you tried a mix of coffee and Cognac? Tea is not known to copulate with any spirit with such ecstatic results!

Incidentally, Usha is from Coonoor, the tea land of South India. Her Dad is the Auditor for several tea companies in Coonoor. The tea we have at home is well distanced from the dusts most of you have!

I see your cry to end this storm in a tea cup! So be it. I would rather settle for ‘me’ than care for tea, tea and more tea options of Malabar Airlines!


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