Liquid wisdom | Pakistan Today

Liquid wisdom

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Everybody has his thumb rule when it comes to trusting and mistrusting individuals. Some make it a point never to trust women with moustaches; some always view bald men with suspicion. For my part, I have severe trust issues with those who do not acknowledge the superiority of tea over all other beverages and (worse) who do not have the foggiest idea what does and does not qualify as tea.  Pinero famously said: ‘Where there is tea, there is hope.’ That is all very well, but what hope can there be if people have no clue what tea is; and more importantly, what it is not?

The levels of ignorance on the subject are sufficient to obliterate one’s faith in humanity and evolution alike. It is beyond the capacity of words to describe the atrocities both the elite and the masses consume under the impression (or pretence) of drinking tea. If this were a cognisable offence almost the whole population would be behind bars.

And to think that it could be so very different provided the right kind of education! (It cannot be rocket-science-difficult surely?) In the spirit of better late than never, here is an effort to put the record straight on the subject by addressing some grave misconceptions about tea and tea drinking. Even if one individual benefits by realising his errors and mending his ways, my effort will have been more than worthwhile.

Let us first get the preliminaries out of the way. The first thing to know is that the word ‘tea’ is reserved exclusively for black tea. That is, the variety where the tea leaves have been made to undergo oxidation. When referring to green tea, pink tea, or tea of any other colour for that matter, one bears the responsibility to come absolutely clean by saying ‘green tea’, ‘pink tea’, and so on. (Let me explain using a parallel: You are no Government College old boy if your alma mater is Government College Qaboola, Government College Jhang, or what have you. There is only one ‘Government College’ and it happens to be in Lahore. Of course, the same goes for exotic (and rather childish) varieties such as apple, orange, mango, and mentholated teas. If you must, that is. It is best to desist because even a mention of these abominations does not belong in cultured circles.

When referring to green tea, pink tea, or tea of any other colour for that matter, one bears the responsibility to come absolutely clean by saying ‘green tea’, ‘pink tea’, and so on. (Let me explain using a parallel: You are no Government College old boy if your alma mater is Government College Qaboola, Government College Jhang, or what have you. There is only one ‘Government College’ and it happens to be in Lahore.

The author is all too aware of the youngsters who gamely try to behave responsibly in this regard but whose every effort is thwarted by their elders. Because as certain as taxes, there are elderly ladies in every household whose principal concern is the preservation of fair complexion by the youngsters of the family. Although one can be quite certain that political correctness can go suck an egg as far as these charming ladies are concerned, they rarely deign to explain why skin colour is such a consequential matter. Now, this demographic is convinced that drinking strong tea makes one darker (apparently because it is dark in colour).  (If this argument is extended, it would imply that drinking water should render one transparent!) These ladies do not take kindly to anybody who fails to conform to their uncompromising views on the strength of the blend. I have spent countless hours politely trying to argue that these theories are a lot of hogwash, but to no avail. Mercifully, the future will be built by today’s youth and my message to it is this: There can only be a tinge of milk in the tea. Anything more, and it stops qualifying as liquid wisdom. It is up to you whether you want to please those who represent a bygone era or do right by the tea gods.

As for doodh patti, the best argument in its favour that the author is aware of is that there is no legislation against drinking it. It is obvious that this is rather low on the list of legitimate reasons to associate oneself with anything. Surely there are aesthetic considerations over and above those of legality. Most of the doodh pati crowd indulge in the activity because of half-baked ideas about the benefits of milk. A little consideration should make it crystal clear that milk is for babies (both human babies and calves) and that grown-ups should in due course graduate to adult modes of nourishment. Besides, any ‘milk’ that one has not directly observed coming straight from the udder of the cow is suspect to say the least.

The root cause of the problem is the failure to recognise tea drinking as an aesthetic, cultural experience like listening to good music or reading quality literature. It must enrich one spiritually. Lowly utilitarian benefits like health (even if well-founded) or time-pass are neither here nor there.

Hasan Aftab Saeed

The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at www.facebook.com/hasanaftabsaeed



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