Don't you just love the flavour of fine Darjeeling? That lilting, fragile taste, that exquisite fragrance. Like sipping sunlight. A flavour that demands the compliment of delicate old china, the luxury of long, tranquil afternoons spent dreaming in your chair, the accompaniment of some witty but light-weight conversation.
One of the things I hate about my office is the tea. I still remember the first day I landed up, all bright-eyed and eager (those of you who know me: I know this is hard to imagine, but try. No? Try again. You there at the back. Yes, you. Shut your eyes and try goddammit!), firmly resolved on drinking less coffee, staring at the dozens of different flavours of tea that I had seen arranged in the pantry. Raspberry Royale, I read. And Vanilla Caramel. And Lemon Lift. And Cinammon Apple. And Orange Spice. And Mint Medley. You're kidding me, right? Whatever happened to normal tea - to good old Assam and reliable Nilgiri? If you hate the taste of tea so much that you have to drown it out with peppermint or caramel why the hell do you drink it at all? Memories of being made to drink Rasna as a kid came back to me. I searched around till I found the last remaining tea bag of Earl Grey (apparently overlooked since the times of Ben Franklin) and stumbled out of the pantry a broken man.
Since then, of course, I always carry a couple of tea bags of Darjeeling with me. The way other people carry condoms. After all, you never know when you may need one .
My hands down worst tea experience, though, belongs to an earlier US trip. I was visiting a friend at OSU and got dragged out for a dinner she'd been invited to. Our host that evening was a young christian missionary  who'd spent the previous summer working in a school / orphanage somewhere in Tamil Nadu and returned with that precise mix of enthusiasm and cluelessness about India that makes you appreciate the unintended benefits of travel advisories. As she rambled on about temples and elephants and devaa-da-sis (who, according to her, were EXACTLY like nuns. No comment), one tried, out of mere politeness, to pay as little attention as possible, but when she mentioned bringing back large quantities of what she redundantly called Nil-gee-ree Chai Tea my ears pricked up. Did she still have some of it left? I wanted to know, blatant desperation in my voice. Of course, she said, why didn't I think of that earlier (yes, why didn't you?), I'll make some now, shall I?
So enthusiastic was she about this idea, that my offers to help / make it myself were summarily brushed aside (for once they were entirely in earnest, btw - the control freak in me wanted to make sure she didn't screw this up) - she had her own special way of making it - with cardamom (wow! was this woman single?) - it was no trouble; she'd been saving it for precisely this sort of thing, hoping that someone would come along who would know and love tea enough to appreciate it. She vanished into the kitchen. I sat back and savoured both the the gentle irony of having flown half way across the world to drink Niligiri chai in Columbus, Ohio and the eventual aroma of the tea itself, wafting through the room.
When the tea finally arrived though, it consisted of a thick dark liquid at the bottom of a small cup, into which our host poured liberal doses of milk. I was puzzled. But where's the tea, I wanted to ask. Then realised that this was it. What had she done to it? It took me two sips of the vile, bitter tasting liquid in my cup to figure it out. (Warning: If you are a tea-lover or generally sensitive to violence against beverages, stop reading now). She had taken the perfectly good Nilgiri tea she had (it was the kind that comes in packets too, none of this random tea bag shit), ground the leaves in a coffee grinder (along with the cardamom), then put the resulting powder into her espresso machine!! AARGGHHHH!!!! Only the presence of her 6'4'' football jock boyfriend kept me from feeding her, very slowly, into the garbage disposal. As it is, I simply sat there, entirely dumbstruck, mechanically assuring her that no, I had never, ever tasted tea quite like this before. Really. I wasn't just saying that.
As for the tears in my eyes, she probably imagined they were from homesickness.
 And please, no 'dip, dip, dip' jokes. As it is I have this very disturbing vision of a condom ad that involves the lines "Wah, Ustad! Wah!" "Arre huzoor, wah Taj boliye".
 a. Well technically, a young christian missionary and her flatmate, who informed me very seriously, when asked, that she was looking to pursue a career in hair-styling, because cutting hair was what stimulated and excited her. This statement was met with an ambivalent 'ah', followed by a long, long pause.
 b. Note to self: Never, ever make jokes about the missionary position to an actual honest-to-god missionary. Also, avoid the phrase honest-to-god anything. Or jokes about God in general. ESPECIALLY that one about the monkey, the python and the flying nun.