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A cloud of milk in your warm water ?

26 August 2012

at 14:35 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Milky Tea
Some purists may wish to abstain. The next blog will focus on the ‘alteration’ of the precious brew with its most famous additive: milk.

The tradition of adding milk to tea is not English. In fact, this tradition was practised in Mongolia before tea was brought to Britain. Among the Mongols, they made tea with milk and salt to add nutrients. Later, when the British began to drink tea, they began without milk. The exact ‘why and when’ of the start of adding milk to tea in England is unknown. One theory is that this tradition appeared when green tea was widely consumed in Britain and that this additive was an effort to hide the astringency and bitterness of the tea.  Great Britain also had large herds of dairy cows and an abundance of milk at the time. Some suggest that the addition of cold milk or warm water in the cup would have appeared in the 17th or 18th century to protect fine china from heat shock and to avoiding cracking the cup. Like the traditions in Asia of the origin of tea, the truth is lost in speculation and legends. Anyway, back to milky tea English as we know it.

This practice, though possibly older, began to spread widely around 1750. The custom was so strong that it was gradually exported to the English colonies, so much so that today in producing countries dealing directly with England, tea professionals test tea blends with milk even before the exporter knows if the teas are likely to be enjoyed in this way in Britain.

A with most good traditions, its variations lead to the creation of different schools of thought and, consequently, of endless debate. The most famous in this regard is that between putting the milk before the tea or vice versa. In England, the tradition is to put the milk first, protecting the porcelain from thermal shock and preventing the milk fat from being scorched giving it a bad taste. Opposing this are those who think that mixing milk and tea is best when the milk is poured after the tea – and the cloud thus formed is much ‘prettier’. The debate rages on, but the goal here is not to take a position, but rather to expose both sides so that when the choice presents itself, you can make an clearer decision!

A good example of responsibility

6 August 2012

at 23:21 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Mr. Rai
The tea we drink with delight is the product of an immense work requiring the participation of many. From the picker to the vendor, by way of the manufacture, it is interesting to focus a little on the creators of our favourite beverage. Let’s take a look at one of the professions of the Indian tea industry. A position requiring a cool head, ingenuity and a talent for persuasion: the role of tea garden manager in India.

It is not an easy task to ensure the smooth running of a plantation. They are generally large in area, often have several thousand employees who rely on the skills of this chosen individual to ensure their welfare. Its worth mentioning that a tea plantation of this size is not simply a workplace and often resembles a village. It therefore has all the facilities necessary for regular human existence: homes, clinics, schools and stores. The smooth running of this infrastructure all rests on the shoulders of the manager. His role is almost the equivalent of a village mayor. Yet this is only part of the duties of these outstanding men.

There are agricultural considerations. The manager must ensure that harvesting runs smoothly. For this reason the the most sought after managers are those educated in agricultural sciences. However, this course is not the only one which can lead to the management of a tea garden. Some are local men who provided distinguished service on the plantation for many years, so much so that they became an apprentice of someone experienced, and then up to manager. Returning to considerations of production. The daily schedule of a manager is no easy task, he must ensure that the tea garden is productive and healthy, keep a good eye on the transformation parameters of the leaves and take difficult long term decisions in relation to the layout of the garden.

The hardest part with long-term decisions is the nomadic nature of the life of a tea garden manager. Not being the owner of the garden, the manager has an employment contract that will inevitably end at some point, and he will then pass the torch to a friend who can either tear his hair out because of the disastrous decisions of his predecessor, or else reap the abundance created by careful management. The average duration of these contracts is five years.

The last point to raise is that of ‘the sword of Damocles’ hanging over the heads of each plantation manager. It is at this specific point that the persuasiveness of these men is brought forward in verbal (and influence) sparring matches with the major unions of tea workers. Having considerable authority within the gardens, the unions make sure that the living conditions of employees are carefully respected. A single discrepancy and work on the garden can be completely paralysed until a fair and equitable agreement is signed. Diplomacy is an essential quality for these leaders.

This is the first of a series of brief introductions to the people that lie behind the leaves that bring us so much pleasure. In further blogs such as this you will gradually discover the trades and the people behind your teas.

 
 

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