by Priyanka Chauhan
A cup of tea early morning preps one up for the whole day. The simmering romance with it elevates body and spirit by hitting right notes at the right time. A day started at an octave note certainly yields high result. And if the tea is brewed with flowers, it simply fuses magic into morning.
I woke up and find my mother making her morning cup with white and orange flowers in her tea vessel. Flowers! Upon enquiry she told me, these flowers are no ordinary ones. They have been carefully picked up from a tree called Night Jasmine, ‘Har Sringhar’ in Hindi. As the name suggests, these flowers have been used to make garlands, worshipping to God.
Four am Tea is sort of life nector for my mother or else restlessness sinks in resulting into headache. The presence of nicotine creates withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, herbal tea, especially the one with fresh flowers doesn’t have any such symptoms even if its consumption is stopped abruptly. With this tea, my mother has found peace. Addictive, sure she is, but to its freshness, saffron-orange colour and numerous health benefits.
Good for Arthrities, glows skin, helpful in headaches, treats sinus, relives cough, besides energising the person by removing weakness. More so, dessicated flowers also treat stomach disorders and acne. In China and Taiwan, herbal tea is an important accompaniment to food. Known for its digestive properties, herbal tea is an intrinsic part of their food culture. India too is the largest producer of tea but its herbal content have gone amiss of late. In the name of herbal tea, Green tea with dried shrubs are promoted with hardly any freshness to it. Why not try the fresh produce from the tree itself?
The steps to make this aromatic and addictive concoction are fairly simple: pick flowers, boil and filter. However picking ‘Queen of the Night’, another name for the flower, is also an art. They can be plucked from terminal shoots where they grow in clusters. This approach though renders the flowers useless owing to its delicate structure, they get mishmashed. The better way, as my mother says, spread a sheet beneath the tree and hold its branch and give it a shake. They will sprinkle like Autumn leaves. The happiness in giving them a fair destiny which they deserve is a satisfaction in itself. Or else as sun rises, they fade away to glory. Purposeless!
The flowers bloom late evening filling air with its enchanting fragrance and fall away before the Sun rises. The shrub is also popularly known as the ‘Tree of Sorrow’ due to a folk tale of a princess who fell in love with the Sun who later deserted her. Unable to bear separation, the princess killed herself and was cremated. The tree rose from her ashes and believed to be reason for it to bloom only after sunset. It avoids the sight of Sun.
Once the flowers are picked though, they are rinsed thoroughly with water to get rid of tiny insects or pollens. The washed flowers are then boiled with water. A perfect potion for diabetic patients as natural glucose in flowers desolves the need for any artificial one. The orange corolla tubes lends texture and natural colour to the tea churning a fine balance of freshness, nutrition and taste.
Far from any satiation, normal tea results into dehydrated and addiction. However, the flower tea cuminates all five senses which attracts a human being. The serene sight of sprinkled flowers on wad of grass, the tender touch of delicate petals, the natural scent of goodness when enjoyed in the silence of wee hours is a true delight. An experience par sublime.
A natural antidote to stress, it embellishes where ever they are kept or used. In a bowl full of water, tea, medicine, garlands, ornaments, religious purposes. Uses are aplenty.
I have come across people who are finicky about their morning cup of tea. The ritual is sacred for them. First of all they, do want it every morning without fail. Secondly, the tea should be served in their own peculiar way. For instance, a friend of mine Rashi Lal, who hails from Lucknow, always had tea to a length of a coffee mug. I happened to have enjoyed one such cup during college days braving the chilly Delhi winters. She wanted less milk and more water in her tea. My mother likes it with more milk. While my neighbour would savour it really strong with more tea in it. For some, the rule is tea in my style or no tea at all. It completely puts them off. Night jasmine, however, is a healthy alternative to such peculiarities. There is no second way to make this tea. Just boil it and drink. Fairly Simple!
The beautiful, 2-3 cm sized flowers, have a snowy white corolla with eight petals and a strikingly bright orange coloured corolla tube. Flowers are seasonal and bloom only till November. Its leaves are equally fragrant and can also be used for brewing your morning cup.
Legend has it that Lord Krishna brought this exotic plant from heaven to earth. Sathyabhama quarrelled for its possession and won. Krishna is said to have planted the tree in Sathyabhama’s palace taking care to ensure that the flowers fell inside Rugmini’s courtyard to the delight of his more beloved wife.
So, next time a guest comes over, serve this rare flavour in lieu of traditional chai. He would never forget the fragrance of the served brew and warmth of your hospitality. Consume this herbal tea and let the flower of your life bloom and dance to the rhythm of life.