21st of May marks the International Tea Day to recognise the contribution of tea farming and sustainable practices that help in alleviating poverty. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a day dedicated to tea. Right from childhood, tea has been an integral part of my life. My love for tea has only increased and my work has made me an intense tea lover, so much so that tea is a non-negotiable part of my life.
Earlier as well, I have written in my blogs about my modest upbringing and childhood struggles. In a remote village of Kalarabanka, we didn’t have the luxury of milk. We used to have black tea. Our staple breakfast was puffed rice soaked in black tea. We would eat the flavourful soaked rice first and then drink the carb rich tea. It used to fill our stomachs and drive away hunger for hours. Occasionally, we had to have the same as dinner because we could not afford grains and vegetables all the time. Tea used to be our go-to drink and meal. Maa would drink atleast 3-4 glasses of black tea and we became a part of her tea company because in poor households meals are prepared once – what one eats or drinks, everyone else has to. You’re never spoilt for choice. We siblings learnt it without anyone teaching it ever.
As I grew up, my tea consumption was steadily increasing. It’s when I learnt about the health benefits of tea. Soon, black tea gave way to milk tea. The stress of setting up two Institutions in Odisha, helping them grow, meeting people across the length and breadth of the globe, interacting and having review meetings with the ever increasing staff members – all of it led to an increase in tea consumption. I would drink 20-25 cups of tea. There was tea for all occasions and there was tea for no occasions. I became an intense tea lover.
But over the last few years, with age and health concerns, I have reduced it to 3-4 cups a day. I try to swap milk tea with black tea or green tea. Till today, I love taking tea with “Mudhi Mixture.” That is my staple breakfast everyday except Tuesdays and Saturdays. I have mental alarms for tea time. In fact, tea is the only habit I have because I have not even tasted betel, alcohol or smoked ever in my life.
The love for tea started as a compulsion to deal with hunger in childhood, became a habit as I grew up and now continues to be the most important energizer of my life. I could say tea is not a part of my life, it is my life.