Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I make a small pot of tea almost every evening, sometimes bergamot, sometimes jasmine. I sip it slowly as I leaf through cookbooks. It’s my favorite wind-down ritual.
I grew up in a tea drinking family. We would always drink hot green tea after a rich meal, sometimes accompanied by a small bowl of sour cherry preserves. My mother (or was it my grandmother?) liked to tell me that it aided digestion. She served tea in these.
All my life, I’ve been drinking tea out of Japanese rice bowls. A very serious faux pas. But mother laughs, she was sure they were teacups. My family’s from Uzbekistan, and they’re the closest vessel to the traditional Uzbek pijala she could find here.
The pijala is broad, allowing the tea to quickly cool just enough to drink, and it’s small enough to enjoy several warming refills. It’s the perfect teacup. The orange and white pattern depicts the famous silk textiles of Uzbekistan. A blue and white pattern shows the cotton flower, one of the country’s major crops.
I still haven’t been able to find a set of authentic Uzbek pijalas in the U.S. I must go shopping in Tashkent.
A Pot of Tea
4 cups water
2 tablespoons loose leaf bergamot tea, my favorite is Sadaf Special Blend Tea with Earl Grey (available in Middle Eastern markets), in a large tea ball
Use lots of tea leaves steeped for a short time for the sweetest brew. Heat the water to a bare simmer. Add the tea and swirl for about half a minute. Do not oversteep or the tea will become bitter.
Pour yourself a cup, observe the golden color, inhale the fragrant steam, and sip, sip, and repeat.