Now a Nair tea stall at a five star hotel

November 23rd, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Nov 23 (IANS) Roadside tea stalls owned by Nairs from Kerala are ubiquitous in Tamil Nadu. There was once a cartoon in a Tamil magazine depicting a Nair offering tea to Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon. Now they have made their way into the rarefied precincts of a five-star hotel here.A typical roadside tea stall will have a gas stove, brass water boiler, tea strainer made of fine cloth, glass tumblers for serving tea, some large glass bottles storing biscuits - mainly butter and coconut biscuits - and a tray kept over the bottles holding banana or chilli bajjis or pakoras.

For those who are rich and famous and can’t be seen sipping tea from a glass tumbler at a roadside stall, Courtyard Marriott, a five-star hotel in Chennai, offers an opportunity to savour authentic Nair tea.

“It is our attempt to offer the local flavour to our guests - those staying with us and those visiting our coffee shop Paprika,” director of food and beverages Prakash Jayadevan told IANS.

The idea turned out to be a big hit with the hotel’s guests - mostly foreigners - as the tea tastes completely different from the typical five-star offering.

Manned by 42-year-old M.C. Sashidharan Nair, who is attired in a dark green shirt and a white dhoti, the tea counter is open 6-11 a.m.

For Sashidharan Nair this is a part-time assignment. He works the rest of the day at a roadside tea stall in the Triplicane area here.

Except for the brass boiler and the bajji tray, his counter has everything that the typical tea stall has, distinct from all other counters at the coffee shop.

What fascinates the hotel guests is the manner in which Nair cools the hot tea before serving it.

The container holding the tea will be gradually raised to the level of his head while pouring the beverage to another container held in his left hand at hip level.

The process will be repeated lightning fast a couple of times without even a drop being spilled, after which Nair with a flourish will place the containers with the frothing liquid on his table.

“Many guests have photographed me doing this,” Nair told IANS proudly.

He makes around 100 cups - 50 tea and 50 filter coffee - daily, which is part of the buffet.

According to him, the tea he makes at Paprika tastes far better than what he makes at the tea stall where he works the rest of the day.

“The quality of water and the milk are good here. Furthermore, milk is not diluted with water,” he remarked.

With one litre of milk and 100 grams of tea dust, he makes eight cups of tea.

At an average roadside tea stall, 40 cups of tea are made from a litre of milk and 250 grams of tea dust. Two litres of water are added to every litre of milk. But then each cup costs just Rs.4.

The hotel’s breakfast buffet costs Rs.500 plus taxes.

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