The word teetotaller has always baffled me. According to dictionary it means one who abstains from alcohol or some such like drinks. Sometimes, the etymologist in me wakes up and I set for myself the task of hair splitting and indulge myself in unnecessary dissection of words. As I myself fit into the definition of teetotaller , I split 'teetotaller' into tee and totaller and came to the conclusion that the word means one whose addiction starts and ends with tea , the minor incongruity due to spelling difference notwithstanding. I guess I am not very far from the truth or the reality. Tea as we know originated in China and a story goes that a pedestrian traveller discovered it, while randomly plucking a few leaves from a shrub and putting them into his mouth. To his delight and surprise, this had a miraculous effect on him and his fatigue disappeared all of a sudden.He dug out a few plants and may have buried them in soil which virtually started the cultivation of tea. Surprisingly , tea came to India with the Britishers, who introduced this favoured drink to us and as usual we were quick to copy them , though not fully.
No doubt we Indians are relentless and ruthless tea takers, gulping down huge quantities of this favoured drink, from morning till evening without any accompaniment like biscuits or snacks most of the time with attendant health hazards . Tea break is necessary in all official meetings , sometimes tea being served during the meeting itself.
Lin Yutang the widely acclaimed Harvard educated Chinese author , who wrote in both Chinese and English with equal ease in his book, “ The Importance of Living ” has devoted a few pages to a sub-chapter with the heading, “ On Tea and Friendship ” dealing at length with the subject, prescribing the method and manner of picking, drying , making and serving of tea., as also when and when not to take tea. Besides, he has also prescribed certain things to be avoided. According to him , tea constitutes a culture in itself and is a symbol of friendship, sociability and etiquette .
We have grown up with only a handful of tea brands like Brooke Bond, Duncan, Lipton (Green & Yellow label) varieties. Later entrants are l Tata., Tetley etc.For most of us , boiling tea leaves, and sugar together in water and then adding milk is all it takes to make tea, while the more sophisticated go through the trouble of putting tea leaves in boiling water, stirring the brew, pouring into cups and adding sugar and milk to taste. It is also fashionable to bring the tea pot covered with a tea cosy so that it remains hot.
Presently tea is available in mind boggling varieties and packages, like tea bags, and come in different flavours like, herbal, jasmine and honey so much so that one faces the problem of plenty. As things go, tea has become an important part of our being , and whether for good or for bad, it seems hard to avoid or ignore.