Nov 6, 2010

English tea, anyone?

I was on a HK-Singapore Cathay flight and the attendant came around offering 'English tea' as usual. Normally when I hear this, I smile to myself because there is no such thing as English tea since tea does not grow there. I was pleasantly surprised even shocked when a Canadian lady sitting next to me made exactly the same comment as if she was reading my mind!

I would not go so far to say it is a small sample of our colonial slavish mindset. After all the girls also serve Chinese tea and they have to make it clear to the passengers. Having said that, Asia has a long way to go, not just to become more prosperous but simply to be aware of and proud (in a positive way) of our own heritage and contributions. While we can be thankful to the English for making tea universally popular (which is why Tata's who have thousands of acres of tea gardens and so many brands had to go out and buy Tetley's) we dont have to make it sound like we drink it because the British do.

Then it brings the question of what else to call it - Indian tea? One can expect objections from Sri Lanka perhaps..black tea? Again does not sound appropriate as Chinese tea can also be black though tastes very different. Darjeeling tea - that would be false since served on economy class is of much cheaper variety. Perhaps just calling it tea would be appropriate. Chinese tea can be called whatever it actually is - Green, Oolong, Jasmine etc. Or perhaps calling it English tea is not a bad idea since alternatives are going to be controversial. 

It is so easy to lose something that always belonged to you - for example, how many of us are aware that Turks were drinking coffee long before anyone else knew about it, in coffee bars that are a lot older than Starbucks? Today how many of us think of Turkey when we drink coffee? Any Turkish coffee brand/chain comes to our mind? It took the elegant beauty of Italian language (nice sounding names like cafe latte, cappuccino and machiatto) but more importantly the marketing genius of corporate America (Starbucks being the main one) to make it popular in Asia beyond Turkey and India (and a few other places where people have been drinking it for hundreds of years).

The lady mentioned earlier (who declared she is of British origin, though Canadian) also made another interesting comment - once again saying exactly what I felt of after visiting the British Museum in London  - it is full of artifacts stolen from elsewhere. I told her if they have to return all foreign objects obtained immorally if not illegally the museum would empty itself. But more importantly, we once again have to be grateful to them for keeping it safe and in good condition. Anyone visiting museums in India would certainly feel happy if something is kept safe and clean even if overseas.