Turning A new Tea Leaf

by Lynette Gomes (India)

I didn't expect to find India


I love my cup of coffee. You see, even though I hail from Calcutta, a metropolitan city in eastern India where mornings start with freshly brewed cup of tea, I swore by a fresh cup of coffee. So it wasn’t quite unnatural that I had really never sipped tea in my life. So even after college hours when it was “chai”time, I would be the sole coffee drinker surrounded my chai-buddies. I was doing my Masters dissertation in Sikkim, a lovely hilly state in India working on Habitat Status of Red Pandas. I must tell you about Sikkim! The place is like a slice of heaven and the people are lovely and warm. The beautiful Himalayas, the weather, the flora and the different Himalayan birds! (I love birding). I had fallen in love the moment I crossed the borders of my state to enter in to Sikkim and read the sign “WELCOME TO SIKKIM” painted on boards at the border. My dissertation required me to travel to small villages across the state and surveying locals about the red panda. I travelled around and went to several houses, interacting and mingling with the locals, sitting and staying over at their homely home stays and simply absorbing every bit of culture that the state had to offer. Passingdong, was one of the many villages that I was surveying. I visited several houses in that quaint little village but this one particular house will be forever special to me. It wasn’t big. One could tell that it belonged to a poor family. I was welcomed in by a couple. They had big nervous smiles on their faces and I sat on their only furniture- a bed. I started my survey, while the lady went in to the kitchen. After a few minutes in to the survey, she emerged from the kitchen holding a cup. It was perhaps the best china that the family could afford. She came forward with a brewed cup of tea. I hesitantly took the cup. You see, I am not a tea person but something in my heart couldn’t refuse that cup. While handing the cup over, she said “This is Nunko Cha (meaning salt tea); we cannot afford sugar and hence we can only serve you this. You might not like it.” The ingenuity and fear in her words touched the deepest parts of my heart. They explained that this form of tea soothed their muscles after a hard day’s work in the mountains. I smiled and for the very first time tasted tea in its unusual form. For me the taste was exquisite because of the overwhelming love that had been poured. I didn’t expect to find so much of warmth and genuine happiness in a cup !