Drinking Tea And The Art Of Doing Nothing

Tea Talk 11AThe Italians have a beautiful concept signifying the pleasantness of inactivity – ‘La Dolce Far Niente’, which roughly translates to ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’.

Well, the concept seems easy as taking a break doing relaxing activities gives us lot of options to chose from. But the challenge here is to cultivate ‘mental silence’, which isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or deadlines. It’s about the real sustained silence that quietens inner as well as outer chatter and takes us beyond the noise. A state that can be easily attained through the ‘Art of Tea Meditation’.

A recent Harvard Business Review states that the busier we are, the more quiet time we need. It emphasises on the need of structured periods of silence as important factors in achieving success. In our modern lives when our day begins running on a treadmill of duties and ends with exhaustion, taking a silent break is a luxury. Tea is the modern day meditation and a simple solution to effortlessly embrace the art of doing nothing and experiencing mental silence.

Tea masters and monks have been practising the ‘art of tea way’ for more than 3,000 years – an art that consists simply of boiling water, preparing tea and drinking it. Embracing the traditional goodness of tea in modern times by upgrading our tea-time can help to reprogram our thoughts, manage the non-stop information flow and cultivate periods of deep silence. It can condition our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead.

Our lives can be a lot different if we take a deliberate pause by just giving 30 minutes of our day to the process of making our cup of tea. This pause declutters our mind, bringing about a sense of calmness and tranquillity.  You can chose this time to unwind, plan your day, read a book, think about what you love, admire the view from your window or think about nothing at all. You make your tea, absorb yourself in the process, sit and sip with no particular agenda, letting yourself go wherever your mind takes you. You could also use this time to think about what kind of life would be worth living, rather than simply living the life you live.

With each passing day, we feel more tired, hoping for a reboot in the form of a break, a pause from the daily hustle. And this idea usually translates into a quarterly vacation – travelling to a far off land to get away from the madness for a while. But we don’t need to postpone that idea any further because the elusive ‘relaxation’ that we yearn for is not just found in the scenic landscapes of our ideal vacation spots. It exists within each one of us and is ours to claim if we learn to embrace it with a tea lifestyle. So instead of fantasising about that one big vacation, brew your tea, find that perfect spot in the house, and reboot your life with a simple tea meditation.

The world is getting louder. But silence is still accessible. It just takes commitment and creativity to cultivate it.  Make your cup of tea mindfully, take a deep breath, relax and let your brain move away from the abstract and the distant towards the tangible and the near.

INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Carne Griffiths

Carne Griffiths InterviewInfusing the beautiful colours of various teas in his artwork, Carne Griffiths, a UK based Artist, swaps paint for a cuppa to create intriguing portraits, working primarily with tea, vodka, whisky, brandy and calligraphy ink.

Carne’s approach to painting, which often includes drawings of faces that break down at the edges into floral motifs and exuberant painterly marks and stains, has captivated viewers globally, with his work being exhibited from Milan to Hong Kong, as well as at The Royal Academy in London. Griffiths’ celebrity subjects include Heidi Klum and Kate Beckinsale, and his illustrations of Donald Sutherland and Jesse Eisenberg can be found in recent editions of The New York Observer.

In an exclusive conversation with LoveforTea, Carne takes out some time during his recent solo exhibition at Westbank Gallery in London, and shares his inspiration and vision behind his emotionally-driven work and why he adores painting with tea.

1. Carne, you paint with tea, ink, alcohol, gold leaf powder and diamond dust. How did such unique elements land in your work and how did it all begin? 
CG: Alcohol was the first unusual material to appear in my work, and it appeared merely by having a drink of brandy nearby – sometimes when I am working I do so in a very chaotic way so if there is something nearby that can be used to create I will use it. The water I was using was dirty so I used the brandy instead – not quite an accident but utilising something as a replacement.  The brandy had a very subtle but interesting effect on the work – so I decided to pursue it further but using a non-alcoholic alternative – and tea seemed to be the ideal way to reproduce the colour.

This led to the exploration of using different teas, different hues and colours and also different strengths.  It had the effect of providing an earthy palette to my work and I was able to build confidence using colour – I liked its chaotic nature and the way it could be steered around the page gradually becoming darker in tone as it dried. Tea became a key component in my work and certainly helped in raising awareness of my work as it created an unusual story.

2. What types of tea do you use in your work and which are your personal favorite?
CG: Early work focussed on using chai and jasmine teas – I worked mainly with Twinings but every time I travelled I would collect unusual teas – basil tea from India – different chais, wrapped teas and loose leaf teas, herbal teas such as sage and rose hip teas both from turkey – it was interesting to see the subtle differences in each and also – various teas would change dramatically in colour as they dried.

3. Which are your favourite teas and the time of the day you enjoy drinking them?
CG: I mainly drink the teas as I am using them but as I leave the teas to steep indefinitely they become bitter, as a side I normally have a cup of builders tea to hand! My favourite summer tea is Jasmine and it’s also a fine tea for painting – it has a honey like colour on the page and can give very subtle effects.  It also combines really well with turquoise inks to form a palette of blues and greens.

4. Your portraits are an amalgamation of different elements and art forms. How do you approach the blank canvas?
CG: I approach each piece of work with a very open mind – quite often the particular theme or collection of elements evolves slowly through the process of creating – I begin with a sketch which will form the basis for the composition but then the process involves layering marks and then building up and destroying areas using the hot teas or sometimes just plain boiling liquids.

5. Tell us about your ongoing solo exhibition at Westbank Gallery.
CG:
My solo opened on the 8th of June and will run until the 14th – it is a collection of works on paper using teas and inks but also a small collection of newer works on canvas.  I want to try and develop my style of painting to using a more versatile media – teas and inks work very well on paper, I use them almost exclusively on bockingford watercolour paper from St Cuthbert’s mill which I always stretch before working – this helps to keep the surface flat and prevents pooling of liquids in areas you wouldn’t want.

6. How has your work matured over the years as an artist?
CG: My work evolves very slowly and subtly – as an artist I have found that interesting projects will steer the direction of the work and force you to think how you can combine your main message with the subject of say a group exhibition.  I also work as an illustrator and with some brands through my agency Beautiful Crime, these projects bring new elements into the work and often result in changes to the overall style.  I have a passion for detailed observational drawing but I also have a passion for the abstract and the act of automatic drawing or drawing from the subconscious – I try to fuse these two areas in my work as it keeps me interested and excited about the subject.

7. Which are your favourite works from your journey so far?
CG:
I always find it difficult to select favourites but there are pieces of my work which have been key to progressing a style, the early piece Rose, was the one that defined my work as a combination of nature and portraiture, then there was the piece Strength which broke boundaries with colour and gave me a real platform to showing my work.  Following this was a piece from a triptych series called Eleven, that series had a lot of meaning for me – it was based around numerology and was created at a real junction in my life.

8. Is there an artist you admire. Tell us who and why?
CG: I spent my college years working alongside artist Dan Baldwin, when we went our different ways after college I worked the 9-5 but he painted constantly and now is established as one of the most exciting contemporary artists of today.  I always admired his drive and energy – there was barely a time when he was not an artist and I think this sort of drive and creativity are what result in a truly authentic creative.

9. How is your ideal day when you are not painting?
CG: I enjoy spending time in nature, cycling or even just in the garden – it’s small observations about the natural world that influence the work and it’s the main message in my work – returning the importance to the natural world.

Carne’s entire gallery can be seen on his website and Behance.

RECIPE – Insignia Tea Créme Anglaise by Robert Wemischner

Recipe Tea Rangsaa Insignia Robert W

Pastry chef and culinary educator Robert Wemischner, adds complex wonderful flavors of Rangsaa tea to the popular Créme Anglaise in this vibrant Rangsaa Insignia Tea Créme Anglaise recipe, that finds it’s use in versatile desserts. Thank you Robert Wemischner for creating this wonderful recipe and sharing the Rangsaa love.

KEY INGREDIENTS
Yield: approximately 1 cup
1 generous tbsp Rangsaa Insignia
240 ml whole milk
3 egg yolks from large eggs
50 gms granulated sugar

PROCEDURE
Place the milk and tea in a heavy saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Once ready, remove it from heat and let it stand for another 5 minutes. Pour through a fine-meshed sieve and set aside. While your mixture is getting done, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has lightened in color. In a clean saucepan, reheat the infused milk to the simmer. Pour gradually over the egg yolks and sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Return that mixture to the saucepan and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (180 degrees F.)  Do not overcook or the mixture will curdle. Once thickened pour it through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl set over ice water. Stir to cool quickly. Store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 2 days.

RECOMMENDED USE
As the basis for an ice cream, as a dipping sauce for brownies or other rich cookies or bars, as a sauce over the ice cream of your choice, as a plating sauce for a seasonal fruit tart or as a pour over fresh berries.

Check out the original recipe here.

RESTAURANT REVIEW – Nueva by Chef Michael Swamy

restaurant review NuevaWith minimalist cooking, stirred by nature and garnished with love, the distance between dull and delicious can be measured in the molecular realm of flavors at Nueva – India’s first Latin American restaurant by celebrity Chef Michael Swamy.

Nueva seems to make a bold statement – embrace newness, and transform chaos to calm. Art comes alive in all forms as tall black, heavy double doors open into a chic, sophisticated space, that disconnects you with the outside world, and induces you with its finishes and alluring lighting.

We’ll tell you a little later why Nueva served us a lunch that was memorable, but first, let’s set the table. The cutlery is outlandish and the ambience makes you feel special. Appetite builds as tall glass panels transcend mystery into transparency, and you watch chefs work diligently in a state of the art kitchen.

The menu is inventive and is devoted to the pleasure of nature. It prefers the flavor spectrum with lots of fresh produce, herbs, vegetables, fruits and a general feeling of health. Staff is pleasant and their smile adds to the adventure at Nueva.

The meal begins with an assortment of indulging in-house breads and spreads. After fresh fruit drinks, we directly dive into our first main serving – the Tea Salad. Yes….tea in a salad. The eclectic mix of nutty, lemony, vegetal, earthy flavors is complex, exciting and inviting. The side of steamed green tea leaves, pounded into a paste with walnuts, adds wonderful texture, and compliments the crunchy ingredients and tea’s traditional bitter-sweet astringency. A legendary salad!

Chef Michael takes the storm outside the cup by keeping our taste buds on full alert with his house speciality, the Tea Smoked Chicken. Served on a bed of black quinoa, with a side of inlaid greens, the presentation is a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. Tender, moist, herbal chicken is in the harmony of wonderful flavors, induced with the density of indigenous ingredients, smoky finish and a lingering aftertaste. Quinoa is a careful pairing as it cleanses the palate after every tannic bite and compliments the astringent, drying, puckering sensation and mouthfeel. You must order this!

After the shifting, swirling delectable flavors, the desserts have a meditative effect. While Yogurt Coconut Pannacotta is just as delectable as it sounds, with fresh in-house multigrain granola and blueberries. The Cinnamon Tiramisu is sleep-inducing and therapeutic, with delicious, spicy, creamy smoothness. A gastronomic afternoon of flawless take off and a smooth landing.

Some chefs cook. Others create. Chef Michael’s tea-infused menu is an enthralling sensory experience of tastes, smell and even sight. He loves tea and has steeped it in versatile starters, inspired main dishes and tempting beverages. Tea, in its many forms, is one of the oldest ingredients in the kitchen and we love how Chef Michael is bringing the latest global trend of cooking with tea, in India. A trend we adore and promote.

We believe that a good meal experience is like a cup of good tea. The amalgamation of unique flavors, awakens senses and begins a mindful journey –  faraway from our chaotic modern lives. And when it all comes right from the earth, the symphony is magical in the stillness of our minds.

As vivacious as samba, Nueva is colorful, flavorful, exotic, artistic and will make you curious about South American culture, and why it’s taking over the global culinary landscape. Nueva is Chef Michael’s voyage of love between his admiration for South American food movement and his culinary wisdom, which he celebrates with a stunning Tapas bar on the ground floor of his restaurant.

Thank you Nueva for your hospitality and a great lunch. Next time, we won’t hesitate to order your Tea Salad again and again.

Address: Sangam Courtyard, R.K Puram, New Delhi
Reservations: Recommended
Hours: Noon to Midnight

INTERVIEW – In Conversation with Chef Michael Swamy

Interview NuevaChef Michael Swamy, the rising star of the culinary world, talks about his new role as the Chef Patron at NUEVA – India’s first Latin American restaurant in New Delhi. In an exclusive interview with Rangsaa, Chef Michael gets personal and shares his journey and inspiration behind his dream project Nueva…and his insane love for tea!

1. How did your love for Latin American food and tea, both commingle and inspire you to start Nueva, your dream project?
MS: I was brought up on magazines like NatGeo, BBC Wildlife, SPAN and others, which gave me glimpses of global culture and inspired me. One of the magazines had a feature on Spain and I remember getting intrigued back then too. Spanish cuisine is a vibrant cuisine. It’s based on home cooking styles and local ingredients and travel! The Spaniards travelled the world and took ingredients with them. It’s a cuisine that’s close to my heart.

Latin America was another region that intrigued me because of its colorful culture and the brilliant images I saw of the Amazon jungles. When I studied the food aspect that also fascinated me. And tea… I have a deep personal relationship with tea. My Nana (Mother’s mother) lived with us and had been a matron in hospitals during the British Era. So she followed many British customs and teatime was a serious affair in our house. Her friends knew this and those who travelled always brought back different teas as gifts. So I have grown up tasting different kinds of tea and have always loved it. So, when I got the opportunity to do a restaurant I decided I want to do something new and something, which will definitely have some element of tea in it. I also cook with tea!

2. Tell us about your target audience and why Nueva is a must visit place for all our readers?
MS: It’s for the adventurer, the expat, the person who wants to try out new things and most importantly for the person who loves, respects and understands food – not just because some cuisine is trending. It’s for those who understand the timeless quality of food. It’s a must visit place for someone who wants authenticity, flavor and taste, the connect of art on a plate and the ability to enjoy food at leisure. It’s for those who come to a place with an open mind.

3. Share your inspiration behind your unique menu at Nueva.
MS: The menu takes on all the aspects of nature. From nature we receive and to nature, one must give back. It’s about sustainable foods, local ingredients. The exotic is kept to a minimal. The inspiration is nature and the seasons, and so we have divided our menu as per garden, sea, mountains…

4. From interiors to your menu, everything is so artistic and well selected in your restaurant. Are you a chef, who is also a poet and an artist?
MS: I am all of the above. One has been given talents and it would be criminal not to use them all. The designers and architects put together our vision of nature and design and the concept of minimalistic to good use and gave us a restaurant one can walk in and be comfortable. I do dabble in poetry and yes, the artist in me came to the fore as a food stylist and photographer. Having said that, I believe that every chef is a poet and artist… after all the food is the chef’s poetry and art translating onto a plate.

5. Is there a chef you admire the most? Tell us who & why?
MS: Chef Claire Clarke who instilled in me the art of bakery and perfection. She was a chef to the House of Lords and has worked in several Michelin restaurants. Seeing a woman achieve so much in a man’s world as inspiring enough, not to mention her penchant for perfection that she instilled in everyone around her.

6. Which is your favorite tea? And your favorite time of the day you enjoy drinking it?
MS: I drink tea at any time of the day – even in the middle of the night! My favorites are white tea, Lapsang Souchong and silver tips. I also enjoy orange pekoe.

7. Tell us your favorite dish on the menu and what makes it so special?
MS: Since all of them are my creations, I cannot choose any one. All are my favorites also because they have evolved due to my chefs’ inputs and suggestions. The Lamb Osso Bucco Stew, Slow-cooked Pork Belly with Vindaloo Glaze and Duck Moile are my favourites. Also, the Vegetable Lasagna and Mixed Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta would be the ones I would suggest people try out for sure.

8. Define “a perfect cup of Tea” and your favorite tea pairing of all times.
MS: For me, a perfect cup of tea goes well beyond how hot the water should be and how long the tea infuses… my perfect cup of tea is also all about the moment, the atmosphere, the place, the comfort of the silence or hustle around you. Because whether it’s during the day or night, I like to sit back, relax and sip my tea. It’s not just the brewing that makes it perfect. It’s the setting and the emotions running through you.

9. Working in the industry for so many years, what one advise would you like to share with our urban-generation of tea lovers?
MS: Try every kind of tea there is, whether hot, warm or iced, with or without milk, plain or flavored. It’s soothing, it’s comforting and it’s the story of India in a cup so take the story of it to the world.

TEA REVIEW – Instant Green Tea by Instant Teas

Review Instant teasInstant powder – It’s mustard yellow in color and consists of fine, crystallised, non-edgy, silky granules. Aroma is mild – somewhat grassy and wet-wood like.

Infused tea/Unique characteristics – The powder dissolves in water in few seconds, into deep golden-champagne color liquor. Aroma is meekly grainy, musty and hay-like. First sip, and it’s a surprise! On the palate, the taste is nutty, with bold tannic sweetness on the forefront, followed by vegetal undertones. Together, with slight astringency, the flavors compliment the dry mouthfeel and crisp aftertaste.

Infusion – 200 ml pre-boiled water at 85C was added to about 1 gm (generous 1/4th tsp) of instant green tea. The mix dissolved in water within 5 seconds stir. There was no residue build-up in the end. This tea is pleasant, experimental and versatile. I highly recommend it as iced.

Instant green tea will surprise anyone with it’s tea experience. It’s not the usual tea leaf powder mix but 100% natural extract of pure brewed tea, without any chemicals and additives. I am not one for instant teas, but this product has impressed me. The palate experience is an innovation in tea and I believe, whether it’s hot summer afternoon, rainy day or a stormy night – this tea will refresh and satisfy!

Website: www.instantteas.com
Twitter: @InstantTeas
Rating: 4/5