Handi Tea of Bakhtiyarpur
Bihar is famous for many things but it obviously doesn’t include tea in any form.River plains of Ganga & it’s tributaries as well as weather system are unsuitable for tea plantation. Therefore, we get to drink cheap -quality dust tea brought mostly from large tea estates of North-East. Some connoiseurs may prefer export -quality Darjelling Tea but cheap tea brands of Tata Tea or Brooke Bond are most popular brands in North India . I personally prefer Wagh -Bakri Tea(Tiger- Goat Tea), not because of the aroma or flavour but for the sole reason that this brand name sounds exotic or should I say out of this world.
Imagine that Tiger & Goat cohabiting in Tea Plantation of Assam !
However, it is a great idea and it gives the impetus to the brand because may be manufacturers of this brand are saints and they believe in equal co-existence of all living beings on the earth.
Nevertheless,tea is a crucial morning drink meant specifically for starting the day by stimulating your senses. It helps you in morning chitchat with family members and neighbours. Some people get addicted to this morning routine and realize that their morning rituals depends upon potency of this milky brown-coloured brew. In Bihar, people also add a dash of some form of tobacco after gulping down few cups of tea to speed up the process in lavatory.
And when it comes to tea, one cup is never enough.
Bachelor student living in various lodges of Patna city prefer few cuppas of nukkad chai (strong-flavoured tea made on street-side shops) in morning which sets the tone for the study pattern of the day. Students all over India prefer to bond over tea in Canteens throughout the day or mostly night time. I even heard a rumour that some IAS -aspirants of Jiyasarai (a small village ensconced in midst of boundary wall of IIT-Delhi) swear by the magical effects of tea brewed in congested lanes of this suburb which will make them crack civil services exam conducted by UPSC. Therefore, many of them keep drinking this strong tea at unearthly hours in the hope of being a bureaucrat and some become one by the the sheer logic of probability. So, the myth of tea in student’s life persists.
But, coming back to the Handi Tea. I must confess that I have never heard the term before yesterday though I count myself among the nosy connoiseur of tea having lived and tasted tea from around the country. I also believe in the institution of bed tea. Whoever discovered this great tradition was an innovator of highest order as drinking tea while sitting under the quilt lazily in winter season is one of the greatest pleasures of life. If you have to move your legs even before gulping hot cup of tea , then the fun of well-deserved night sleep goes out of the window.
I discovered this well – known local variety of tea-making by sheer luck. I was travelling on the newly black-topped four-lane highway connecting Anisabad(Patna) to Bakhtiyapur. This nearly 50 Kms. part of NH-30 is one of the finest examples of development in roadways sector of Bihar. However, the fun of driving on this shiny road flies away when you think about the journey ahead on Bakhtiyarpur – Barh stretch of NH -31 which faces unending hours of traffic snarls and poor quality of road designing. So, you come back to realize that why some parts of India are shining and some live in dark ages. This section remains the same since last 30 years or more while traffic on NH -31 has seen exponential growth as it is one of the most vital links connecting Rest of India to North -Eastern states.
So, I wished to have a break before embarking on the driving on this horrendous stretch of NH -31.
03-04 large tea/snacks shops are situated near the junction of NH -30 & 31 and tourist hotspot of Rajgir/Nalanda are not far away from this place. So, this pit stop of few rustic-looking tea shops sees large number of footfalls of tourists also. All shops look identical and flashes large flex-signboards advertising the Handi tea. I ordered 01 cup and it was delivered to me in Kulhad(handle-less clay tea cup) within seconds. Delivery was so quick that I verbally abused swanky fast food chains or Coffee Shops for their inordinate delay in delivery of items. Sometimes, I wonder that Coffee shop people ask for permissions from Coffee Plantation owners in various parts of India or may be from far corners of South America for delivering a hot Latte/Cappuccino to me.
Now, coming to the taste. My goodness !!! What is this ?
It was the strongest ever tea made in deeply-baked high calorific-milk poured into the Handi(Clay pot) or terracotta- like pot straight from the udders of a a big and bulky jet-black coloured buffalo ! I may have even looked for her but good sense prevailed !
The aroma of deeply-baked tea brewed with generous amount of milk & sugar was overpowering the senses. I must say that this tea is not meant for weak people. You may get heart attack if you prefer the tea in a delicate English manner. The sensuous and erotic mix of clay with brown milky tea can even arouse the senses of a gentleman. I immediately ordered few more cups and gulped 04 cups in succession as Kulhads are normally very stingy in matters of quantity as they contain lesser amount of liquid than their regular counterpart bone china tea cups. Don’t ask me about origins of bone china but these are normally white porcelain cups definitely containing some amount of animal bones. May be now, craftsmanship has improved and we can be using vegetarian cups.
Thereafter, I did a small research and talked to tea boys and owners and they sweared on the record that this is the best tea brewed in Bihar. I agree with their opinion as the taste of pudding lies in eating the cake and I did so. I discovered that they slowly cook the tea on coal-ovens over an extended period of time and their recipe is simple but unique to them.
When , I was taking photographs, one chirpy young lad suggested to me to put the tea-making boy on the internet and made him famous. I didn’t promised him anything but loved their care-free attitude. A tea-maker boy is more happy than many of us reading this blog. I became happy for him and wished him well. But, now in hindsight, I regret that I forgot to ask their names. May be in my next trip, I will sit with them for longer duration and ask for names.
But, I must recommend that if you wish to be in the vicinity of that location, go and drink the elixir called Handi Tea in their shop. It works like poison on your senses but what is life without a small dose of poison. Hopefully, you will enjoy it.
That’s it for today.
So, if you have anything to say , write it down and let others see what you think of Bakhtiyapur School of Tea.