I follow a routine to ward off boredom. Ever so often, I make life a little difficult for myself and then work to simplify it. So, while I have never really needed to have 18 cups of tea or coffee a day, I did. Now, I’m cutting back the number to a single digit. In fact, on good days, when I am home and can put my head on my mother’s lap at will (hers, not mine), I can go without tea and coffee completely. I just sip hot water, sometimes with lime and honey, sometimes with a couple of split raisins (they look sweet through the muggy transparency of a steamy glass), and sometimes, plain. I realized that what I needed from the cups and cups of caffeine was heat and steam. That used to wake me up and keep me going instead of the concoction itself. And of course, the ritual. The toughest part of giving up these beverages is not knowing what to do with the time that you earlier spent absorbed either preparing the brews or partaking of them.
My favorite part of having tea and coffee was feeling the hot cup in my hands and moving it around till I got a spot that didn’t singe my fingers. And savoring the scent that floats around the rims of the cups before I took my first sip. And the slow wakeful languor that filled me up when I was done.
Hot water, let’s face it, does not lend itself to a ritual per se. There’s pan, there’s water, gas or Micro – and you’re done. Psychologically, even adding a tea-bag to the water somehow ‘completes’ the whole process. But you make this perfect glass of hot water and stare unsurely at it. Because, well, this is it.
So, to make the process a little more elaborate, I add a piece of fruit to the water. Now, the interesting part about this is how I can almost sense the shape of the piece I want to put in the water. Like, it has to be a cube of ripe mango (like a lump of sugar) or a thin curve of strawberry or a wedge of lemon or a quart of an orange or slivers of kairi or a clunk of sugarcane or shavings of ginger (honey goes very well with this) or a coarsely cut bit of pineapple or a round of kiwi.
When I carve the fruit to put in the water, I feel tranquil. I am not very adept with the knife, so I like to be precise about this. It’s meditative – the peeling, coring, dicing, slicing, the occasional twirling of the rind, if I can manage it. I like the restraint I impose on myself – not getting carried away and chop up more than a small piece. Because, and perhaps it is only my quirky sense of aesthete, there should be just one snip of color in the boiled fluid. Just one and no more, unless it’s really small raisins.
For the finishing touches, I hold down a spoon over the fruit for a few seconds in the water – gently, so as not to squish it. I think the essence of the fruit infuses into the water and the drink is ready.
Sure, it will be a while before this completely replaces my dosage of tea and coffee, but it is not too bad.
The taste may take developing, but I’ve got myself a ritual.