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A story in a teacup

The way a person walks, talks, sits or stands can say a lot about them. So can the way they dress, the things they use, the food they eat, the tea they drink and even…what they drink it in!

When sitting at home and watching television, you suddenly want some hot tea, you would generally use your usual mug that's easy to handle while lying in bed. You wouldn't use that same cup when guests come over, now would you?

To make the guests feel special you would use finer china. Maybe a cup that has a gold rim or some fancy designs on the handle. The Queen of England wouldn't use the same teacup I'd use when I'd sip on some tea on a bench just outside Abahani maath. Proven enough, teacups have their own environment, culture, class and situation to suit!

Teacups come with a wide variety of design and styles, which range from elegant to plain white. They're mostly used when pouring tea in special occasions since most teacups happen to be collector's items! A set of teacups can also make a good gift for someone who is an everyday tea-drinker.

Teacups are usually made from porcelain or bone china. Porcelain cups are fired and glazed which gives them a shiny appearance. Bone china is made the same way with the difference being that bone ash material is mixed with the porcelain clay.

A teacup is not just a teacup. Teacups can be and are sometimes the centre point of the presentation of tea. And depending on where you are from dictates your like or dislike for a particular cup.

Most European countries use the normal porcelain teacups with the handles, but some countries still will have a cupboard filled with handle-less teacups, which were the first kinds of teacups made, known as tea-bowls.

The Chinese even have a ceramic lid to go with their ceramic teacups! Their cups don't have handles and require a user to completely wrap their hands around the cup while drinking from it. In Middle-eastern countries, tea bowls are more commonly used. In Morocco, for example, tea glasses are more used than any other drinking vessel. The glasses are usually very colourful and festive, with artful designs.

Here in Bangladesh, you will find the finest teacups to enjoy your tea in Monno ceramics or Shinepukur in Elephant Road. The store presents you with admirable china of different shapes, sizes, colours and all with exquisite designs. For home use or parties, they offer you teacups perfect for any occasion.

So it's evident, that as we span the world over, with tea being the number one drink in the world, teacups are objects of great importance. Now that we have that covered, why not go and enjoy some hot tea…in your favourite teacup?

By Naziba Basher


Brewing the perfect cup of tea

For a lot of people, placing a bag in a cup and dowsing it with boiling water doesn't get the job done. Check out our quick tips for brewing the perfect cup of tea!

Until the middle of the 20th century, there were no tiny cloth bags of individually parcelled tea. For thousands of years, the leaves and buds were either placed in a teapot or were held in a tea infuser (a tea ball, for example). For most tea-making perfectionists, there is no comparison: it is loose-leaf tea or nothing.

How much loose tea is enough?
A common rule of thumb is one teaspoon of leaves for each cup of water plus "one for the teapot." Of course, the outcome will be determined by how strong the tealeaves are and by how much hot water the tea is steeping in. Experimentation is in order.

Water temperature.
The temperature of the water matters too. Most black teas do best in boiling water. Green and white teas prefer hot, but not boiling, water. It all comes down to how oxidized the leaves are: black teas are more oxidized and can handle the hot, hot heat.

TIP: Some tea drinkers insist on warming up the teapot before pouring in the hot or boiling water.

How long to steep? Allow black tea to brew anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. Two to 3 minutes is preferred for a bracing tea. But too much steeping can produce a mouth-puckeringly bitter brew.

Steeping vessels.
There is much ceremony associated with tea drinking. And pretty teapots are part of the enjoyment. Some are extremely elegant with delicately painted patterns. For steeping, though, many tea drinkers prefer simple, unglazed earthenware teapots. After steeping, it's time for the beautiful porcelain teapots.

Tea making don'ts.
Don't stir the loose leaves around in the pot. This is called "winding." And it's a no-no. It won't speed up the steeping process, but it probably will release bitter-flavored tannins. Wringing the last drop of tea from the teabag produces the same effect.

By Naziba Basher

Shop Talk

Rain check

Perhaps, rain is overrated. Poets and writers have elevated the occasion to a subject of romance and joy but on a different note, the downpours bog down our daily lives to a huge extent, adding stress to our busy lives. There is no simple solution out of this, just make sure you are well armed this season, so that monsoon doesn't bring hassle to and intervene in your hectic lives.

Not only are they useful but also cook to wear. Raincoats come of two types -- you can either have a trench coat, which is of knee length, or you can get yourself a 'rain suit', a waterproof jacket and a pair of waterproof pants.

The latter is very functional for bikers. Prices are reasonable as well. A trench coat should not cost more than eight hundred takas and the latter, about nine hundred. Some toyshops also offer cute, little raincoats for toddlers with cartoon characters imprinted on them.

You don't want to ruin your regular leather sandals in the rainwater. This monsoon, surrogate them with rubber, plastic and synthetic ones. Comfortable, convenient and quite fashionable, these colourful sandals are a hit in the rainy season; and catering to the World Cup craze, some funky sandals have flags and logos of nations and the World Cup on them. People do take 'waving flag' very seriously!

You can also consider buying a pair of water-resistant boots. A relatively rare item these days, these boots can be very practical sometimes. Search Elephant Road and Bashundhara City for a pair.

Prices vary depending on your bargaining skills and of course quality, whether you are buying designer shows or ordinary pairs etc.

You'll need an umbrella, of course. Forget about long walks, you'll just need an umbrella to prevent yourself from getting wet while you hop out of the car to get to a building. Parasols are quite cheap; prices range from as low as Tk. 150 to Tk. 600. With the case of umbrellas, less is more; get the tiniest one so that you can stuff it in your bag easily.
Happy monsoon!

By M H Haider


LS Editor’s Note

Memory train

The train was late by almost an hour, an excruciating, boring, long wait for the passengers queuing at the platform or sitting in the waiting room. But for me it was a different story. I was transported to a dreamy lost world that I don't get to see anymore.

It was drizzling that night, the almost full moon hung low in the sky playing peek-a-boo with the dark clouds that were tossed around roughly by the winds. The hour hand was close to midnight when the still silence of the station was cut sharply by the train's whistle and the announcement that 'Turna Nishita' had arrived.

People were scurrying with their baggage to get into the right carriages; suddenly the boredom forgotten and a spur of energy filled the atmosphere. If only at that precise moment my eyes met a long forgotten friend it would have been the prefect plot for any romantic fiction but obviously these don't happen in reality. As it is, the ambience was almost too perfect and that was enough for me, I was happy.

The silly grin was fixed on my face as we climbed up the compartment and greeted our friends who started their journey from Kamlapur. We were a party of eighteen; therefore the entire first class sleepers' berth was reserved.

Our short trip to Cox's Bazaar started on a happy note. I was like a child totally fascinated by the upgraded Bangladesh Railway. The berths were clean. Clean here means white starched and ironed bed sheets, perfect pillows, clean, chequered blankets, the floors were swept and there was no sign of litter or any creepy crawlies.

The reading lights were working, air conditioning fine, the tea was perfect and our late night snack of the famous railway cutlet and butter toast was hot and yummy. What more can one ask for!

The new Chittagong railway station was fine, no complaints, but I missed the old red one that was there from the British era and all my sweet memories of train travel were with that old dilapidated station. (My father was posted in Chittagong for four years and we came to Dhaka every weekend; I am sure one can understand my love for trains.) The station's restaurant was a sweet surprise; though dirty, the cook made up for all the shortcomings.

I was so caught up in my happiness and nostalgia that I forgot and left my cell at the compartment (with love as someone says). But on such fun family trips who wants to be reminded of what chores are left undone at Dhaka or what errands to run once back. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. However, losing one's cell is almost like being orphaned; something I realised only after I was transported back to reality.

Talking about reality I must say that Dhaka-Chittagong trips should be made on trains and nothing else. Vehicles move at an ant's pace on this highway and if by any unfortunate twist of turns there is an accident it takes forever to clear the road. Thus a short trip by car or bus can take 12 to 14 hours on the minimum, making the 'delayed' trains sheer blessings.

Raffat Binte Rashid

Under A Different Sky

Jui phool nebo na beli phool dau,
Oi dike cheyo na ey dike chau
- Sunil Ganguli

To the beli phools, which bloomed in my hair today: I owe you. You were plucked from an American home garden, you were not children of monsoon but you smelt the same as they do.

You weren't as healthy perhaps, not as many petals, especially when you were plucked and handed into my palm you seemed so fragile, timid. I made a place for you in between my barrette and dark brown hair and here you are now, with the evening's mystic darkness, a full-figured beauty, ready to take over my space, my love, my past.

I didn't expect this when I undid my braid, not at all. I must confess I forgot all about you. When my hair came down my shoulder to my chest and you landed, the three of you, on my heart, on my toe, and on my bellybutton, I felt like you were fragments of my memory which I kept thirsty and finally you had come out of my mind crying for water.

But then I remembered your origin - my mum's backyard, and I felt like you were blessings, each of you, the three free wishes that everyone deserves to get at least once in their lives.

But you didn't do more than fall and look pretty. I am the one who picked you up off my body, sprinkled water on you so that even after death you will have long lives and fill my home with 'youness', I missed you, you see.

You remained on my bedside table, on my bookshelf, on the windowsill. My hair, my tortured hair, which was shaved seven times as a child, smelt like you. She is longer now, waves spoke without being asked questions.

My hair spoke of you while I tried to fall asleep, about your strength, your dedication, your overpowering scent. My hair wanted to be wrapped around again with many of you, held tightly. She was spoilt, she wanted to own hundreds of you like she used to every night, hundreds of you cost only 50 taka in Bangladesh you see, here I need to be satisfied with just three.

I woke with you still in bloom, you said “morning,” in your calm ivory voice. I kissed you, my last kiss to you, I knew when I would come back that night, you would be already dying, turning a sad brown, I would dump you on my potpourri bowl.

But you didn't fear death, you said, “make your three wishes, we aren't here forever.”

So I rushed out of bed, held each of you and tried to think of all my desires, yet nothing came to mind, as if I had everything I needed right there, though I knew that was not true, so I blew each of you goodbye out of my open window.

My desires returned after you were gone. Your scent still surrounded me, I breathed you in and you became a part of my desire. My hair kept telling stories of her one night stands with belis as I washed her clean erasing all signs of you.



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