Lately I have gotten into the habit of drinking tea. Persian tea, to be precise. And also of making it, of seeking out the implements and ingredients that will allow me to brew the ultimate cup of this tasty, coppery beverage.
For those also seeking adventure, here is what I’ve done so far. Let me just say that a well-done cup of tea not only tastes delicious, it also feels wonderful upon drinking it – something of a mildly euphoric lift combined with the same accelerating feel that coffee gives you, although without the jittery side-effects.
First, I blend three kinds of tea. They must all be loose-leaf tea, and you should be able to find all of these brands at a Middle Eastern grocery. I cannot tolerate tea-bag tea anymore (or what my Persian family calls taqallobi, or “cheater tea”). It tastes to me now a bit like the way dishwater looks.
The first kind of tea is purely for taste. For this I use Chaye Ahmad (Ceylon) in the green box. For two cups, I use 3/4 teaspoon of Ahmad.
The second kind of tea is for the wonderful scent of Bergamot, found in Earl Grey. For this I use Chaye Sadaf (Earl Grey), also found in a red box. For two cups, I use one teaspoon.
The third kind of tea is for color, that beautiful amber/burgundy that denotes a fine cup of bliss. For this I use Chaye Golabi, the “Barooti” variety. For two cups, I use 3/4 teaspoon of Golabi.
Beware! All three tea makers offer several variations, so pay attention to the labels. You could substitute Ahmad in the green tin for Sadaf in the red box, but don’t get Ahmad in the green tin alone. Ahmad is the best tea for taste, so my more experienced friends tell me.
Pour all of this loose-leaf tea into a dried quurii, or small teapot. Leave it there. Now put about a liter of pure water into a ketrii, or large teapot. I use an electronic water boiler for this, since it only takes about three minutes to boil the water.
Once the water is up to a rolling boil, pour in enough to fill the small teapot either halfway or all the way, depending on how many people there will be. Put a lid on the quurii and wait anywhere from five to ten minutes. Do not stir the tea or push it around. Just let nature does it’s work.
While the time is approaching, put the ketrii back on the flame and let it come to a rolling boil again. It can just keep boiling while the quurii steeps.
When the quurii is ready – and a glass quurii is helpful here, because you’re waiting for it to reach a deep amber color – pour some of the tea water into a glass. If you like your tea light, or “kam rang”, fill the glass 1/4 full. If you like dark tea, or “pro rang”, fill the glass half full. If you drink straight from the quurii, you are probably going to pucker like a blowfish.
Now top off your glass with the boiling water from the ketrii. This ensures that your tea is as hot as possible, without damaging the tea. That said, you never want to boil the water in your quurii. The ketrii is for water only, and boiling only. The quurii is only for steeping.
If you want to drink tea in the Persian style, put a sugar cube on your tongue and drink the tea past it. The cube not only cools the water slightly on contact, it gives you a variable sweetness between sips that I like. Otherwise, you could just stir your sugar in directly. Or drink it straight.
Properly done, the end result should have a pleasing color, a great aroma, and taste wonderful, with a mellowy smoothness that rides along your tongue. It should feel good in your stomach, and produce a feeling of lift and relaxation. It should make you want more, even though you’re already about to jump off the walls. This is good tea.