Archive for June, 2011

A VIEW FROM SRI LANKA, Number 63

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Sunday 26 June 2011.

Welcome, dear readers, from around the world to this weekly view from Sri Lanka.

Almsgiving

The Buddhist flag, seen here being prepared by Kumara, was very much in evidence at the road junction close to my house last weekend. There was chanting throughout the night by Buddhist monks as part of a ceremony to bring blessings to the three-wheeler drivers who park there and have built a small shrine on the spot. The next day there was an almsgiving of rice and curry lunch for the monks and villagers, organised by the drivers with sponsorship by local residents.

Top Tea

Sri Lanka’s national, natural drink is Pure Ceylon Tea, and it disgusts me when I go to a posh hotel or restaurant here to be served tea made from a teabag. There is no excuse for this when the best tea in the world is grown in Sri Lanka and is easily available. (I suppose why teabags are used is because of ‘portion control’ and ‘cost cutting’.)

At home I have a dozen airtight jars in the kitchen filled with low-grown, mid-grown and high-grown loose leaf teas. And locally produced green teas as well, although those do not have the lightness of colour and subtle flavour of Chinese green tea. Since I drink tea the natural way (without milk or sugar) I prefer a high-grown tea (“the champagne of teas”) that tingles the palate with its zesty taste, and bucks me up no end.

The teas shown here are, from left to right, Uva Highland BOP (broken orange pekoe), strong and flavourful for any time of day, St Coombs Pekoe (good for a gentle afternoon cuppa), and St James FOP (flowery orange pekoe), a subtle, stimulating brew first thing in the morning. The price for a 500g pack of the FOP, my favourite, is Rs 475 (£ 2.71, US$ 4.31). Also in the photo is a reproduction tea taster’s set with the leaves of the steeped FOP tea on the upturned cup’s lid. Divine.

I buy my tea in foil packs (instead of fancy gift packets) from the Tea Kiosk in Colombo’s Liberty Plaza shopping mall, run by the enterprising Mlesna (Ceylon) Ltd. The company has tea centres throughout the island, including two upcountry restaurants, the Tea Castle (yes, it looks like a castle) overlooking the St Clair waterfall, and a Tea Fortress (yes, it looks like a fortress) at Peradeniya, outside Kandy. www.mlesnateas.com

 

Tea Tips

From the box containing a tea infuser I bought from the Mlesna shop, I learned that boiled spring water devoid of excess sulphates makes a crisp cup of tea. Water that’s been chlorinated makes a very poor brew. The solution is to store chlorinated water in an open pan overnight for the chlorine to evaporate, and then boil it.

Leaf tea (one teaspoon per cup) should be brewed with just boiled hot water in a closed teapot for three minutes for a light brew, or five minutes for a stronger cup. Over-brewing produces a strong bitter taste due to the extraction of unfermented chlorophyll from the tealeaf. Stale brewed tea (20 minutes after brewing) tends to oxodise and gives a sour and bitter, undesirable taste due to the formation of tanic acid. Don’t attempt to add more hot water to the pot for a refill; take more tealeaves and make another pot.

Chilli Cheese Again

A dear friend, knowing of my lust for chilli cheese, tracked some down on a recent visit to Britain, and carried it safely wrapped in a moist towel in his suitcase on his return to Sri Lanka. “Red Devil” as it is called, is actually made in Wales by the Snowdonia Cheese Company.

It came in a 200g ball, wrapped in a wax casing, like the chilli cheese made in Sri Lanka I enjoyed recently. It was a Red Leicester cheese with the addition of vinegar, crushed black pepper and chilli pieces and so much moister, and spicier, than the Gouda type cheese produced here. It was twice the price, too, weighing in at £ 3.99, the equivalent of Rs 3,492  (£ 19.95, US$ 31.74) a kilo. And it was sensational, melting in the mouth with a fiery aftertaste.

 

London Clothing Sale

Those readers who live in London may be interested in a sale of exquisite clothing, mainly kurti type tops, not too ethnic, more on a western look – particularly the black ones – according to a regular reader of this letter, Yasmin Cader, the glamorous marketing star of Colombo’s Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel.

The sale is bring held on Saturday 9 July from 10.00 to 14.00 hours at 26, Hornton Street, off Kensington High Street, almost opposite the tube station. It is organised by Mrs Maharaja who hopes to bring sizes 10 to18; prices will range from £ 70 to £ 90 pounds per outfit.

The Guide

More on Sri Lanka in the latest edition of my Bradt Travel Guide, just released in the UK and the USA (at £ 15.99 or US $ 23.99) from www.bradtguides.com.

The Poems

Something to read with that cup of tea? Why not BEAT: THE COLLECTED POEMS, available as an eBook download from www.wordsmanbooks.co.uk.

 

Beat regards

Royston