I am a bit of a tea freak. My preferred poisons are Darjeeling and Earl Grey, and I take pains to obtain these, often at some expense. In Calcutta my Lopchu Golden OP – in pink paper wrappings, bought from Dey’s Medical Store on Lindsay Street – was bespoke. Friends from extreme ends of town would make expeditions to my place on Sundays just for the tea (in hindsight, given what I splurged on the Lopchu, I should perhaps have charged them per cup). Later someone told me Lopchu was the tea served in Rashtrapati Bhavan: I thanked him, and sniffily told him to inform RB that THEY were serving MY tea.

So much for tea snobbery.

In Bangalore Lopchu became a distant dream. I settled instead for Lipton’s Green Label which was, till a few years ago, a passable Darjeeling. They seem to have slipped a bit, however: I don’t get quite the same bouquet now. The leaf looks distinctly different.

Some years ago, Twinings arrived on the scene with their Earl Grey – the leaf, not bags – and I used to buy it wholesale. I thought my tea troubles were over – till suddenly, for no ostensible reason, Twinings stopped making EG leaf and switched to bags, and my tea odyssey began all over again.

And then I discovered that Twinings had gone all fancy. They now had these attractive coloured caddies – black for Assam, a bougainvillea purple (?) for Darjeeling Loose Leaf and an apple green for Darjeeling Green Long Leaf. The actual tea itself inside, in two vacuum packed sachets, probably weighs 100 grams. The price? Well…

Of course it was love at first sight, and money was no object. I bought the green (Dar.G.L L), and blended it with Lipton’s Green Label. Not a bad brew I thought. I then went and bought a few more caddies.

But the real draw for me was not those caddies, or even their contents. Inside each, at the bottom, wrapped in cellophane was a small, extremely bewitching stainless steel spoon with Twinings engraved on it. That was the killer.

I have five such spoons now. At Rs. 700/- a throw a bit excessive I know for a mere tea spoon… But then you don’t know the manic obsessive.

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