Wandering around the holiest temple of Sri Jagannath, we stumbled upon Prasan’s pram.
Wandering around Jagannatha and recording an amazing mix of characters, various vegetables, sanctity of temples, buffaloes and mountains of garbage, we suddenly stopped stunned with this heavy herbal scent that came to us from afar.
The tea stand a trolley on wheels standing picturesquely below the banyan. The trolley housed a gas bottle machine with two teapots, a large pot of milk, a supply of glasses and a huge collection of spices. In the middle stood a jug with trinkets stuck in it and banyan roots clad in spice bowls. On both sides of the trolley, were pots with aloes.
The entire content of Mr. Das’s cart was up to date in use – depending on the order, he prepared the appropriate specification for a given customer. One of the customers who came during our tasting immediately got a cup with some herbal powder that he ate. The collection of herbs and spices was impressive.
‘Kali jugar garam jal’ … or maybe ‘kali sugar …’ – somehow this particular tea was called, sweet was not from sugar, jaggery or other popular sweetener, but a specific kind of wood, very sweet, which name I do not remember.
The second part of the name informs you that you will get a hot drink. ‘Garam’ means ‘hot’.
Prasan Das poured a few drops into the glass from a small jug that he had at hand. He tore off the little root of the banyan that had dipped in the other little jug – the content smelled intensely of camphor . From the severed leaf of aloe, he squeezed a few glitter drops into the glass, and from a small white bottle he added two drops of the essence of tulsi, holy basil. Then he poured a glass of herbal tea prepared earlier in the kettle.
When first I tried this tea I was stunned by a strong taste, sweet and after freshness. After a tasting of this garam jal, mam took a second glass of the drink, while I ordered a customer’s specialty – a plain milk chai with herbs at of my desire. So for the mix of cardamom and cinnamon ordered by me, Mr. Prasan added special herbs for a given customer – I got a long pepper, Sichuan pepper and aloe vera. The herbs were rinsed in a mortar and added to boiling milk. The next procedure is the preparation of a standard Indian masala chay.