Tea on the Train

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Photo by subgns/FlickrCC

I'm in sunny Calif for a few days, and as these things always happen, the guy riding the monorail from SFO to the car rental building turned out to be the guy right across the aisle from me on our flight out with whom I had exchanged parting pleasantries, now wheeling a giant black plastic "hard case" full, he said, of circuit board samples he was taking down to Silicon Valley.

We spoke about where he worked, south of Boston in Norwood, on a place every Bostonian knows as Auto Mile, for its rows of car showrooms. I asked if there were any coffee shops there, as I've often been in search of them myself, and he said of course there were, I just didn't know how to look--after all, the headquarters of Dunkin Donuts, as he knew, are nearby, and as was raised in India he much prefers Dunkin's lighter roast to Starbucks.

Surely, he drinks tea, I asked, and he said yes, but only at home. And how does he make it? The recipe interested me, as it was different from what I've read in books on India, though I'll of course read more now.

His wife, he said (and yes, his wife makes the tea and does the cooking), boils the tea leaves in milk a "long time," which turned out to be only ten or fifteen minutes--until the milk boiled, and then, as with Turkish and Greek coffee, she would turn down the heat to bring the mixture back to a simmer. Not two more times, though, as for coffee.

Sugar? Yes, and his wife adds it before, not after, as many of their friends do, which means that it will caramelize as the milk sugars themselves do during the boiling. Spices? Yes--cardamom and a word he didn't know was the same in "American English"--"ginger." Fresh, and grated right into the milk.

The tea was from the local Indian store, he said. I suggested he look at a local direct importer, Timeless Teas, which has just opened its own shop in Newton and sells various estate Assams, Nigiris, Ceylons, and other BOP blends. His eyes widened--he of course recognized the abbreviation for "broken orange pekoe," and vowed to remember the URL. I didn't have to vow to remember the recipe.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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