Perfection to a Tea

 

A few years ago, Anil Jethmal attended a cricket match in Bombay, India. Midway through the match, the players abruptly walked off the field. Anil asked his host what was happening. His host informed him that it was a tea break.
A native New Yorker and of Indian heritage, Anil had travelled to Bombay several times and had lived there for over four years. Yet, he had forgotten how much “tea time” had woven itself into the fabric of everyday life in India. In New York, the preferred beverage, coffee, was merely a drink. Tea time (usually 4pm) in India was an event.
Memories came flooding back as Anil Jethmal recalled the wonderful rituals and interpersonal connections made over a perfectly steeped cup of tea. He remembered, as a child, how much he enjoyed the delicious French pastries, English scones with Devonshire cream as well as the finger sandwiches that perfectly complemented the daily event.
Over the years, Anil has become an aficionado of high tea. In his travels across the globe, he has come across a few “high tea” venues that he considers to be exceptional.

 

In New York, Anil Jethmal recommends:

The Astor Court at The St. Regis Hotel (without children)
Perhaps the most elegant room for high tea in New York. Tea is accompanied by talented harpists whose subtle relaxing tones do not compete with conversation.

The Palm Court at The Plaza
Wonderful place to go with or without children. The famed Eloise at The Plaza Tea is sure to delight the little ones. Also, there is no better place to go for high tea during Christmas season than The Plaza.
Disclaimer: Anil Jethmal was married at The Plaza and may be slightly biased towards it.

 

In India, Anil Jethmal recommends,

The Royal Willingdon Sports Club, Bombay
Perhaps the most authentic place in the world to enjoy high tea with a British Colonial ambiance.
The caveat, however, is that one cannot enter without a member. Unfortunately, there is a 30 year wait list to become a member and the cost of a 10 year corporate membership for two is 30 Crores….converted to US Dollars……..over $ 4 million.
Tea at Willingdon is a wonderful experience, but not $ 4 million wonderful. If one does not know a member to gain entrance as a guest, Anil recommends:

The Sea Lounge at the Taj Hotel, Bombay
Overlooking the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea, the Sea Lounge, in Anil’s estimation, has even better tea and food than The Royal Willingdon Sports Club. The ambiance epitomizes elegance and serenity.
Better yet….no membership is required.

 

In England, Anil Jethmal recommends:

The Palm Court at The Ritz, London
Perhaps the most elegant room in London for high tea, The Ritz is the only hotel in the U.K to have a certified tea sommelier who travels the world searching for tea plantations to source the perfect tea.

Thierry Despont Foyer at Claridge’s Hotel, London
Stunning 1920’s art deco décor perfectly complements a champagne high tea. A little more hip and slightly more relaxed atmosphere enables one to enjoy the champagne tea experience the way Gatsby’s guests might.

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London
Perhaps the best high tea venue for “people watching”. The patrons’ attire beat any fashion show anywhere and the ladies sublime “hat show” defy description and needs to be experienced first-hand.

 

In Hong Kong, Anil Jethmal recommends:

The Lobby at The Peninsula Hotel 
The Brits left their mark on Hong Kong before decolonisation. The tradition of high tea is still wildly popular in Hong Kong and there is no better place to experience it in its perfection than The Peninsula Hotel.
To make an event out of it, go to Sam the Tailor (about an 8 minute walk from The Peninsula) and make a custom made suit (ask Sam to make you two pairs of pants with your suit). Sam is somewhat of a celebrity as he tailors the British Royal family’s clothes, as well as the clothes for most US Presidents.
First fitting will be prior to high tea and the second fitting will be after tea…….A very civilized afternoon.

 

For those who want to enjoy the perfect cup of tea from the comforts of their own home, Anil Jethmal recommends:

Taylors of Harrogate Assam Tea, available on Amazon with La Perruche Pure Cane Rough Cut Cubes…also on Amazon.
Very important to steep no more than 5 minutes to prevent the tea from becoming too acidic. For tea as good as practically any venue in the world, bring water to a rolling boil, put in tea bag(s) while the water is boiling (Taylors tea bags have no staples or tags, so it is ok to put in entire bag into the kettle). Remove tea bag(s) after 3 minutes.
Most importantly, to enjoy tea the way it is meant to be enjoyed, try to drink it out of fine china. It will taste better than out of a mug, or heaven forbid, from a paper cup.
Lastly…try to slow down. Remember, tea is not merely a drink…it is an event.

 

 

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A Man of Character

On July 4th, 1976, Anil Jethmal celebrated the U.S bicentennial  with his family in downtown New York City.  Several tall ships from all over the world sailed into New York harbor to commemorate the event.  To this day, Anil recalls the feeling of patriotism and pride that he and his family shared that day.

However, it was something that his father did that stamped an even more indelible and enduring sense of pride on his then 11-year old son.  The South Street Seaport saw over 1 million revelers that day.  To Anil’s mind, each and every one of them littered the streets early and often that day…..bottles, soda cans, paper bags, napkins, etc.  Everyone seemingly committed that offense that day…except for one.  Anil’s father walked a block and a half in ankle deep garbage to throw away his napkin in a garbage can.  Anil’s mother chided him for doing so when there was garbage strewn about the streets everywhere.  His father smiled, but said nothing.

This is what Anil Jethmal’s father did that day……and that is the way he lived his life.  Metaphorically speaking, even though there may have been filth, deceit and corruption all around him, he would not contribute to or collude with it.  He always did the right thing and he never beat his chest when he did so.

When closing out his fiscal accounting books the previous year, Anil Jethmal’s father discovered that his bookkeeper had overcharged a client in error several months earlier.  He told his bookkeeper to issue a check to the client to remediate the error.  She protested, reasoning that it was not necessary since the client did not notice and never would.  Anil Jethmal’s father firmly and immediately repeated his instructions to issue the check.

That was the essence of the man.  He did the right thing, even though no one was watching.

Unbeknownst to Anil’s father, his son was watching.

A father himself now,  Anil Jethmal often casts his mind back to his own father to help provide a blueprint on how to be a good father and a good person as well.

In his entire life, Anil never once heard his father tell a lie….even if it was “harmless” or convenient.  His father never, even once, yelled at him.  Even when reprimanding Anil, he explained why he was doing so in almost dulcet tones.  To this day, Anil views that restraint as a leading, if not defining, characteristic of being a good father.

In fact, Anil Jethmal’s father never really had to yell.  His actions spoke louder than any words possibly could.  And while, sadly, he is gone, his example endures, making Anil want to be a better person—–if, for no other reason, his own children may be watching.

 

Let Sound Sleep: A Sound Approach to Healing

When Anil Jethmal tells people that he contracted typhoid at age eight while living in India, he gets a variety of responses. Some shudder at the ominous sound of the word typhoid. Typhoid, Anil retorts, is nothing more than bacterial food poisoning – very treatable. Most people, however, are particularly aghast at the notion of his having to deal with what they perceive to be a serious illness – in an Indian hospital.

Anil Jethmal is amused at both reactions. In particular, his amusement emanates from the false presumption that Indian hospitals are vastly inferior to those in the US.

To that point, forty years later, what Anil remembers most about his weeklong hospital stay was the luxury and serenity of the Indian hospital. His well-appointed and placid room overlooking the Arabian Sea had all the bearings of a world class luxury resort. Anil Jethmal’s doctor explained that that was a part of the healing process.

The opulence at the hospital was not simply extravagance for extravagance’s sake. Indian philosophy in healthcare stresses that, in addition to medical attention, the body can best fight off illness if it is well rested and is in a pleasant area free of germs. Human physiology, they reason, knows best how to heal itself. The white blood cells in our bodies know exactly what to do and where to go if disease is present.

This may all seem extremely obvious, even to a layperson. Yet, anyone who has had an overnight stay in a US hospital knows uninterrupted sleep is a virtual impossibility. Moreover, most of these hospitals are festered with germs. In fact, oftentimes hospital policy denies access to children under a certain age, due to children’s natural lower immunity and thus their heightened susceptibility of being afflicted with an airborne illness.

In such an environment where rest is difficult, patients’ white blood cells are not optimized. Worse, the limited white blood cells that a patient has to combat illness, now have to fight a war on two fronts- the germs within the body and also, the germs in the hospital.

Anil Jethmal recalls having a conversation with his US general practitioner about the paradox between the intent of many US hospitals and the physical condition of the very same facilities. Far from being offended by the comparison, he offered his own explanation.

US hospitals, he theorized, besides trying to help with patients’ medical needs are also corporations in the business of maximizing profits. One of the success metrics for a hospital is profitability per square foot – hence the incentive of hospital owners and administrators to opt for close quarters. The close quarters, unfortunately, compromise not only a patient’s rest, but also, the germ free environment that is ideal for a patient. This dual compromise leads to longer hospital stays – and thus higher billings to the patient’s insurance company.

Clearly, from a patient’s standpoint, a more restful stay with a shorter recovery time is preferable. However, both concluded their robust conversation wondering whether from a profit standpoint, an eastern medical philosophy is preferable. While such a resolution might seem quixotic, it is certainly worth a look.
By the way, eight-year old Anil Jethmal recovered quickly from his bout with typhoid, had a very pleasant hospital stay and, after asking, was told that the hospital bill was very reasonable.

Two Weeks in December 1971

In December, 1971, Anil Jethmal was 6 years old and living in Bombay, India. He remembers the sirens that would wail in the middle of the night and he knew what had to be done. India was at war with Pakistan. The sirens were notice that enemy aircraft were approaching the city. As his parents would light a solitary candle for illumination and then turn out all lights in the house, Anil would gather his black opaque construction sheets of paper and start taping them onto all the windows in the house.
This was the plan of the Indian military. They reasoned that if the enemy could not see light emanating from the city, it would thwart their military efforts. Perhaps they were correct. Within a period of two weeks, Pakistan conceded military defeat to India.
During those two weeks, daytime was a very different experience for a young Anil Jethmal. Both his parents and he had friends who were Hindus and Muslims. Yet, even during the tension of war, they maintained amicable relationships with their Muslim friends and acquaintances.
Reflecting back on those two weeks, a much older Anil Jethmal, recalls the absence of social tension in Bombay, and indeed India, between Muslims and Hindus. True, this was not a war waged upon the premise of religious ideology. It was a war to liberate the people of Bangladesh from an oppressive Pakistani regime. Still, the absence of hostilities among the citizenry during that period was especially remarkable when one factors in that Muslims have an ancient history of aggressive proselytization.
Moreover, even the Indian government, in the Simla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill, returned to Pakistan over 5700 square miles of territory it had gained in the war.
Forty-five years later, Anil Jethmal wonders if there are any lessons to be learned from this conflict for global society at large. In an age where there are so many religions, races and creeds at odds with each other, and tensions running so high, Anil can’t help but think back to those two weeks in December 1971. While he yearns for a like resolution, he has, like so many, no practical suggestions or answers.