I have never taken to tea as a beverage apart from the occasional Iced Tea, the oxidant rich White Tea or the warm Jasmine Tea. During a quiet weekend trip to Coonoor , I was presented with a tea theme 7 course dinner in Tea Nest where I was staying. Needless to say, I could not resist indulging in the innovative delicacies and am glad I did…
Tea Smoked Chicken (Mushroom) Soup: A concoction of light aromatic tea and coconut milk with a dash of lemon generously laced with pieces of smoked chicken and mushroom. The initial taste was Thai but the after taste was distinctly tea. It opened up our taste buds setting the stage for the indulging Tea Evening on our dinner plate.
Tea Smoked Chicken (Paneer) Salad with pickled Tea Leaves : It appeared to be just like any other veggie salad and a spoonful later I was gushing over the tangy taste of the pickled Tea Leaves. It was crunchy, it was delicious. The strips of chicken and paneer smoked and braised in different flavors of tea added that extra zing to the carrot, cabbage and capsicum salad.
Next came the starters and the Tea Braised Smoked Paneer and Pineapple presented like a Tea Tree stole my heart. The paneer (cottage cheese) was carefully soaked in boiling tea for that deep brown hue after which it was marinated in pickled tea leaf paste and grilled with pineapple chunks. The crunch of the paneer was just right, rough and hard outside and mellow inside. I have grown up on Fish and love it in every shape and form and the fillet wrapped in a giant tea leaf served next reminded me of my favourite “Fish Paturi”. The slice of Grilled Fish with Fresh Tea Leaves was good but not the crown delight. Treated similarly as the Paneer, a little bit of extra spice could enhance the taste but perhaps would not gel with the tea flavour. I savoured every bit, along with the Green Tea Sorbet loaded with Ginger, Orange and Mint.
The main course of Tea Spaghetti Aleo Oleo was quite a revelation. The spaghetti was prepared in Tea and tossed with burnt garlic and pickled olives in a base of tomato sauce. All the flavours seem to have complemented each other beautifully and it was lovely to say the least. While the soft spaghetti melted in my mouth, I mentally resolved to give the dessert a miss. Tea Custard with Chamomile was hard to resist and my firm resolve melted sooner than the spoonful of custard in my mouth. A tad bit too sweet for my taste but nevertheless gooey and soft just like the way I love my custards. The chamomile ensured that all the indulgence through the evening was well taken care of.
If you are visiting Coonoor, whether you choose or not to stay in Tea Nest tucked away in a tea garden nestled in the green Nilgiris, do hop by for a taste of the Tea Cuisine !!!