Tea for us Sylhetis is more than just a cup of tea. It is a daily ritual. It is an emotion. The romance of Sylhetis and tea is eternal and hence Sylhet, having most of the fabled tea gardens of the country, is called "The Land of Two Leaves and a Bud".
There are 135 tea gardens sprawling in Sylhet district to give the nation its caffeine fix. Interestingly, if you are a local resident of Sylhet city, I am sure you have come across the infamous Bacchu Tea Stall on the Airport Road. When weekends arrive, it's hard to miss the prominent role that this tea stall plays in wiping away all the exhaustion and stress of our daily routine. A hot cup of tea with mouth-watering piyaju is a quintessential part of every Friday.
Most of the time, these adda sessions are a manifestation of rants, gossip, debates and rebuttals. There would be break-up stories, chats about shopping sprees, and political conversations. Last but not the least, to add the fundamental fuel to complement the sessions, there would be tea.
If you are yearning to take a walk in the hilly areas and sip on gallons of tea, you definitely need a trip to Sylhet. The Malnicherra Tea Garden in Sylhet was established in 1850. Four years after that, the first commercial tea production in the country started in these gardens.
Along with milk tea and black tea that both the young and old consume regularly, the seven layer tea is also very well known in Sylhet. It is prepared in a special method so that it has seven different layers of seven different colours – and seven different flavours. When served in a glass, the seven different layers remain separate and do not mix. If you ask the tong er mama how he prepares the seven layer tea, he will hesitate to reveal it to you because the recipe is a trade secret of Sylhet. But I can tell you the main ingredients are condensed milk, cinnamon, cloves, green tea from Sreemangal and three types of black teas.
Tea blends into the lives of the Sylheti people as smoothly as the cloud kissing mountains blend into the winding rivers of Sylhet. Be it the cold winters or the hot summers, one thing that stays constant around the streets of Sylhet city is the consumption of tong er cha. Dipping in a piece of dry cake into the simmering hot cup of tea, exchanging stories with the afternoon light pouring in – ah! The perfect adda session.
A cup of tea brings out emotions of happiness, pain, sadness or longing. So, the next time you are in Sylhet, don't forget to stop by for one of these adda sessions in Bacchu Tea Stall. Regardless of whether you decide to take an interest in the discussion or just wish to sip tea, it will be an incredible experience to cherish.
Maisha Abedin studies at Army Institute of Business Administration, Sylhet. Reach her at email@example.com