Tea and Coconut Shells

Saturday morning is usually spent having a coffee with Mother dearest talking while BBC One’s Saturday Morning Kitchen is playing on the TV. Love of food runs amongst our family and any show featuring cooking and food is worthy of our time. A feature on Tea came up on the show and how there is only one British grown Tea garden in the UK down in Cornwall. I always found it odd that we didn’t have a tea garden within our family considering the level of entrepreneurship Dad and Grandad possessed.  This then kickstarted another story from the old days from the Motherland.

My paternal grandfather used to work in a tea garden as a contractor. Tea gardens for sure were big businesses. Especially when the British came to India and Bangladesh, exporting worldwide. Being a well known member of the community, grandad was always trying to get people to work especially those who were of poorer backgrounds. As a result he was always bringing people to work at the Tea gardens, he wasn’t interested in money only to get young men and women off the streets with a chance to earn their own money. It touches me how much of a dude this guy was. Makes me yearn for more stories of him but as the old generation are slowly passing away these are the only tidbits of info I can grab. Having the opportunity to write about them hopefully inspires others to find out more of this awesome generation.
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents were close before my parents got hitched. Mum told me how granddad used to bring home all the different varieties of tea leaves from the garden. He had a special affection to my mums eldest brother. Quietly calling him to his house, he loved to share fresh tea with my uncle drinking out of empty coconut shells. Those days China cups were hard to come by so granddad made cups out of old coconut shells for his drinks. My uncles little brother got annoyed as he was never invited for this yummy tasting experience. So he used to grab mum and quietly sneak around to the house, and stealthily drink this magic potion. Usually ended up with a scolding from granddad but then turned into empathy, with the four of them sitting on the patio sipping fresh black tea while holding polished coconut shells with both their hands.

Oh, the age of my uncles and mum at the time, no more than 10 to 12 years of age. Now I understand why my eldest uncle got hooked on tea. Drinking tea from such a young age made him addicted to the stuff.

Grandad loved that tea garden, so much so he wanted to buy it. He knew it would be a great investment for his sons, namely my Dad. During this time the British were still around, they owned or at least had the majority stake in the business. Remember it was still East Pakistan, different age, different rules. Grandad managed to gather up 20 lakh (equivalent to around £2,000) which in that time was a lot of money. He paid the owners up, and the paperwork was all that remained. Then, he had a sudden heart attack and passed away. Dad was very young and barely able to fathom his fathers sudden death let alone worry about the tea garden. A few people tried to liaise with the tea garden owners to finalise the sale to my Dad, but to no avail. They also were not able to recover the money put down.

Dad now had to grow up fast, younger brothers, sisters and a mother to support. To this day I still amazed on how he managed it, but alas that is another story. Knowing myself, I knew Dad would want to fulfil his fathers legacy of owning that tea garden. However, he had to put emotions to one side as upon deeper investigation by himself found that the income was very low, and a lot of investment was needed. So he never bought and in the end decided to purchase a rubber plantation close by.

Now I am sitting here, thinking about today’s generation of millennials and gen xyz, with their loyalty to fair trade, organic and healthy living. An opportunity to fulfil that legacy that spans back to over 60 years ago can become a reality. Let’s get to work!

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Tea should always be without milk!