I am… Balasubramanian, tea master

I belong to Thiruvadavur village near Madurai. When I was in school, I started making tea and coffee at my father’s teahouse. When he suffered a business loss, I joined a Nair tea shop in Sellur in the city. I joined the newly opened Akshaya’s restaurant opposite Mattuthavani less than a year ago. I work here 10 hours a day from 2 p.m. to midnight and earn a salary of 12,000 rupees. I have two young children and my wife works part time. Every day I boil about 75-80 liters of milk and make hundreds of cups of coffee and tea. At that time, a cup of tea was sold at 50 paise and a coffee at 60 or 70 paise. Now we sell it for Rs.10 or 12 per cup.

Decades of experience in the art has made a tea master. In seconds, I’m making many cups of steaming chai. My winery has won me fans and regular customers. Many also find it fascinating to watch me mix the milk and decoction in style. My father used to say that a good tea master can be judged by how well he mixes the infusion/decoction. The secret to a perfect mixture is to mix the right proportions of sugar and milk. It is the appreciation of my clients that keeps me going. Many of them tell me that the coffee I make compares to some of the best in town.

(A fortnightly column about the men and women who make Madurai what it is)

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