Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tea on a Sunday morning

In August, I took off for a weekend to visit Butuan, one of the oldest pre-spanish settlements in the country, reknowned among Filipino historians and archeologists, where the Spanish landed and are said to have held the first Catholic mass. In the months prior to the trip, I had seen the reconstructed balanghais, a boat used by our ancestors who must have traversed the Butuan river and the straits heading towards other islands north. I was also lured by Eating Asia's post on the kilawin the authors had at the fish market. There's nothing like salivating at Robyn and Dave's pictures to get an idea of travelling to one of the provincial cities in Mindanao going.

One of the wonderful finds I took back from that trip was the biasyong, a kaffir or makrut lime that has an intensely fragrant, flower-like aroma. Cut into one and inhale for one's life, it will take the blues away. Of course, there are very few of these lovely green fruits in Manila, so I brought back a kilo and divided it among friends. I stuck them in my bottled water, I grated some of the zest, experimented with adding the juice to honey, and considered attempting the kilawin of the south. The latter didn't pan out due to my laziness of sourcing perfectly fresh tuna.

At the recent MM Eyeball in Cebu, MM used a lot of biasyongs for his kilawin, and it reminded me how lovely a fruit it is. A friend travelling to Cagayan de Oro asked if there was anything a few of us would like from the south, and two of us asked if she could try to find the biasyongs. She kindly obliged and brought back several of the limes for us; they are called suka in CDO, but I cut into one and was sure it is one and the same, for who could miss the perfume?

I have a few of the limes left, and thought how to use them best. I tried adding some of the juice when I cooked some bagoong last week, but found it the wrong combination. The astringency of the lime's juice wasn't as strong as calamansi, and the aroma was sort of offputting when paired with the fishiness of the bagoong, the clash was distinctly nauseating.

This morning, I put the kettle on, planning to steep a few teaspoons of a wonderful green tea. As the water roiled and I spooned the tea leaves into my trusty teapot (I've had this pot since 1995, it has kept me company through many a home), I thought why not add some of the lime wedges, see how it fared. A couple of minutes into the brew, I knew it was the perfect pairing. It may be a wee bit gloomy outside, and there may not be much to watch on the telly, but I sit with my teapot, a mug of tea, and think perfumed thoughts.

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