‘Tea Master’ B. Manickam gives a new twist to the average cup of tea

“Don’t open the packet now!” instructs ‘Tea master’ B. Manickam, his eyes quickly scanning the bakery. “There are so many people around. What if someone lifts my idea?” The packet has a collection of wires in various shapes — they are the result of years of hard work put in by Manickam. He uses them to create patterns on milk froth using tea decoction. This is just one of the many tricks Manickam has up his sleeve to make the average cup of tea more interesting. The 50-year-old has spent most of his life making tea inside cramped kitchens. But one day, he decided to do something creative with his job. The tea shops he worked in became his laboratories and this is what he came up with: came up with ideas and worked on them tirelessly inside tea shops, which were his laboratories. Here’s what he has to say about his experiments with tea:

“I can arrange up to five different layers of beverages, inside a single tea glass. The layers are white, pink, deep brown, light brown and transparent and are made of milk, tea decoction, coffee decoction, Boost and water. They don’t mix. This is because, I use a different consistency for each layer. The tea is edible and is tasty too. You can drink my three-layered tea after simply mixing the contents with a spoon.

My father was a weaver. He brought us to Coimbatore from Salem when I was ten years old. I never went to school. I joined work in a tea shop; did small tasks such as washing tea glasses. I started making tea when I was 15. There have been days when I made up to 1000 cups of tea a day…But people have been drinking the same kind of tea for years. I wanted to give them something different.

And so I began. I tried different things in my workplace when I had the time. Besides, I had all the ingredients at my disposal. I first came up with the three-layered tea. It has a layer each of tea, milk and Boost. It was after a lot of trial and error that I found a way to keep the layers apart. And then I made shapes out of wire to create patterns on milk froth. It has been 10 years since I came up with these methods.

I then worked at arranging five layers inside one tea glass. Getting the layers to stay apart was a challenge. There are times when I sat wide awake at night, dreaming of ways to keep decoction and milk from mixing. And then one day, I succeeded.

I wish I could make my layered tea for customers…but in all these years, none of my employers was willing to serve it in their shops. ‘Just mind your business and do your job’, they would say. I don’t have the money to start a tea shop of my own as of now. But I want to serve people my kind of tea. I think of this every single day.”

Manickam works at Gokul Bakes, TVS Nagar, Edayarpalayam. He can be contacted at 99946-08719.