I’m always a sceptic of the kind of ‘things to do/see/visit before you die’ lists, because I think they’re mostly just a big con set up by travel companies and dolphins, designed to make you properly skint before you die so you spend your real last days sucking on a biscuit. If you’re really about to pass on then far better to do something practical like cleaning out the fridge, cancelling the papers, chucking away the porn so at least when the time comes you can rest in peace.
But when we got to our little guest-house in Srimangal, the owners told us, in hallowed and no-uncertain terms that we had to find and try the Five Colours Tea. On the Finlay’s Tea Estate, the legend runs, there are two brothers who’ve invented a new way to make a brew. The most exotic, most exulted, is the tea of Five Colours, and the brothers have never told anyone their secret, nor have they ever left the shack they operate, so you either search for them yourself or go home a lesser man.
With that in mind we set off on our bikes early the next morning and headed straight for the Finlay’s Estate. Most of the workers still live on the estate so we passed countless little bungalows, some of them like little English chalets with families standing around outside staring at us and tending their vegetables or feeding their chickens and goat. We only half knew where we were supposed to go, and thought we were foiled by a security guard who refused to let us go further in to the estate at one point, but after a mile or two up and down dirt tracks, all looking more or less identical as they surrounded by the one crop, we spied in the distance a small shack in a clearing, that looked open.
We arrived sweating and gasping for a brew (it was about 10.30). There were, true to legend, two middle-aged, sun-dried Deshi brothers sitting on plastic chairs by a desk, next to a big old wooden cabinet with lots of casks and boxes locked inside it. We sat at one of the tables, they turned a ceiling fan on for us to buzz the flies away, and then one of them came over and placed down an order sheet. There were about 15 different drinks on there, ranging from lemon and other fruits, Finlay’s special blend and then two, three, four colour tea, and then finally at the very top, majestically, the Five Colours. Certainly no frotha mocha anorexic coke-ridden triple skinny shitty only-small-because-I’ll-get-fat frappe bloody latte.
We ordered, and waited whilst clinking sounds and other strange noises came from the back. I thought it was going to be some kind of special mix of five blends of brew, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight when it finally arrived (I’ve put a picture up on the blog). Served in a glass so you could appreciate it’s full glory, the brew was genuinely five different colours, all layered perfectly on top of each other, with no mixing, steaming away with a smell that can only be described as ‘drink-me’.
So you bring it to your lips, the aroma caressing your senses, take a sip. It. Was. Sensational.
Each colour is a different flavour, so the first hit is cinnamon, then sort of creamy milky, then ginger, then lemon, then honey. Because every layer didn’t mix, you either got it pure, or if you took too big a sip the flavours mixed together to create another brilliant sensation in your mouth. An experience to savour, but like all the best things, it was over too soon and I was staring at an empty glass with a blissful grin across my face. Tom and Georgia had the same.
Not wanting to over-do it (and given that I’ll be working only a few hours away all year), we paid up the 40p it cost (per cup. A fortune for tea in Bangladesh) and slinked away before hordes of children began to arrive and ask us everything about our lives and history which would have ruined the moment. We cycled away and spent the next hour in near silence, still enjoying the remnants of five-colour flavour in our mouths, feeling like we’d accomplished something special. And if any dolphin could better this they can click off.