Monthly Archives: March 2014

Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I Love Soapstone


Hello Beautiful people,
Its been a while since I have put pen to paper , and I must say that I have really missed writing and everything else connected with my blog.
As you all know ,I love writing about hand made things and especially hand made articles that are made in India.You must have also noticed on my website, that there are a few Items made from soapstone and so this article is dedicated to the amazing soapstone.
I guess I have a streak of adventure in me and I have always loved travelling, which lucky for me I have been able to do a lot of. It all started with my dad, who was an officer in the Indian army and he had postings for approximately two years each in different cities and states in India.Globe
So, here I am, sitting comfortably, in my room with my coffee by my side, while it rains cats and dogs outside,thinking about how I should start writing the article. I have so many Ideas buzzing around in my head.So I decided to start with India, which is in itself a sub continent and  huge, so what better way to jump start your travel adventures, than, in your own country, which, by the way is an amazing land.
When we were younger, my dad used to tell us tales of his experiences and travels as it was during the second world war. He had postings in the UK, Eygypt , Nigeria and a few other countries. It was all so very facinating and different, that I decided from the tender age of three, that I would not be living in any one city or country, but would make my way around the world and experience everything that I heard about from my dad for myself.
Now Im older, and happily, I have managed to do a lot of what I had promised to myself, but in doing so, I also realized that I had a precious gem in my own backyard. My own country, India, was waiting for me to explore her, see her in all her glory and experience all that she is. India…

Elephant Well I guess thats enough talking of other things so let’s get  back to the blog,  as otherwise I will be flying of at a tangent the whole time :).I decided on soapstone as I found it very fascinating, the way such beauty is created with something as mundane as stone. Each time I visited Agra, I saw many shops selling these amazing intricately carved elephants, miniature Taj mahals and Globes and other things made from this amazing product.

I started researching   the topic and managed to get some really good information, from Wickipedia.
Soapstone (also known as steatite, or soaprock) is a type of metamorphic rock, which is largely composed of talc and is rich in magnesium. It is produced by something known as dynamothermal ,which occurs in the areas where there is a lot of movement underground.The dynamothermal changes rocks by heat copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpgand pressure, with influx of fluids, but without melting. It has been used as a medium for carving for thousands of years.
Soapstone is relatively soft because of its high talc content. Softer grades may feel soapy when touched, hence the name. There is no fixed hardness for soapstone because the amount of talc it contains varies widely.If a rock cannot be scratched with a knife blade it is not soapstone.29
Soapstone is used for inlaid designs, sculpture, coasters, and kitchen countertops and sinks. The Inuit often use soapstone for traditional carvings. Some Native American tribes and bands make bowls, cooking slabs, and other objects from soapstone;
14Soapstone is sometimes used for construction of fireplace surrounds, cladding on metal woodstoves, and as the preferred material for woodburning masonry heaters because it can absorb, store and evenly radiate heat due to its high density and magnesite content. It is also used for counter tops and bathroom tiling because of the ease of working the material and its property as the “quiet stone.” A weathered or aged appearance will occur naturally over time as the patina is enhanced.
Tepe Yahya, an ancient trading city in southeastern Iran, was a centre for the production and distribution of soapstone in the 5th–3rd century. It was also used in Minoan Crete.In Rio De Janeiro the outer layers of the Christ `The Redeemer sculpture are made of soapstone.Although Soapstone comes from all over the world, it is primarily derived from Brazil, China, and India.  Some Soapstone comes from Australia, Canada, and Germany as well.  Each area has its own unique beauty and colors. Soapstone, which on the hardness scale is rated at one, compared to a diamond, which is ten, is nonetheless quite hard.  It is also non-porous so it will not stain, like granite or marble.  Water can not penetrate it, nor will it tear apart from freezing.Rio_Brazil_2009_635
Quarried like Granite and Marble, Soapstone is a steatite stone, with its primary components being magnetite, dolomite, chlorite, and talc.  It ranges in age from 300 to 400 million years old.  True Soapstone is inert.  Alkalis and acids, which affect granite, marble, and slate, do not affect Soapstone.
Soapstone has a greasy or waxy feel, hence the name soapstone or soaprock. It possible to find major soapstone deposits in southern and east Africa, North and South America, northern Europe, Asia and India. Soapstone has had many names through history; depending on the region in which it is found, it may be known as steatite, combarbalite, or agalmatolite.  True soapstone is resistant to both heat and acid.Native American populations carved soapstone artifacts long before the arrival of European explorers. Museums worldwide house examples of their sculptures, some completed with no tools other than flint. Zimbabwean soapstone carvings range from small objets d’art to massive life-size sculptures.images_7Unknown_6-3 Palewa and gorara stones are types of Indian soapstone.Soapstone has been used in India for centuries as a medium for carving. Mining to meet world-wide demand for soapstone is threatening the habitat of India’s tigers. In Brazil, especially in Minas Gerais, due to the abundance of soapstone mines in that Brazilian state, local artisans still craft objects from that material, including pots and pans, wine glasses, statues, jewel boxes, coasters, vases. These handicrafts are commonly sold in street markets found in cities across the state. Some of the oldest towns, notably Congonhas, Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, still have some of their streets paved with soapstone from colonial times.
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Some Native Americans use soapstone for smoking pipes; numerous examples have been found among artifacts of different cultures and are still in use today. Its lack of heat conduction allows for prolonged smoking without the pipe’s heating up uncomfortably.Soapstone can be used to create molds for casting objects from soft metals, such as pewter or silver. The soft stone is easily carved and is not degraded by heating. The slick surface of soapstone allows the finished object to be easily removed.
Soapstones can also be put in a freezer and later used in place of ice cubes to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting. These are called whiskey stones.
It is a mineral that forms in the earth’s sedimentary layer through metamorphosis. Heat, chemicals, and pressure affect the composition of one or more of its original components and produce a dense, non-porous rock. This natural stone is composed mainly or entirely of talc; however, some deposits also contain mica, quartz, tremolite, or chlorite. A soapstone carving may be a decorative item like an official seal, sculpture, or artwork; imes with mottling. Black soapstone is native to Canada, Malawi, and Zimbabwe; green soapstone is the most common color in India. Alaska has white and black soapstone; China has pink.Unknown-32
Due to its high talc content, soapstone is easier to carve and polish than many other stones like marble and jade. The simplest, small soapstone carving does not require special tools; generally, the stone is soft enough to shape with an ordinary common pocketknife. Creating objects of art or decorative household items from larger soapstone rocks and blocks often requires tools like chisels, files, saws, rasps, and lathes. A soapstone carving can be kiln-fired to increase its durability. Many sculptors finish carvings by sanding and polishing them with wax or oil to increase the sheen.
In China and India, soapstone was used for ornaments and domestic utensils.Indians have used soapstone for ornaments and domestic utilities for the past 7500 years.These days Soapstone is used for decorative purposes rather than functional.Carving
It can be ed cut and finish with common wood and masonry tools.
Soapstone sheds micro organisms.It is typically honed to a 320 grit finish and can retain heat without breaking.Soapstone Facts: It can be chilled and retain the cold.
Soapstone is either massive or flaky depending on the talc and chlorite content.
Natural talc is white, yellow, gray, pale green or pale blue and soft.
Chlorite is a group of rocks forming minerals which are soft and usually green. They can also be white, yellow, red, lavender or black.
In Norway, soapstone was considered a valuable commodity because the quarries were often referred to as silver mines.Soapstone is safe to use in your oven. This is a soapstone fact! Soapstone is among the most indestructible and lasting rocks.The beauty of the Hoysala temples , in India,particularly, their intricate carvings owes a lot to one material – Soapstone. Unlike granite, sandstone and marble used in the construction of most of India’s ancient monuments, soapstone is softer with some peculiar properties that set it apart from the former materials. To give you an idea , the softer version of the soapstone can be carved even with your finger nail.images_22


Technically soapstone contains magnesite, dolomite, chlorite and talc . The content of talc is what gives the soapstone its soft property. Also unlike a lot other stones (marble for example ) , soapstone is inert to chemicals. That is neither its surface color nor the texture changes with exposure of chemicals. Even if it does, the change happens only on the surface layer that can be easily polished off.
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
To determine if the piece that you have in your collection is true Soapstone, and not resin made from a casting mold there are two simple tests that you can conduct.  To determine if your piece is a form of resin or plastic, heat up a standard straight pin, (the pin needs to be red-hot), then push the pin into the bottom of the piece in question.  If the pin melts its way into the material then it is definitely NOT Soapstone.  The other test that you can perform is to scrape some material off from the bottom of the piece.  If it is real Soapstone, these shavings will have no odor and will feel like talcum powder, slippery to the touch.images_20
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
So there you have it.Its pretty easy to maintain and looks gorgeous. Beauty and functionality in one.
On this note, I shall love you and leave you. Be safe in whatever you do…..

I Love Tea/Chai

Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2Hello beautiful people,

I hope every one has been fine and doing well since our last meeting .If you remember, the last time I wrote about Indian Tunics and Kurtis. This time I wanted to feature another article that you will shortly find on Totally bananas. Indian Tea .

I  think that every one of us is familiar with tea as we all drink it, some more than other’s I’m sure. In India , in every street corner you will find a Dhabba or tea stall as they are more commonly called where they are busy making tea, all kinds of tea, (with milk, spices, sugar or shakkar and even Gur or Jaggery )Tea is made both at home and outside. Outside the home, tea is most commonly and easily found at the ubiquitous tea stalls that dot just about every street in India. The tea stall has become a part of the urban landscape and a cultural institution.220px-India_-_Varanasi_chai_tea_-_1420

As you all know I am a coffee addict but even I cannot restrain myself and say no to a good cup of chai. My childhood days can be remembered drinking a hot cup of chai in the winter all cuddled up in a jaipuri quilt hearing the rain beat down on the roof, chatting with friends. These days I sit here on my own on a really cold day with my quilt wrapped around me and reminisce about the good old days gone by, missing my land of birth and those days I make a hot cup of masala chai and it keeps me warm and brings a smile to my lips..Chai is India, sitting in the train and hearing the chai wallah screaming Chai, Garam Chai (Chai, Hot Chai) at every station and serving it in little clay pots.The tea just tastes different. So tasty, the taste of home in fact…220px-ASSAM_LANDSCAPE-teaworkerredshirt

India has quite a reputation throughout the world for its tea plantations mainly in Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Cachar, Sylet Hills, Khangra, Kerela, Nilgiri, Terai and Travancore. The culture still continues, and especially the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars tea has immense popularity worldwide even today.

The world of tea has hardly changed in the past century in the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars region. The culture surrounding the huge tea plantations is a unique phenomenon, and is a lifetime experience.220px-Darjeeling_Tea_Garden

There are several stories about discovery of Tea in India, but the most widely accepted story goes back to about 1815, when  the confirmation of Tea was declared, specifically called the Assam Tea.copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpg

It was almost 175 years ago, the race for growing tea in India began. One of the major reasons was that the Assam Tea was much superior to the Chinese Tea and the English entrepreneurs could easily grow it here in India, and sell the finished product abroad. The plantation consisted of pure Chinese plants, pure Assamese plants and also mixed plants producing the best of the Indian Tea. Within no time, tea, which was a secret known only to the Singpho community, turned into huge plantations and a global business.  

In the process, a new kind of society developed based on these plantations. The owners and management force were called the ‘Planters’. They were in those days mainly English, Scottish and Irish. They tried to create a small world of their own, which could be similar to their home, yet tuned with the local culture and atmosphere. They created a ‘Bungalow Culture’ which still can be experienced and a well trained local man power who could serve the Memsahibs and Sahibs.

There are two forces in the tea gardens or estates, the management and the labour force. The labour forces were mainly tribal people from Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Nepal. The best part of the tea laborers were and are still, the women, who are better recognized then the men in this industry. A part of the profits were used to create shelter, medical services, children’s crèches and schools etc. The lives of the tea labour villages are most of the time better than most of the agricultural villages in the East and Northeast part of India. Their original culture, along with the tea culture has given birth to a folk practice, which is very much a character of a tea plantation.

The history and culture behind the everyday cup of tea can only be discovered after living a couple of days in the tea gardens.

The cultivation of tea in India  has a long history. Commercial production began with the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production. The widespread popularity of tea as a recreational drink began in the 1950s._DSC0132

Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, though over 70% of the tea is consumed within India itself. A number of renowned teas, such as Assam and Darjeeling, also grow exclusively in India. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands, and has evolved to one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world.

India used to be the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but recently China has overtaken India as the top tea producer due to increased land availability.

The major tea-producing states in India are:  Assam,West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarkhand, Manipur, Mizoram , Meghalaya, Bihar,  and Orissa._DSC0127

The cultivation and brewing of tea in India has a long history of uses . The practice of Ayurveda  resulted in a long standing tradition of tisanes, (an infusion  of dried herbs, used as a beverage for medicinal effects). Traditional Indian kitchens have long utilised the medicinal benefits offered by various plants and spices such as Basil (Tulsi), Cardamom (Elaichi), Pepper (Kali Mirch), Licorice (Mulethi), mint(Pudina), etc., and traditionally, tisanes made with these plant leaves and/or spices have been in use for centuries for maladies ranging from the serious to the trifling. Tea also serves as a 

vehicle for these traditional tisanes. The taste of chai (sweet and milky) helps disguise the stronger and more bitter flavors of some of the medicinal additives, while other, more pleasant flavors such as cardamom and ginger add a pleasing flavor and aroma to the tea along with health benefits._DSC0125

The consumption of tea in India was first clearly documented in the Ramayana (750-500 BC). It was indigenous to eastern and northern India, and was cultivated and consumed there for thousands of years.

Tea cultivation in India has somewhat ambiguous origins. Though the extent of the popularity of tea in ancient India is unknown, it was thought  that the tea plant was a wild  in India and was  brewed by local inhabitants of different regions. One can only speculate that tea leaves were widely used. Many of the origin myths for tea are found in Chinese mythology, and the first verifiable records for tea consumption also point towards China.

In 1598, a Dutch traveler, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book that the leaves of the Assam tea plant were used by Indians as a vegetable, eaten with garlic and oil, and as a drink.The same year, another reference to tea in India was recorded, by a different group of Dutch explorers._DSC0133

In the early 1820s, the british began large-scale production of tea in Assam. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the start of the 20th century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world. Seeds were procured from China in the beginning some planted in the hill districts of South India, and some in the hill districts in Kumaon in North India and Upper Assam on the north east frontier. It was only later that the indigenous plants were used. Today, the Chinese strain produces Darjeeling and the indigenous  Assamese variety produces the remainder of the tea produced in India.

Typically, tea in India is consumed with both milk and sugar. but the tea leaves are not prepared separately by being steeped. Instead, the tea leaves are boiled along with certain spices, and then boiled again after the addition of milk and sugar. Sometimes the tea leaves themselves are used as flavoring. In fact if you ever visit a village you are treated like royalty and the tea that is offered is made entirely of milk. They just add tea leaves and sugar to milk boil it and serve it to you in tiny clay pots especially made to serve tea in.There are many varieties of tea available  these days.120px-TeaCups

Orthodox Tea(Leaf Teas)

This tea is blackish / brownish in appearance and is comprised of four main categories:

Whole Leaf:-Long and Wiry,

Broken:-, smaller in size.

Dust:-The smallest particles-powder.

In the cup, Orthodox Teas are generally bright and brisk. The whole leaf grades are lighter than the broken. In fact, the smaller the leaf particle, the more color and body it infuses.

CTC Teas(Granular)

This tea is blackish / brownish and the   process of manufacture makes the tea granular. CTC brews quickly and makes a full bodied gustier cup than Orthodox Tea.

Green Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are processed differently and are greenish in leaf color, giving a very mild pale yellowish green liquid.

White Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are hand processed and semi-fermented. Only the delicate buds (middle leaf) are used.

Darjeeling Tea:-Teas grown on the misty heights of the Hill District of Darjeeling, popularly known as the ” Champagne of Tea’s” are famous the world over, for their exquisite aroma and taste. The premium Darjeeling Teas are generally mild in character and have distinctive natural fruity or Muscatel flavors. Undoubtedly – the best teas in the world and the most sought after by connoisseurs. Darjeeling produces the highest quality but the quantity produced is less than 2% of the total tea produced in India . The bulk of the Darjeeling  tea is comprised of _DSC0126

 Orthodox Teas, and high quality, unfermented, Green Teas are also manufactured selectively. Some premier Tea Gardens also manufacture the semi-fermented White Teas.


The tea cultivation begun in the nineteenth century by the British, however, has accelerated to the point that today India is listed as the world’s leading producer, and of course, the teas of Assam, Ceylon, (from the island nation known as  Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous.

 

 

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Nilgiri Tea:-Teas grown in the South Central region of India , known as the Nilgiri Hills or Blue Mountains , in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both Orthodox as well as CTC Teas are manufactured here and are comparatively lower in quality and cheaper in price to other Indian Teas.

 

Terai/Dooars:-The foothills of Darjeeling are known as Terai and the plains further North East, stretching along the Bhutan border upto the Assam border, are known as Dooars. This area, too, produces mostly CTC Teas and some Orthodox & Green Teas. Are you the daring type and do you like to try new things? New adventures, If so then I have the perfect thing for you. A few recipes only the daring would love to try. You will look at tea in a very different way once you try some of these. Go Ahead I dare you to…

Rum Punch

The ideal drink for those cold wintery nights. Brew a tumbler of Hot Darjeeling tea. Take about 50 ml of rum. Flambe the Rum, mix it into the tea, add sugar to taste and serve with a slice of lemon.

Ice tea Magic

Brew Tea the normal way . Before serving, fill 3/4 of a tall glass with crushed ice and pour the tea into the glass. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a couple of slices of lemon and some sugar to taste. A sprig of mint enhances the taste. Cool for a few minutes and enjoy the magic of Iced Tea.

Masala Chai

Mix a cup each of milk and water in a kettle and put to boil. Grind a clove, a stick of cinnamon with a few strands of saffron and put into the boiling mixture. Add two teaspoons of strong Nathmulls Assam C.T.C. Tea and Sugar to taste. Boil for a couple of minutes till the mixture becomes caramel coloured. Strain and serve hot.

something to help you sleep

Fill 1/2  a Tumbler with freshly made Assam Tea. Add a stick of cinnamon and a couple

of tablespoons of whisky. Stir in some milk and a teaspoon of honey for sweetening. Really helps .

 

Drinking 5 to 6 cups of black tea a day helps control your cholestrol level, decreasing the chances of a heart attack. It gives you relief from fatigue, headache, depression and relaxes your body muscles. Tea tempers the spirit, harmonises the mind, awakens your thoughts, prevents drowsiness and refreshes your mind and body.

 

Tea  reduces skin damage and acts as a stress reliever. Many world famous perfume brands use tea infused fragrances.

 

Polyphenols are responsible for the flavor and color of the brewed beverage. 


 

Tea has practically no calories and is suitable for dieting if taken without milk or sugar or any other additive.

 

Green Tea is an un -fermented tea and is among the richest source of Antioxidants.  It has been said that tea helps in digestion, helps dissolve fats and neutralizes poison in the digestive system and cures dysentery. Its astringency is used for cleaning sores and is also recommended as an eyewash as well as a mouthwash. Brewed tea leaves placed over the eyes are good for refreshing puffy or tired eyes.

On this note I wish you all adieu as I need to get back to my chai which is simply smelling heavenly and sitting here next to me steaming away gently waiting for me to take that first sip of manna from heaven.. Its raining cats and dogs outside and I cant wait to take a wander down memory lane with my cuppa Chai..

I love you all. Be safe .

Until the next time….

 Sources:- Wikipedia.  The free Encyclopedia , The Tea Board of India, www.delhimagic.com