Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ek Cup Chai


Why is it coffee with Karan and not chai with Karan?

It was a few days ago, over a cup of coffee only, that we started discussing that why do we have so many coffee chains in our country but none which treat tea as their center of attraction. Though there are some good tea bars where the menu is designed to offer a rich selection of teas but there is nothing in the league of the popular coffee chains which have an expansive network and are popular among the masses. We pondered over this point for a while, after all tea is the quintessential drink over which matters of national interests are discussed in this nation. I pointed out that may be it is the way coffee has been marketed over the years where it has become synonymous with a hearty conversation, something which is yet not associated with tea. Then I thought that it could be the effect of Starbucks with others merely trying to imitate the concept of creating an experience around coffee beans. It can also be the fact that with coffee you can offer a variety probably not possible with tea. Or is it that the young crowd, who end up being the target audience, cannot mix their cakes and brownies with a cutting chai. Maybe for us tea is simply a beverage which we like to have at home or a roadside “tapri” and may not be willing to pay for it in a café. The discussion was left unconcluded as all of the above were possible explanations but not valid if you went into nitty gritties. However I did think that someone ought to give it a try and make tea more synonymous with the idea of lounging around.
This weekend while we were out for our weekly chore of stocking up on grocery at Galleria, I spotted Chaayos. The punch line read “Experiments with tea”. Reminded of our discussion we walked in to see what this cafe had to offer. As you enter you notice a big menu on a black board offering the Desi Chai with options of as many as twelve spices as add-ons. You could have it kadak, go the irani way with extra milk or pick the sulemani version without milk. Then there were the usual classic teas which are normally available in most of the cafes like the Earl Grey, Darjeeling etc. A hint of novelty was given by the list of specialty teas on offer like the Kashmiri Kahwa. Finally there were the wild experiments like tea with chocolate syrup and chili flakes which should raise curiosity in anyone. As much as I wanted to experiment, I went for my all-time favorite i.e. the masala chai or “Sab Kuch chai “as they called it.
You get a truly desi snack when you complement the masala chai with a maska bun which I had to order as soon as I saw it in the menu. It brought back the memories of having chai and maska bun right across the IIM main gate in Ahmedabad during my years at Nirma. Within a few minutes our tea was served and to our delight it had the perfect aroma and taste. It was just the kind of tea which you rarely get in regular cafes. The fact that they made it the way we would make it at home instead of using readymade mixes or tea bags, made all the difference.
Apart from serving a delightful cup of my favorite beverage Chaayos has also tried to add fun to the idea of having tea. I have been to the other exclusive tea bars like the Tea Centre in Church gate, Mumbai or The Teapot in South Point Mall (Gurgaon) but both of them have an extremely formal setting. They do not encourage open hearted and candid conversations which you would associate with the likes of CCD. In stark contrast Chaayos has walls full of illustrations which revolve around tea. Here tea is served in paper cups with funny phrases on them instead of being served in exquisite cutlery. And obviously you can have maska bun along with your tea
I don’t know if Chaayos can be as big as CCD but I know that I would be going there very frequently!