My uncle always says,” Asking if one wants a cup of tea and saying no to tea when offered, is a Sin”. He loves tea, and is exceptionally emotional about it. He explained once, that tea should be cooked over low flame for 10-15 minutes. He said,” don’t be lazy, crush some cardamom seeds and grate some ginger. Add it to the tea and cook it. That’s how you make a fine cup of Masala Chai.”
Tea has always been an integral part of different cultures in India, and each one has its own speciality; like Qahwa/Kahwa from Kashmir, to the butter gud-gud chai from Ladhak. The most common one is the doodh-ki-chai runs across regions.
I have great love for tea except for this milky concoction (be it masala chai, katting chai or the simple chai). It has somehow never pleased my tastebuds; it did not when I had it in Kerala (Chayum as they call it in Malayalam), nor did it when I had at famous Fareed’s in Bhopal, not even in my own house. But I do have it once in a while (probably just to fit in). I figured it is better to have a cup of chai than answer questions like “What!! how can you not like tea?” or “you are joking right?” or “Well one cup won’t hurt you?”.
Back in 2014 a classmate told me about a little book cafe in Connaught Place, where she had delicious Fish ‘n’ Chips at very reasonable prices. I was intrigued. As a student I never had any money and the thought of cheap food gave me immense happiness. Since then i have been an ardent lover of this little cafe. It is located right next to the Oxford Bookstore (The concept is inspired from the Calcutta Oxford Bookstore).
An acquaintance told me that this is perhaps the only place where the food prices came down over time. It used to be expensive as long back it was inside the Statesman House building. It hasn’t moved far from its original location and is right right behind the building now.
Upon entering there is some Urdu poetry (in roman script) written on walls. A couplet by Mir Taqi Mir which reads:
“Dilli jo ek sheher tha aalam mein intekhab,
rehte the muntakhab hi jahaan rozgaar ke”
This is an except of the original:
“Kya bood-o-bash poochhe ho Purab ke sakino
hum ko gharib jaan ke hans hans pukar ke
Dilli jo aik shehar tha aalam mein intekhaab
Rehte the muntakhab hi jahan rozgaar ke
Jisko falak ne loot ke viraan kar diya
Hum rahnay walay hain ussi ujray dayar ke“
Mir laments the sacking and looting of his home, his beloved city- Delhi.
As you climb up the staircase you realise you have been transported into another realm; A realm made of books and tea. Because of its growing popularity it can be hard to find a table immediately, but the nearby book store can ease this pain. You can pick a book; read or glance through. There are some excellent choices ranging from fiction to non-fiction and photography. Just grab a book and order a cup of tea.
The menu boasts of a wide collection of teas, from herbal to flowering, to iced, to regional specials and many more. There are over 100 odd teas to choose from, which makes the choice very difficult.
The food served here is very simple and priced reasonably. I love their Fish ‘n’ Chips even though the Chips are the frozen Mc Cain fries. The shakes are delicious and so are the sandwiches. Their tea cakes are also worth a try. They are moist and soft and a warm slice of carrot cake goes well with their hibiscus tea.
Tea lover or not, you will definitely be in love with this tiny cafe, which is always bustling with activity.