A long, deep breath of Calcutta air during the winter months, bring with it the smell of freshly baked tea-cakes, komla lebu, boroline, fulkopi-r shingara and of course, freshly brewed tea.
Cha and boroline – these two apparently mundane and disconnected things, are the primary weapons of mass survival for the sheeth-katurey Bangali, during the cold, cruel months of winter (“Orey Baba! 18°C it is). Some might argue that the Monkey-cap easily topples these two, but honestly the kids these days have managed to gravitate towards skull-caps, beanies or even ear-muffs, which double up as ear-phones, thereby pushing the monkey-tupis in the periphery.
Well, I have always been a tea person, much like the rest of my family. The first thing I do after reaching office is to nag my Canteen-Dada to give me my mug of hot water to dip my tea bag into (my stash at office currently has Moroccan Mint Tea, Tulsi Green Tea and Earl Grey).
Also, there’s no better fuel to a jomati session of adda than the good, old cha. As I catch up with my friends after office over bhanrs of milky, sugary, slightly burnt tea, all the day’s stress melts away. For a jazzed up version of the drink, I love the fruit-teas by Typhoo. They are equally great in both, hot and cold, avatars. My favourite is the iced version of the black current tea.
Now, the thing about tea is that, it is never complete without ‘TAA’ or the accompaniment. While the biskoot is the most common of those, other popular options range from muffins, to shingara, telebhaja; from sandwiches to muri-chanachur. The more adventurous ones will even fold up a non-suspecting luchi, dip it into the cup of sweet tea and bite off half of it. Having tried this myself, I can assure that this duo makes for a good pair.
My favourite place for a good tea is of course the Nathmulls in Darjeeling, West Bengal. Closer home, there are a few Calcutta tea houses which I love. This is the link to my favourite Tea-Rooms in the city:
1. The Cha Bar, Park Street:
Housed inside the Oxford Bookstore, this is the perfect place to nestle up with a cup of the golden brew, while flipping through your new book. And the walls are lovely, with tea-trivia strewn around. I particularly like their Chilli-Chicken Wrap, though the hit of chilli is missing in this one. Another bite which goes perfectly with a sip of the iced-tea, is the Cheese Chilli Toast. I love Cha Bar for its walls, is location and for the sheer smell of new books eating through the air.
P.S. It’s a pity that books cannot be taken to the tables of the Cha Bar unless one has purchased it.
2. First Flush, Golpark:
This newly opened Tea-Room, tucked in a lane near Golpark More, is a breath of fresh air among the mushrooming cafes around. The spacious area has been done up beautifully in white, with touches of red. And the best thing is that, the tables aren’t crammed inside, rather are arranged at a good distance from one another.
Tea is taken seriously here, and the pots nestled in tea-cosies, come with pretty little sand clocks to make sure the warm water is infused with the lovely tea leaves for the perfect amount of time, before being poured out.
The day I had gone to this place, on an invitation by SocialBong, I was pleasantly surprised to see a short yet immensely enjoyable show of stand-up comedy in full swing, inside the place.
They also serve wholesome food, and I tried quite a few of them. I particularly liked the Roast Chicken and the Pork Chops. These main courses come with sides of mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies, thereby making it a full meal in itself. The Lasagna here too, is worthy of mention. Also, you get the Dessert of the day for free with every order of a main course. Now, that’s a great deal, I felt.
3. Dolly’s Tea Shop:
This is the place which made me fall in love with tea, and made me understand that it is so much more than a syrupy hot brown liquid.
I am a sucker for their Corny-Cheesy Sandwich and also their Orange Julep.
The Peppermint Lemon Ice-Tea is the perfect nectar if you need some rejuvenation. But you might just consider specifying how sweet you want it to be, because otherwise some people will find it a little too much on the sweeter side. Their Coconut Iced Tea, tastes as good as it looks (I prefer it without any sugar).
And oh my god, I just can’t stop thinking about their ham pasta! Not a very orthodox pasta, but no less tastier than them. And the best part of it is that, the amount of ham is more than the amount of pasta. Yes, the portion size is not very generous, but then again, the melting chunks of cheese make up for it!
4. The Tea Trove, Deshapriya Park:
One of the peppier to have a good choice of teas in the city is the Tea Trove. It has quite a few branches in and around, but this one is my favourite. And the swing in the corner is definitely ‘My Spot’. The floor seating options are great too for bigger groups.
I love their salads, and love them more for the fact that they keep board games. Also, the place sells tea leaves and tea bags too, in a variety of types and flavours.