To tea or not to tea is never the question. 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). And as I catch up with my friends after a hectic day of office over bhanrs of milky, sugary, slightly burnt tea, all the day’s stress melts away.
Tea is something which is intrinsically linked to most of our lives in more ways than one. There’s no better fuel to a jomati session of adda than the good, old cha, and every Calcuttan worth his penny will vouch for this.
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.
1. Karma Kettle, Ballygunge:
Karma Kettle retail is the perfect place to get the perfect gift for tea-lovers. They have assorted boxes for those looking to try out new blends, as well as pretty tin boxes of single flavours for those who have found their comfort. One can buy loose leaves, tea bags and tea-sticks here. For the uninitiated, Tea Sticks are the cool new thing in the tea scene and can be used in both hot and cold versions of the drink.
I loved the romantic nomenclature of their blends. Gulmarg was a tribute to the famous kahwah of Kashmir, Istanbul was a fruit-floral twist on the Turkish Apple tea. The fruity infusions were pretty interesting too. On one hand there was the predictable Aam Salaam with the punch of raw mango, and on the other there was the not-so-predictable Passionately, with passion fruit and ripe mango extracts. My personal favourite is the Maya, which is black tea with chocolate and a hint of cranberry.
2. The Whistling Kettle, Golpark:
A tiny piece Darjeeling nestled in the heart of Calcutta is what this place is. They sell and serve Nathmull’s line of tea, and the legendary Keventer style all-day breakfast. Their wooden floors, tea-flutes, meaty platters and the fresh brews is already a hit with the young and old alike. Their simple, old school sandwiches and muffins are the perfect accompaniments to their teas.
3. 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 am particularly fond of their Chilli-Chicken Wrap and the Cheese Chilli Toast. I love Cha Bar for its walls, its location and for the smell of new books in 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.
4. 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.
They also serve wholesome food like Roast Chicken and Pork Chops, with sides of mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies, thereby making them a full meal in themselves. The Lasagna here too, is worthy of mention.
5. Dolly’s Tea Shop, Dhakuria:
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. The Peppermint Lemon Ice-Tea is the perfect nectar if you need some rejuvenation and their Coconut Iced Tea, tastes as good as it looks (I prefer it without any sugar). I am a sucker for their Corny-Cheesy Sandwich and Orange Julep too.
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. Yes, the portion size is not very generous, but then again, the melting chunks of cheese make up for it!
6. The Tea Trove, Deshapriya Park:
One of the peppier places to have a good choice of teas in the city is the Tea Trove. It has quite a few branches in the city and is sure to charm every tea lover with their aromatic brews. For those who like their tea with a twist, they have pretty tea popsicles perfect for the sultry summers.
Because, as I always say, to tea or not to tea is never a question.😎