Few other things offer greater pleasure to me than a sip of that perfect blend of Camellia sinensis. Well, if you think you have accidentally clicked on some science journal, let me tell you, it is the “Bhalo-naam” for our “Tea”.
So I was quite excited when I got an invite for the coveted Tea Trail organized by the Times of India. It was like a pilgrimage to me, where I could visit my favourite haunts in Kolkata, along with fellow enthusiasts, who share the same cravings for the Heavenly spirit, as I call it.
The birth of the beverage is mired in myth and legend. It is said that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong was returning from a fierce battle, when he decided to rest awhile under the shade of a tree. He was served with hot water to take away his fatigue. It was by chance, that a leaf from the tree above, fell into the water. The King was ecstatic with the flavor of the substance, and decided to take the leaves back home with him. Cultivation was started, and thus tea came into being. It is not known whether he had uttered any “Eureka” word then, but Tea definitely has been one the greatest discoveries of mankind !
(Also note: all great breakthroughs/developments from Buddhism to gravity have been made sitting under trees, hence the need to conserve them )
For me, Saturday evenings couldn’t be better planned. With the winter chill slowly setting in, what better way to dispel our midday mediocrity than some hot cups of the beverage. Our first stop was at Balwant’s, a name that doesn’t need any introduction in Kolkata. Their legendary Hindustani Chai (the spicy Indian tea), that’s blended with bold aromatic spices, and with generous servings of milk and sugar – is the ideal stimulant for your lagging brain. Holding the cha-bhar in your hand, you first need to feel that aroma slowly rising from the cup, before it hits you hard as you take the first sip.
And to top it all, we were served by none other than Balwant Singh (Jr), who narrated stories of how his father had braved all odds to set up this shop. Sardarji was in a good mood, and obliged each one of us for that customary selfie. “Agli bar ana, toh hamara Doodh-Cola zaroor peena” he signed off, referring to the other drink his shop is famous for !
Our next stop was Sharma’s, another Dhaba serving tea to the tea-hungry people of Kolkata since time immemorial. It has its outlets spread all over the city, and we went to the one at Ballygunge Phari. We were just in time to catch some hot jalebis too, fresh from the pan!
We had several bhars of the “Ek meel ka cha” as they call the tea here, made by boiling tea leaves with water for some time, which is supposed to be a hot favourite of the Truck-walas in the highways, as it keeps them going for miles !
We were now literally burping tea, so it was time for some Kochuris at Maharani, another famed outlet for the roadside tea in Kolkata, near Desapriya park.
Passers by gave us curious glances, but we were too busy in taking pictures and indulging in the adda. The Bengali is known for his Adda-prem, and what better than a cup of tea to have it on. Coming from all walks of life, Tea had become a common ground for sharing our passions, interests and views on life.
After we could literally have no more, we decided to move on to Dolly’s, to get a different taste of the stuff. Known for its flavoured Teas(Makaibari et al !), this is the place to be if you like to spend hours chatting over your beverage. It is located in Dakshinapan Shopping Complex near Dhakuria, and ranks among my top spots for that evening meet with friends.
Our last destination was Shyamal’s, opposite Jadavpur University gate, which is famous for its “Cutting Chai”. Served hot in a bhar, it was the perfect sip to end the evening with. I had made a lot of friends, and we promised to set out on trails of our own in the city, that has many more such jewels to offer.
And to top it all, we also got to spend some moments with Mainak Bhaumik (of Bedroom, Take one and Mach,Mishti and More fame), who took time off his busy schedule to have a few sips with us !
(Archya, in his own words, is the trying-to-be-global bangali babu, who is attempting to carve out a niche for himself in blogosphere, having had mixed results in Medicine Practice. In short, a struggling artist
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