I have said this before, I am a tea lover. But if there is something better than chai it is kulhad wali chai. On a recent trip to Thailand a mate asked if I missed home food on my trips? I told her more than food I miss ghar ki chai! There is something about chai the desi chai that feels just so right! And there is a good corner shop in Indrapuram, Ghaziabad that sells chai in a kulhad.
I frequent the shop because it is close to my sister’s place. It is simply named Pandey Tea Stall, located close to Shipra Mall. There is a local complex opposite the main entrance of Shipra Mall where you find custom sized good’s shop, PP Jewellers, SRS Jewellers etc. This shop is next door to the SRS Jewellers. There are other small eating places around it.
Going by the crowd that gathers around the shop, it is already quite popular in the vicinity. Actually there are two brothers who run the shop. They know us by face as we have been going there for a while now.
Close to Diwali I asked one of the brothers if they were going home, to which he said, no there was so much work, he would manage to go home only after Diwali.
I have to say the general area could do with a bit of face lift. The sidewalks are dusty and not too clean. There are a few rickety tables and chairs. But they are mostly occupied. And if I find them empty, the previous occupants would leave their empty cups/kulhads on the table even though there are dustbins a few feet away. They serve tea in paper cups too but I always ask for it in a kulhad.
I clear the table myself and I make sure I clear it after we have finished our tea. We often go and sit on a railing nearby. So you see, the ambiance certainly could be improved.
But then the chai is top class. Even tough I stopped taking sugar in my chai a long time ago, he puts so little that I don’t mind. I don’t know what he does with adrak (ginger) but it gives just the right flavor to the chai. However, I feel his kulhad is too small! In reality it is not but the tea vanishes just too fast. He sells a cup for 10 rupees, all that bliss just for 10 rupees! As the brats of my family say, in Dwivedi family no one says no to tea!
This is an ode to chai, not tea, not green tea nor anything else. If I would be more specific it is an ode to adrak wali chai, kullad wali chai (chai served in a small earthen mug), the desi chai!
It is strange that up to my undergrad studies I kept away from tea entirely. It was sometime during my masters that I started drinking tea and the relationship just grew stronger with each passing day.
I can drink chai is all forms- Jasmine tea, herbal tea, black tea and everything in-between. I would not complain if I get to drink only these on some of my trips but if I am given a choice it has to be the desi, boiled tea with ginger and if possible masala. If it is served in a kullad all the more better!
When I was doing my Ph.D. Brijlal ji used to make tea in a small corner. His tea was quite popular throughout the institute. He was the most acknowledged person in our dissertations as well.
Then came this trend of what a friend used to call nash tea (nash in Hindi relates to destruction or generally used in sense of ‘no good’) or simply nasty. This is how chai made with tea bags was referred to back in late 1990s. I now drink a lot of nash tea at work because there is nothing else that is available.
For me tea goes well with hot milk. I have had tea served as a brew to which you can add milk, usually cold milk! Now that is not my idea of tea. But I will drink it still.
I have to make a special mention of Kahwa, the Kashmiri tea. It is made without milk but after chai I really truly liked it. That reminds me that my kahwa jar is over and I need to find my way back to Kashmir somehow.
And then there is tea that you get in the hills, the pahadi chai! I wonder what they add to it, or is it the weather that makes it taste so good.
My only regret is that I had to give up on sugar in my chai. I drink a lot of chai throughout the day and if I took it with sugar, I would gain even more weight. But I developed a taste of it now and I actually quite like it. I am actually surprised that it took me so long to write an ode to chai which I relish so much on a daily basis!
Before arriving at Gulmarg I had vaguely heard of Kahwa. By the end of the trip I became a die hard fan of the drink. Every time I had tea at The Khyber at Gulmarg it was Kahwa. They have a dedicated tea lounge called Chaikash. It was a much frequented place by all of us. And every time I was asked what I would like to have I would reply ‘kahwa.’ I did not drink any other tea for the whole duration and that says a lot. Otherwise I am much more of a masala/adrak chai kind of a person.
Kahwa at Chaikash, The Khyber, Gulmarg
It is a tea that has almond flakes, cinnamon and cloves, green tea, and sometimes I could taste adrak (ginger) too. It has no milk. It has a pleasing aroma and it tastes perfect in the cold weather! I am told that one can buy tea bags of Kahwa and use it. I am now on a lookout for it.
Now that is What I Call High Tea!
This is another cup of Kahwa which I was sipping in the balcony of Nouf. And if I would have clicked every cup I drank there would have been at least 30 pictures! Tea tastes really magical high up in the mountains and Kahwa specially so. Chaikash was our waiting area and as soon as I would sit a member of staff would come and ask if I would like to have tea or coffee? And my nephew says that in Dwivedi Khandan chai ko koe mana nahin karta hai! (In Dwivedi family no one says no to tea). So I would always ask for a cup of Kahwa and enjoy waiting for others. If you have not tried Kahwa till now go ahead give it a try!
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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