Chai... Chai Garam

Kolkata - the city of joy, the city of palaces, city of Indian Nobel laureates and so much more.

I have lived in this city for the past 20 years, and just as I have grown up in the city, the city too has grown on me. Every single day, Kolkata gifts me a new story to tell, a new canvas to paint, a new tune to hum, a new emotion to cherish and a new memory to preserve. Even after all these years, Kolkata never fails to delight me.

Speaking of all things Kolkatan, the one thing that comes to mind - making allowances for the avid chaa-khor (tea addict) that I am, are the numerous sprawling tea stalls in and around the city of Kolkata. The scene is almost the same in most of the stalls - a sauce pan of tea perpetually boiling on the fire, a few glass jars of biscuits adorning the front of the stalls, a variety of teas - dudh chaa (milk tea), lebu chaa (lemon tea), malai tea (cream tea), cutting chaa and sometimes special chaa - all on offer in these small stalls. The tea is usually served in little mud goblets (or bhaar - as they call it in Bengali) or in plastic or paper glasses.

Be it a cold December morning or a sultry July afternoon, the tea stalls in Kolkata are never devoid of people. Everyone - from office-goers, casual labourers and college students to couples, grandpas, grandmas, and the occasional tired traveller, visits tea stalls at different parts of the day to enjoy their glass of tea. In fact the tea stalls situated near shops or offices have orders to deliver tea at specific times, such is their spread and aura.

Kolkatans are so particular about their tea, that most even have a favourite tea stall at every major location in the city - the last in the row of tea stalls at Nimtala, the third stall in the second by-lane of Jadavpur, the corner stall near Hindustan Park in Behala... and the list goes on.

For Kolkatans - much like me, this cup of tea scores high above it fancy cousins, including the likes of hipster coffees and branded cappuccinos.

I have often wondered why these chaa-er dokaan have occupied such an important position in the heart of Kolkata. It is then that it occurs to me that perhaps it is not just the tea, but the atmosphere around these tea stalls that is so precious. Juxtaposed with the fast pace of city life, this is a place filled with adda, heart-to-heart talks, debates, discussions, arguments and agreements - and all of this without any malice. This is a place where people from all walks of life meet and mix, transcending the boundaries of class. Maybe, this is why the chaa-er dokaan - inspite of its shabby exterior and the demands of a fast paced life, finds an easy way into the heart of Kolkata.

To the average man of Kolkata this para (locality) tea stall is his cafe - his Coffee House.

So the next time you visit Kolkata, do drop by the average man's Coffee House.


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Comments (8)
Sagnik Reply
August 31, 2013
The middle class Kolkatans have a peculiar aspiration of becoming an intellectual lot and have some kind of fantasy regarding intellectualism... and that intellectualism among the middle class bengalis of Kolkata has a lot to do with chaa. It has somehow become a symbol of it. From cricket to Marxism... any argument that bengalis generally indulge in has one common thing... that is chaa... but one thing has been very rightly put by the blogger... that chaa-er dokaan cuts across all class divisions and people from every strata of the society have their share of the day when they spend a couple of minutes indulging themselves in hot-served chaa.
Arjama dutta Reply
August 18, 2013
I now know why I am your student... you have brought out one aspect of the true nature of Calcuttans... darun!
Shilpi Mukherjee
August 18, 2013
Thank you dear!
K k Dutta Reply
August 16, 2013
Cha chara kolkata... dhush... bhabai jai na. I travel extensively all over the country. Sara dinta facuse hoye thake. Shankardar dokaner cha na khele mejaj tai ashe na. Amar routine Airport land kore bari te dhokar age Shankar dar dokaner cha must...
Shilpi Mukherjee
August 17, 2013
Amar moton chaa pagol manush je aro ache, shune khub bhalo laglo. Tobe aapni je airport theke neme chaa kheye bari dhoken, eta shune besh besh bhalo laglo, a wonderful insight actually. On that note cheers to chaa!
Agnivo Reply
August 15, 2013
Cha - inseparable part of Kolkata life. No matter what time of the day, a cuppa is all we need to energise ourselves.
Parag Reply
August 14, 2013
Aamra jara Kolkata'r baire thaki bole bojhate parbo na eta kirakom baje bhabe miss kori... most importantly the flavour increases as u r having it in your chosen locations... nice one.
Shilpi Mukherjee
August 16, 2013
Yes, though I haven't been to any other place outside Kolkata, apart from trips, I can understand how much I will miss the tea and tea stalls here. :/. Thanks, for the appreciation though...
ahiri Reply
August 14, 2013
tea and kolkata ,we can say a deadly combination.we cant imagine kolkata without cha,people over here are pukka cha addict.its a kind of energy drink for us.ask any one they will reply the same dialogue"cha chara cholbe na".
Shilpi Mukherjee
August 17, 2013
That is one sloganeering that I would always do ):
Pori Reply
August 13, 2013
"Cha" and Kolkata - unbeatable combination. You brought out the earthy flavour - very enjoyable.
Kaibalya Dey Reply
August 13, 2013
ekta pahari pata somotole ese amader jibone otoproto vabe jorie ache..sobai take evabe somman dite pare na... sundor..
Shilpi Mukherjee
August 17, 2013
Tor lekhata o khub shundor... and you know that I owe some of those cups of tea to you too. Thank you for that :)
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