I’ve been a coffee person ever since I can remember. Until a self-inflicted weight loss spree I went on roughly three years ago where I drank copious amounts of green tea. (Eating a pizza and then drinking five cups of green tea, does not ‘balance it out’ FYI.) And then there was no looking back. I’ve begun to enjoy tea in all it’s forms and all it’s glory – may it be a cup of herbal tea or a strong Earl Grey or a kulhad of desi chai!
Tea Cafes have become the new coffee shops. Barring the few mass produced, international coffee shop chains I don’t seem to hear of any new coffee joints launching recently. Tea houses are in vogue now, just like how fashion re-invents itself.
And everyone’s favorite suburb, hipster capital of Mumbai – Bandra – is sprouting tea cafes everywhere you look. I can proudly and safely say that I’ve visited them all, a few of them multiple times, and I am listing down my favorite three! Stick out your pinkie finger, take a sip, and read on.
Chaayos, Bandra Reclamation
After their extremely successful stint in Delhi, Chaayos arrived to Mumbai a month ago, with their mustached mascot, serving up desi ‘chai’ in all forms imaginable. Their claim to fame is that they can customize your chai in 12,000 possible ways – giving you the option of choosing your chai patti (regular/kadak), milk (paani kum, full doodh, doodh kum etc.) and add ons such as tulsi, adrak, elaichi and even hari mirch!
Must Try their good ol’ Kulhad chai served in a traditional kulhad – if only we had winters like they do in Delhi! Their Hari Mirch chai with a chilli after taste, that hits the back of your throat without being too pungent receives full marks for innovation and execution. Ooh, also try their Aam Papad chai – this non milk tea comes sweetened with aam papad syrup, which is quite popular I believe.
Skip their Elaichi Masala Chai Frappe that definitely needs more chai and less elaichi flavoring so that it doesn’t taste like thandai. Also their Bun Maska was a burger bun complete with sesame seeds that left the Bawi in me outraged.
Go If you are a fan of Indian chai. Chaayos deserves a pat on the back for taking Indian masala milk tea, and elevating it’s status with different flavour combinations. Do try their desi hot teas, and all day nashtas from their very well priced menu.
Taj Mahal Tea House, Bandra Reclamation
I cannot get enough of this old world, colonial bungalow that is now converted into a tea house. I guarantee you’ll feel like you have been transported into another era. Or atleast another city. The interiors are homely and comforting yet vintage and artistically done. I could spend an entire day just reading a book there with a cuppa tea – which is what I did on three occasions – and not feel bored.
Must Try the in-house tea blends made with Taj Mahal tea which are what I have every time I am there. The creamy, sweet Malabari coconut tea is the best of the lot. I also enjoyed the Parsi ‘choi’ – similar to what we make at home. They also do a high tea platter which is worth indulging in if you’re looking to have a giggly time with your girlfriends.
Skip their iced teas! My Guava cooler was cloyingly sweet with barely any guava flavour – one more sip and my teeth would have fallen out. Ditto for the Pink lemonade.
Go If you’re looking for a relaxing time, sipping luxurious teas on a sprawling property that is so hard to find in our city. The beautiful ambiance makes it worth every penny spent!
The XVII Tea Room, Pali Hill
Opulent chandeliers hang from the ceiling and give company to a hand painted Alice in Wonderland-ish mural complete with teapots, cats, and a girl on a swing. The XVII tea room is the older of the Bandra tea cafes. but has been consistently good on every visit of mine. An interesting but limited tea range, and an all vegetarian snack menu is on offer.
Must Try their strawberry Basil Tea – a lovely strawberry flavoured tea which is not cloyingly sweet, and has a lingering basil aftertaste. The Spicy Guava Tea is a lovely combination of guava and desi spices – perfect for when you’re under the weather. Also try Dutch Pancakes or poffertjes which are smaller miniature pancakes and came floating in maple syrup.
Skip the lackluster coffees – why have so many coffee options in a tea room?
Go If you’re looking at sipping on some innovative black and green tea flavours – lychee, guava, mulled apple, and rose! I also particularly enjoyed their sencha tea and white tea which is comfortably priced between Rs 100-120.
So much to tea, so little time! I am loving this wave of tea cafes that has hit the city, and I for one am ready with my surf board.
(The author dined anonymously and paid for her own meals. The views are unbiased and entirely her own.)