“Coffee is not my cup of tea. “
– Samuel Goldwyn
But I’ll let you in on a little secret.
My day doesn’t really begin until I’ve had my morning chai, brought to boil at least twice for an extra kick.
A kettle and an extra mug – or two – turned out to be the most useful things I could have taken to Oggsford, with my closest friendships at college forged when my neighbours dropped in for a chat and a cuppa.
And even today, it’s tea that I seek solace in when in need of comfort or for that extra push ahead of a looming deadline.
So now that I’m back in Bombay for a bit, I took hold of the tea-rrific opportunity to explore the city’s vibrant tea culture. Read on for my favourite finds.
1. Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House, Bandra
With its cosy corners and sunny alcoves, this colonial-style bungalow is fashioned as a home-away-from-home, ideal for whiling away those gloriously lazy afternoons… I did just that when I visited – curled up on a plush lounge chair, nose-deep in a book plucked off the shelves, as I tasted my way through the extensive tea menu showcasing Taj Mahal Tea’s signature blends.
Steeped with offbeat ingredients, it’s safe to say that the milky concoctions here are out of the ordinary, from the earthy flavours of the Karipatta Delight (infused with the spicy curry leaf) to the aromatic and sweetly textured Malabari Vanilla Coconut Tea. While the iced tea lemonades provide for a cool and milder alternative with a zesty ring.
The selection of eats reads off both inventive tea-suffused dishes and comfort fare like the brun maska, in addition to a high tea option… Despite the mixed reviews, I’m keen to try the food for myself next time I find myself in the ‘hood. Meanwhile if you have any recommendations, do drop in a comment below!
Taj Mahal Tea House, 36/A, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow St John Baptist Rd, General A.K.Vaidya Marg Bandra West, Mumbai
2. The XVII Tea Room, Bandra
The serene yet cheerful feel at XVII Tea Room positively reflects off the colourful mural adorning the walls of this Turner Road hangout. Regulars at this all-vegetarian cafe are drawn back for the flavoured tea infusions and orange chai, almost always had with a side of poffertjes. The mini Dutch-style pancakes are available with a tempting array of toppings from maple syrup to salted peanut butter sauce. I found that the two sticks of almond and chocolate chip biscotti served with my well-bodied cup of Nilgri – quite hit the spot too.
The XVII Tea Room, Shop no.1, Darvesg Royale, Perry Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai
3. Eat Thai, Bandra
I stumbled upon this suburban gem quite by chance, when I popped by to pick up a vegan chia seed pudding from Bowl Bar’s pop-up here (more on this, soon). It was one of those uncomfortably hot, sticky and humid afternoons… and Eat Thai’s Thai tea was just the cure to beat the heat! Chef Cham’s recipe is about as authentic as it gets, a combination of extracted tea, lemongrass and condensed milk balanced with a pinch of salt for a smoother texture. Poured over ice and garnished with evaporated milk, it’s one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had yet!
Eat Thai, 8/9, Gasper Enclave, Junction Of St John’s & Pali Road, Pali Naka, Pali Hill, Bandra West, Mumbai
4. The Tea Centre, Churchgate
A tea tour around the city would be incomplete without a stop at the Tea Centre. Run by the Tea Board of India, this old-world Bombay institution has been upholding the nation’s rich tea heritage for over 65 years now. Vintage vibes remain intact right right down to the wooden-handled copper bells sitting pretty on each table, although in keeping up with the times the menu has diversified to include specialities such as oolong and white teas, not to mention iced tea mocktails.
My recommendation? The classic hot buttered apple tea – fresh, pressed apple juice boiled with green tea leaves and lemongrass, brown sugar and a generous stick of butter (good ole Amul of course). The result is as every bit as richly delicious as it sounds and not unlike sipping a liquid pudding…
The Tea Centre, 78, Resham Bhavan, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai
5. Sancha Tea, Kala Ghoda
The Bombay branch of Master Tea Taster Sanjay Kapur’s (Delhi-based) tea boutique is a bright and airy space tucked away in the bylanes of Kala Ghoda. Sourced entirely from India, highlights from the wide-ranging selection include herbal and flower-based varieties of green and white teas with the likes of ginger, lemongrass, lavender and wild rose some of the many enticing infusions on offer. Even masala chai blends feature invigorating ingredients like fragrant “khus-grass” rose and vanilla pod… A visit here is a definite must for the unique sensory experience that it provides, from catching the scent of the aromatic teas to indulging in a little tasting session once you’ve fancied a whiff!
Sancha Tea Boutique, Opp Trishna restaurant, shop no 2a 11 Machinery house , Kalaghoda, Saibaba Rd, Fort, Mumbai
For recreating a fine tea experience at home…
My tea tour rounded off with a cuppa at home accompanied by a bevy of tea fancies courtesy The House of Tea. The luxury concept by the gourmet brand Foodhall, delivers a fine tea experience, beautifully packaged and complete with elegant tea pots and infusers!
Carefully curated from around the world by THT’s sommeliers, you can choose from an exquisite range of single estate teas and blends, from the sweetly smoky oolong tea to the antioxidant-packed matcha and a soothing “destress” infusion of green tea, lavender, orange zest, lemon balm, chamomile and rhododendron!
The treats seriously impress too. Standard tea-time sponge cakes are replaced with fluffy matcha-infused madeleines and mini pain de Gênes with a subtle kick of almond. Instead of cookies, we have crunchy biscotti, while the coconut macaroons are a refreshing change to macarons – their perfect golden exteriors giving way to a delightfully chewy centre. It’s an altogether indulgent affair!
Foodhall, Level 3, Palladium Mall, High Street Phoenix, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel West, Mumbai