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July 28, 2019 2 min read


Am talking of the good Indian boiled Chai – with the milk & sugar and water & tea leaves all boiled together for a long time. [Not to be mistaken with the other warm-water-with-tea-leaves that also goes by the same name].

If there is one thing the Bombay household cannot live without – it is Chai.

A guest visits – he is offered Chai as soon as a small silent gap in the conversation allows it. A repairman is offered Chai. Office-goers get corporate-sponsored Chai twice a day (at least). I cannot imagine working in any office in Bombay that did not arrange for my Chai fixes…. Unthinkable. The thousands of foot-soldiers of the corporate world – the peons, the couriers, the taxi drivers, the sales teams all thrive on the roadside Chai sellers – and alll fifty thousand of them make excellent Chai.

Having discovered Nukkad-chaiwalas in small gullys that sold 20 varieties of Chai at the age of 16, I felt like a well-exposed Chai fan. Masala Chai, Ginger Chai, Elaichi Chai, Lemongrass Chai and Pudina Chai are the more commonly known ones that even my grandma made at home. And over the years of gallavanting I knew the best nukkad Chai walas in the areas I regularly visited (one simply cannot know ALL in Mumbai). So the matter of Chai knowledge was settled. I knew everything there was to know.

Until yesterday.

I was in the local market in Goa trying to get some sofa cushion-covers changed. Having discovered a small shop in a small lane with a large sewing machine for large projects, I sat down to discuss the details the young tailor. We talked of material options & costs & his life in Goa & his history etc etc.

And little by little I became aware of the fragrance of Chai being boiled! If you know you know. Very distracting.

So I stepped out to investigate.

And found a shop of “Tandoori Chai”

This was an assault on many fronts. On my imagination of my tastebuds. On my ego – how come I was so late in hearing about this! On the ego of my beloved Nukkad-chai-walas of Bombay? Who had ever heard of Chai-innovation coming out of a small shop in a small gully in Goa!

The settled order of my Chai universe had been challenged!

There was nothing to do but to partake of that Chai and see if this threat even meant anything.

Maybe it just a few words thrown together like the “chai latte’ that it is best to snigger at and ignore…

So I did.

And it was fabulous.

Completely taken aback by the novelty value. And the flavour of smoked coal. And the innovative process. Absolutely amazing.

And the credit goes to a Kolhapuri who has set up this shop.

It is in a tiny shop in a small gully in a small resdential area. No frills. At all.

No fancy seating. Or air-conditioning. Or fancy waiters. Or atmosphere. All that is available 5 minutes away in a Taj Vivanta 5-star hotel.

But here you will get just a kulhad earthen cup of superb Tandoori Chai.



july 2019

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