Cha or Coffee – Kolkata Chronicles

Cha (tea) or coffee?

This is mostly the first question posed after the initial greetings to any guests. Though my mother an ardent tea lover never thought of giving that choice. It was tea all along. With milk or without was another question though. So as far as my experience goes Cha is an integral part and parcel of the Kolkata life.

Let me share one anecdote. A popular story goes by, that a royal Bengal tiger once escaped the zoo somehow (a detailed blog on Alipore zoo will soon follow), and arrived at a typical office. He hid behind the piles of dusty files, pending under red tape and was safe instantly. To satiate his hunger he would eat one of the officers each day. Nobody cared about the missing officers’ where about in the already overstuffed government department and the tiger lived happily until one day he made a mistake and ate up the chai wala*. The office went into a total frenzy. An immediate search party ensued and the tiger was recaptured.

This might be a joke, but, the relationship between Kolkata and its love for tea(cha) is a serious commitment. Their affair is steamier than any Mills and Boon romance and their bonding, stronger than fevicol ka zor.

And the quenching thirst for the perfect tea cannot be satisfied with those ‘videshi’ machines and the tea bags provided by some offices. It has to be the roadside stall ones served in the earthen cups locally knows as “bhar”. The taste is as much dependent on the right combination of the tea leaves, milk, sugar and the greasy pots as it is on the serving in a ‘bhnar’. And ask the ardent admirers, for them these tea sellers are no less than any talented artistes.
With swift speed the craftsmen would lay the clay cups in a line, add the sugar as per your requirement. Then the tea and milk are poured with the same vigor from an improbable height. The whole action and the brown clay give the tea its distinct taste and froth which is unparalleled. Even “The Guardian” in one of its articles in 2017 termed Kolkata chai as “The best street tea in India”.

One of my personal suggestion would be the ‘keshar cha’ of Balwant Singh Dhaba near SSKM or the small outlets near the Central Mall in Rajarhat. A small clay cup, filled to the rim, with a transparent coat of heavenly smelling smoke. Not to be gulped at once, but, relished with equally lazy talks and at the end a direct hit of the ‘precious earthen goblet’ into the dustbin. And for those who needs a “ta” with the “cha” there is always those not-so-costly biscuit range displayed in glass jars in front of the counter. The “prajapati biscuit” a must try.

As I rumble on about Chai, the Coffee lovers should not feel left out. Coffee is no less important. Kolkata is a home to numerous CCDs, Coffee World and Starbuck counters, but, when we pronounce coffee in Kolkata it is the one and only, Indian Coffee House or just Coffee House. This iconic place in the old city is witness to many a historical events and hosted a number of celebrities. The coffee is just an excuse. One usually visit out of sheer nostalgia or to meet up with friends. Situated at the juncture of College street, the Indian coffee house is as much about good coffee and food as it is a great place of ‘adda’. Seriously, what new can be added to define this epochal place which has not been said earlier.

So without much ado, I am signing off for today, leaving you to enjoy your favorite drink and a melodious song suggestion, “Coffee house er sei adda ta”. Until tomorrow.

Note : This blog is a part of the ongoing #BlogchatterA2Z challenge

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  1. The anecdote is hillarious. Loved reading this piece. Can’t help but connect this to the now popular “amra ki cha khabo na” trio going viral recently. Cha is love.

  2. Having chai in kulhhad (earthen cups) has its own speciality. I am neither a tea or a coffee drinker but given a choice, I prefer coffee.

  3. At specific times of the day I specifically want Tea or Coffee.. Replacing one with the other doesnt have the same effect! Pune offers something called Basundi Chaha (tea).. I have tasted tea in a kulhar outside Kolkata’s Botanical Garden .. it was amazing!

  4. I love our nation’s chai obsession. It brings so many people together. And so yum too! Glad to hear Kolkata shares that. What about the below 25 age group – do they still enjoy chai?

  5. I’ve oscillated as the years have gone by… I used to find Kerala tea boring and preferred coffee growing up. Then during college loved the adrak wala chai of Maharashtra. Slowly started loving black teas and flavoured ones too.

  6. Tea is passion across the country, I guess. Wonderful post on Kolkata street tea. Thanks for this.

    Your Twitter handle is showing as @diyab4u from the sharing button, but that handle doesn’t show up on Twitter, for some reason.

    Best wishes for the rest of the A2Z.


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