The arrival of the monsoon in Mumbai is synonymous with the need for a good, hot cup of chai, some amusing company and/or a good book. Everyone knows that the best chai in Mumbai is to be found at street stalls, where vendors pour tea from tumbler to tumbler, season it delicately with masala and hand it to you with a flourish.
However, the arrival of the monsoon also brings with it a host of waterborne diseases that are more commonly contracted when you eat and drink at street stalls. Additionally, is it really worth trying to juggle an umbrella, your wallet and a piping hot glass of tea at these stalls in the midst of the mad Mumbai rush hour? We think not.
That doesn’t mean you have to forgo your comforting cup of chai every day. Here’s where we introduce Chai Pe Charcha, a new chain of tea – sorry chai – cafes across Mumbai.
Who Needs A Guy When You Have Chai?
True to its name, Chai Pe Charcha is devoted to all things chai. Each cute café is decorated with a full desi inspiration – while they walls re filled with quirky sayings like the one above and illustrations of roadside chai vendors, seating areas include a replica of an auto rickshaw and the cash counter is designed to mimic a roadside tea stall
Like its décor, Chai Pe Charcha’s menu is designed to highlight chai – while it does have options like green tea and lemon iced tea, it mainly revolves around a variant of chais like adrak chai, masala chai, hajmola chai and so on.
The snack menu has been designed to complement the teas; a patron can call for sabudana kchidi, bun maska, panneer bhajiyas as well as a range of sandwiches. While they sip their chai and stuff their faces, they can entertain themselves by playing the board games that double up as table-top mats or curl up with a range of books that the cafe’s bookshelf offers.
Tasting The Talk
We sloshed over to the cafe late last week and noticed patrons taking full advantage of the cafe’s offerings – as chai cup after chai cup materialised at their table, one couple engaged themselves in a snakes and ladder battle while another pulled put a comic from the bookshelf and settled down to read.
We, however had no time to distract ourselves with games and books; we were there on a serious mission – to eat and drink everything in sight. So, we proceeded to call for six different types of drinks along with a whole host of snacks. Luckily, just like the street stalls outside, the cafe offers both full and cutting (half) glass options.
We started with a glass of regular chai; hot, sweet and just the right amount of milky, it was the perfect way to chase away the shivers caused by the rain outside. We followed that up with a cutting glass of adrak chai which was similar to the regular chai aside from the subtle, yet sharp taste of ginger which will go a long way in soothing sore throats. Another delicious, ginger based chai was the Charcha Special which balances out the sharp ginger with a dash of zesty lemongrass. Another must try unique to the cafe is the Sukoon Ki Chai, with cinnamon and fennel.
If you want to avoid milk and sugar, we’d suggest you try the Cheen Ki Chai, a green tea concoction that is just the right strength. Coffee drinkers must try the Filter Kaapi, which aririved with a deliciously frothy foam topping and flavours akin to what one may find at a street stall in South India; read – highly authentic.
Just like wine, a great cup of tea needs to be paired with specific fare to help enhance the flavours. With that in mind, Chai Pe Characha’s food menu offers Amritsari parathas, bun maskas, and bhel. We called for the intriguingly named Gulkand Bun Maska, the chocolate paratha and the paneer bhajiyas.
The paneer bhajiyas arrived first; crispy, deep fried batter coated wonderfully soft, moist paneer to make a delicious hot treat. Next arrived the gulkand bun maskas – while the bun maskas were soft, yielding and generously buttered, the gulkand – a sweet preserve made with rose petals – created both a texture contrast and a treat for our sweet loving taste buds.
Another must try dish for sweet tooths is the chocolate paratha; it’s packed to the brim, with a rich indulgent chocolate sauce, topped with a dose of peanuts and – if that weren’t enough – served with a side of Nutella.
Finally the Firangi Khakhra made its grand entrance. While it’s made with your regular, crunchy slim khakra, the firangi khakra is topped with a good douse of cream cheese creating a dish similar to your nacho cheese bowl – desi style.
Looking at the generous use of ingredients as well as the amenities the cafe offers (AC, ample place to sit, games and books galore) one may imagine that a cup of chai and snack at Chai Per Charcha will cost way more than its roadside inspiration. Think again. A cup of regular, fill sized chai at the cafe is just Rs,29 while a paratha costs between Rs.15 and Rs.40. That just cinches it, doesn’t it? Chai Pe Charcha is the place to be this monsoon; see if you can spot us there.