Chai Menere, 9-4-76/2/1
Toli Chowki Road, Hyderabad.
Tea For Two : Rs 220
The chai-khana is an age-old institution of Hyderabad, frequented by rickshawala and poet alike. Chai Menere is definitely not one of those. It has a few tables where you can sit and sample its exotic teas, but its main business is to sell them across the counter.
We asked Mr Yusuf for his most special tea and he served us something called Imperial Silver Needle, from the Himalayan foothills, which he informed us costs Rs 2.5 lakh per kg, and is the Sultan of Brunei’s favourite. It was pale and ambrosial, brewed in a small transparent teapot and served in transparent cups. A tea like this is a cultivated taste, like single-malt whisky; to add milk or sugar is a sacrilege. Our own favourite from their many exotic varieties, however, is Jasmine Pearl: tight, fragrant pods of tea-leaf that magically unfurl when immersed in boiling water. Chai Menere’s visitors’ book contains fan messages from people ranging from professional Calcutta tea-tasters to visiting European connoisseurs. But it’s hidden away in chaotic Toli Chowki, and how it survives in this location is a mystery. We’d never have discovered it but for our friend Rishad, that fountainhead of Hyderabad information.