At a railway station in eastern India, people queued to treat themselves with the city’s best cup of tandoori chai. Nestled on a bench varnished in rosy cedar browns, I watched a middle-aged man bend to grind some dried flowers from a yellowing porcelain ‘botuko’ (bowl in Nepalese) and add it to the amber coloured liquid in a cup. With an unguarded smile, Sang Tamang offered me some ‘floral chai’, with hints of with hibiscus, calendula, chamomile and rose petals.
Inside Asansol’s tea boutique, Chai Chun, the staff weighed tea leaves for sale at the counter and some served the tall glasses of steaming tea to waiting customers. Located inside Asansol Railway Junction, the themed café lived its past life as an old, MEMU suburban train coach which journeyed between Katwa and Bardhaman back in 1994.
Nothing beats the allure of a hot cup of Darjeeling tea or Malai Elaichi chai from the Blue Mountains in Nilgiris. The cafe has both these stellar teas, along wth with over 165 varieties, a melange of tea blends and flavours including orthodox, premium, flavoured, fruit, herbal, floral. The tea is sourced from estates in Munnar, Kangra, Dooars, Assam and Darjeeling. The price has been kept at an affordable range, between Rs 40 and Rs 150.
“Chai Chun was initiated by the Asansol Indian Railways to provide better quality tea to the people. We will soon introduce snacks,” said Bidesh Chakraborty, manager of the cafeteria.
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The parlour’s menu includes a selection of almost two dozen teas under plantation names such as Selim Hill (Kurseong), North Tukvar (Darjeeling), Namring (Darjeeling), and many more. The tearoom is kind of eccentrically colourful and portrays a Dutch-style interior which can be an Instagrammer’s nibbana.
The fog-glazed windows which previously might have been nothing more than palely painted in blue, like a train’s, now appear with curtains in dripping pink. The roadside pine-like trees, half shaken by the buffeting winter gust crayoned a hilly-hue, perfect with the woodsy aroma of the tea. The café opens at 10am and closes at 10pm.
If you are ever in this part of the country, do drop in to get a taste of the tea room. Here's hoping the Railways replicates the idea in other station as well.
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