TEA CAFES The Evolution of Tea Cafes in India

Don’t you think we Indians are the reason, why tea is the most most consumed beverage on Planet Earth? Tea is a part of our social lives as well. Be it guests at home or while socializing, there is always tea and conversations brewing.

Thronging around tea is quite common in India, it’s a part of our culture and we love it!  Post work on weekdays or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, roadside tea stalls are the hotspots for Indian youth. Every locality and every city has a famous ‘nukkad’ tea stall and some of them have even evolved into serving accompaniments like crispy pakodas, spicy samosas or a sumptuous combination of bread-omelet with the tea. ‘Nukkad ki chai’ is the reason why friends hang out daily and debate over politics, society, and economics of the country.

Though the “Café Culture” has existed in India since the post-Colonial days, it served only a selective population. When Coffee House opened in Kolkata in 1876 it became home to the politically aware youth and the Bengali middle-class intelligentsia. When Leopold Café opened in Mumbai in 1871 it led to the development of the Irani Café culture of the city. These historical places have been distinctive in their own way.

The question is what role did tea play in the birth and growth of these cafés? In the case of Kolkata’s Coffee House tea was not even in the picture let alone the menu card. However, Irani Chai in Mumbai could not be replaced as an accompaniment with the ‘bun maska pao’.

It was only in the 2000s that cafes were popularized and marketed as a semi-luxurious destination for some snacking and chitchat. Café culture took to a new dimension in India with the growth of chains like Café Coffee Day, Barista and now Starbucks.

Meanwhile tea took a backseat in these cafes and coffee was prioritized as a beverage over which “a lot can happen”.

Good quality tea leaves of India have been seldom popularized in a commercial way. Premium quality tea could only be got at five-star restaurants. It is now that things are slowly changing and numerous cafes are emerging in metro cities which are introducing good tea in semi-luxurious restaurant culture. Tea cafes and boutiques have taken over the millennials in cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Mumbai and you would often find that IT-professional or that digital marketer visiting these cafes after work for some conversation and cup of Darjeeling tea.

Tea cafes like Chai Break, Chaayos, Chai Point etc have opened all over the country. Also, city-specific boutique tea shops are giving good competition to the coffee shops. The crowd-puller, clearly, is the attraction of experiencing tea being brewed in a sophisticated way. Another USP of these cafes is the fact that tea has been proven to be a healthier beverage than coffee. These cafes are offering different types of tea, a host of herbal, floral and fruity flavors and also expertly brewed premium varieties of Darjeeling tea. These cafes have a range of tidbits, starting from bakery items like cakes, cinnamon rolls etc to an Indian fare of snacks like Bombay grilled sandwiches or Calcutta Fish Fries. Moreover, many of the boutique tea shops have simply emerged out of the drawing rooms or garages of the owner, with home-style décor, dim yellow lighting, and a ‘desi’ feel. In short, with a reasonably priced menu, these cafes are perfect spots to unwind after a hard day at work or to catch  up with your homies.

Tea café culture is finally being marketed in Indian cities and it will, in the long run, be positively affecting the tea industry of the country. Tell us about the tea cafes in your city and let us know which one is your favorite in the comments section below. If you were unaware of this growing culture, make sure you visit one of these cafes soon. We can assure you that you will love the experience if you are a tea lover.