Chatime is a teahouse café that recently opened at Mehmood Kasuri Road, an emerging spot for some of the best local and international food outlets. The café, which is Taiwan’s first in Pakistan so far, prides itself on being the world’s most genuine tea varieties, albeit with a spin.
In the midst of beaming floodlights, cutest mascots and an appealing pink-indigo theme, the crowds lined up at the outlet on its very launch night. They were obviously excited by the very look and the name of the café.
Interestingly, Chatime is not "chai time" as most people would think it is. Meaning "sunrise" in Taiwanese, the word nonetheless lives up to its namesake by offering tea lattes as well as chillers and juices.
The expansive tea counter, backed by a striped wall, dominates the café’s jazzy interior. Colourful chairs and recliners dot the dining space. An eager staff welcomes the customers. Amidst noting down orders, some of them are also found enthusiastically ‘explaining’ the variety on offer to the baffled customers.
Yes, baffled the customers can definitely get, by the strange types of tea on offer. This one is sure for the adventurous lot.
The much-promised "fresh, original, tasty and high quality tea" comes with chewable toppings of Pearls and QQ jelly, definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.
Tea is brewed on the spot. The owners claim to revolutionise the café culture in Lahore, what with its patented tea-espresso machines and sealed cup services.
"The sealed cup ensures that the customers receive the freshest, covered drinks that won’t spill out," says Anna Wang, International Account Manager, Chatime, who had flown in from Taiwan for the inauguration.
All told, Chatime already has 1,000 locations worldwide.
Before one finally makes a selection from the extensive menu list, there’s every reason for one to get confused. The wide-ranging menu and a long list of thirst quenchers like the Kamquat Lemon juice, yogurt lemon juice, Americano Lattes, Mocha coffee served cold can be difficult to comprehend but the customer has the liberty to choose the exact level of sugar and ice in the drink. One can choose from 120%, 100%, 80% and 50% to none at all. ‘This ensures you get a drink according to your taste and preference," says Anna Wang.
Chatime also serves the much-loved FroyoTime frozen yoghurt, French Fries and Donner Kebabs to customers at the outlet as an additional variety. Pairing up with Mr Potato and a mix of frozen yogurt selection they have put two brands together in anticipation for all those who do not opt for their tea variety; they can settle for some other option.
"I like the ambience and the informal setting where one can grab a sofa to sit down while sipping tea," said Rahat Haleem who had come to the launch her children.
Another customer said he liked the smooth, complex flavour of Chatime’s premium Japanese Matcha with rich creamy fresh milk that made it an aromatic sweet treat.
Though the Pearl Milk Tea is supposed to be fun, with its chewy texture of pearls, it didn’t seem to go down well with the people who were trying it for the first time.
"The fruity flavours, toppings such as pudding, coconut jelly and red beans along with unique fragrances are distinguishable from the rest of the market. I have yet to find these items anywhere in the city," said a young man standing in the queue to the counter.
We are a nation of black tea lovers. But are we ready to embrace (strange) varieties such as superior milk chocolate or Brown Rice Green tea, only time -- or, shall we say, Chatime -- will tell.