An upscale ‘dhaba’

February 14, 2016

Expect an interesting variety at Chai Kadah -- from Karrak and Saffron Ginger to Truck, Romantic and Bombay Cutting -- each having its distinctive flavour and aroma

An upscale ‘dhaba’

Who doesn’t love a cuppa? Even the hardcore coffee fans have their ‘tea time’. While the suburban Lahore is dotted with tea stalls, the likes of MM Alam Road and Y-Block Market boast coffee shops in the main. So, the recent opening of Chai Kadah, a tea joint, on Khurshid Kasuri Road, was an instant headline-grabber.

An upscale ‘dhaba’ that was formerly the upper floor of the Peri Peri restaurant, Chai Kadah offers tea and snacks to satisfy your craving.

From outside, the place looks like your traditional roadside dhaba, albeit with a twist: it is inspired by Truck Art. A hand painted rickshaw welcomes the customers at the entrance. It’s a definite showstopper and works as an unofficial photo booth, with people taking selfies with it.

As I entered the place with my family members, taking mental notes of the cool interior, a server came up to us, sporting a traditional waistcoat and a Sindhi cap with mirror work done on it. He handed us a slate-like menu that seemed to fit in the artsy scheme of things.

There was commotion in the open-air patio. Oh, wait, Madam Noor Jehan’s Punjabi film songs were playing on high volume, the bright disco lights adding to the ambience.

We were seated on weather-friendly plastic chairs. The tables were topped with handmade glass, a show of local artwork. We also found beautiful oil lamps and ethnic lights hanging from the walls.

As we waited for our order to arrive, we were joined by the owner Mr Akif who was eager to share stories about what he called his "latest obsession."

Akif lamented the fact that the "tea culture is not fully developed in Pakistan. I’ve been exploring the opportunity for the past couple of years, and travelled to different parts of the country. I wanted to bring the beauty and essence of our culture within a vibrant setup."

You get a brilliant variety to choose from -- Karrak, Saffron Ginger Chai, Truck, Romantic, Bombay Cutting, and Kashmiri -- each having its distinctive flavour and aroma.

There is method in tea-making. As Akif explained, "The base of the utensil should not get the flame in the last boils. The aanch (the heat of the fire) is of utmost importance; it gives rise to the aroma which renders it special."

He also spoke of "using bara masalas" for their signature Romantic Chai, while the other kinds of tea are given boils in different stages to achieve a unique flavour. "The dumm (or final brewing) is on slow flame."

Finally, Karrak and Romantic Chai arrived piping hot in customised, patterned ceramic pottery and tasted just right. These were served along with namak paras and the side options of daal and gaajar ka halwa. The halwa was a tad too oily for my personal liking.

Chai Kadah also offers an assortment of kehwas and panjeeri as a specialty. There are plans to add parathay and kulchay to the menu as savoury items.

An upscale ‘dhaba’