This is not just a Tea; it is a ‘caffeinated-beverage-dessert’ that doesn’t give you wings to fly but it does give you a kick to satisfy your sweet-tooth cravings.
My unforgettable encounter was ages back when I was returning from Ramoji Film city with my cousins. I was ten back then and now don’t even ask, that memory still lies fresh in my head though. We were completely exhausted and needed some magical drink to revive our drooping spirits. We stopped at Red Rose cafe for some tea. I preferred a shot-of-energy then but I had to settle for tea. When I took the first sip my taste buds identified the chief ingredient and I shouted out ‘there is milkmaid in this tea’. It was nothing close to the tea that we prepare at home. Since that day I always wanted “milkmaid wali chai!!”
I asked my mom numerous times to add milkmaid in our tea but she never liked the idea. (It was never Economical you see!)
It took me a little long to understand that the milkmaid wali chai I was looking for was nothing but “Irani Tea”, which is served at every nook and corner in Hyderabad. It was like I found God. I know I am exaggerating but how else could I show the immense love that I have for this beverage.
Wait, Wait, Wait, do you think this tea really contains milkmaid? NO, but it does taste like that.
The early Persians never added milk to their tea. They used to sip the hot decoction along with sugar cube tucked in their mouth. But with time they wanted to give tea a distinct flavor of its own and something that’s much more easy to consume. Thus milk had a prominent role, and we Hyderabadis love anything that’s rich, creamy and fattening.
WHAT GOES IN IT?
The milk and sugar are boiled and then over boiled until it is thick and reddish in texture. The cream of this milk is removed and usually goes in making ‘maska bun’. The tea-leaves (usually Assam tea) are not over boiled but made on light steam (dum) separately. The MAGIC happens only when this decoction is mixed with the thickened milk. And mind you, this is never pre mixed, but only when it is about to be served.
Well, the same ingredients go into the tea that is served at the other South Indian joints but the difference lies in the way they make it. Water and milk is mixed in 2:1 ratio, tea leaves and sugar all are brought to a single boil and then strained. But it just remains any other chai not Irani because there is no proper
brewing and it doesn’t justify the flavor of milk or the tea.
- Hyderabad is the only place where you could find Irani cafés at every corner almost a Kilometer apart, no matter where you are. Literary! No kidding. This city has the highest number of Irani cafes in India, going up to a thousand plus!
- Way back in 1940’s, poppy seeds were used in this tea so that people got addicted. (Well, did we really need that? Our generation never got the poppy seeds, but are we any less addicted?)
My dad’s friend who lives in Old City has been going to his favorite café every day as soon as he wakes up for his morning tea. His day has to begin with Irani chai, post that he leisurely reads the newspaper while puffing on his cigarette. Where else could you treat an empty teacup as an ashtray? And that too, all less than twenty bucks?
Well that’s the way most of the people (I should say Men) in Old city start their day. These cafés are painted off white with ply wood benches and tables (some old cafes do not have chairs). The cash counter is a multipurpose counter that serves so much more than just purchasing tea tokens. You will find huge aluminum trays containing Samosas, Osmania Biscuits, Dilkush, Fine Biscuits and what not. You are bound to fall for those on-the-counter temptations.
End of story? Oh no, there’s more to come. How can you forget paan? All the cafes have these little cubicles sticking to their boundary wall selling all types of cigarettes and paan.
Now do you understand, walking into a café for tea isn’t what it sounds like. An entire process of resisting and then finally giving up accompanies it!
If you prefer more water less milk type of tea then don’t even think of trying this, you would have all the wrong reasons for hating Hyderabad. And for the homo sapiens like me check these out.
- Grand Hotel – Abid
- Garden Hotel – Secunderabad
- Rainbow Hotel – Abids
- Niloufer – Red hills
- Sarvi – Banjara Hills
These places are the oldest but trust me Irani chai is Irani chai, it tastes good anywhere. All you have to decide is which is better than the best.
God bless the Iranis!