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On the Tea Trail in Delhi

by Ragini Puri
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Tea makes everything better.
Tea is liquid wisdom.
Happiness is a cup of tea.
Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.

The Internet is full of all kinds of tea quotes, and every time I come across them it seems as if they have all been written keeping my passion for tea in mind. Of course, they are not, but it still fills my heart with happiness that there are so many fellow tea lovers out there!

I love tea. This light brown concoction lifts my spirit like no other beverage. It fuels me up, soothes my nerves and makes me happy.  It’s like a magical healer – a few sweet-and-strong sips, and all the stress and exhaustion fades away leaving me feeling fresh and energised.

So given my love for tea, an invitation from Le Meridien, Delhi to be a part of a tea trail across the city came as a wonderful opportunity to taste different teas in the company of other tea lovers.  And the fact that this exotic tea trail was going to be spiced up with a dash of old Delhi tea history and a meeting with tea seller cum author Mr. Laxman Rao, I really looked forward to the experience. Tea plus heritage plus history plus meeting an author – I knew it was going to be one interesting trail.

On the tea trail in Delhi

Delhi 6 is every foodie’s paradise. From sumptuous non-vegetarian spreads to a whopping variety of vegetarian and street food, its many lanes and by-lanes offer hungry visitors a plethora of gastronomical delights to pick from. However, the fact that the area also houses few very old tea shops is not common knowledge. Of course, there are plenty of tea vendors in the area but there are few that enjoy the kind of popularity and regard that Kailash Chand Jain Chai Wale does. This hole-in-the-wall tea shop is located right on the main Chandni Chowk road and has been in business for more than 70 years now, and this was the first stop in our tea trail itinerary.

Kailash Chand Jain Tea Shop, Delhi 6

Run by the fourth generation of the Jain family that founded this shop, Kailash Chand Jain Chai Wale tea shop is one establishment that has survived the many quintessential tests of time and flourished to become the landmark that it is today. The shop is frequented by tea lovers from all strata of society and on offer are a variety of tea types to pick from.

Kailash Chand Jain Tea Shop, Delhi 6

I have tasted all sorts of fancy teas from across the country. Right from the station ki chai, garam chaaai to fancy connoisseur stuff in the tea garden guest-houses in Assam, I have enjoyed them all, but sipping a hot cup garnished with almonds and saffron at Kailash Chand Jain Chai Wale was a first. Yes, the heavy milky tea concoction was generously sprinkled with finely chopped almonds and a dash of saffron that gave the tea a unique flavour. Here is what it looked like.

Kailash Chand Jain Tea Shop, Delhi 6
On the tea trail in Delhi 6

All the guests had an engaging tea session here, interacting with one of the Jain brothers, while the senior one concentrated on the task at hand – brewing one pan after another of his famous chalu chai (masala chai). And as happens with all things exciting, the tea session was followed up with a photo session, with everyone posing with their kulhads of chai and saving the experience for posterity.

From savouring interesting tea, it was now time to move on to a different part of the city to meet an interesting tea-maker and this tea-maker was none other than the now famous tea-maker cum author Mr. Laxman Rao, a gentleman I had read a lot about and was really curious to meet.

Laxman Rao, tea seller-cum-author

Mr. Rao owns a regular chai ki tapdi in one of ITO’s many by-lanes but more than the chai, it’s his pen that is his claim to fame. He has authored 24 books till now and has recently completed his masters in Hindi Literature. At his tapdi, he welcomed everyone with piping hot tea and biscuits, before getting into animated conversations about his humble beginnings and life journey. Besides him were neatly stacked sets of his published books which many guests bought and enthusiastically got them all autographed.

To say that Mr. Rao’s story is an inspiration would be like stating the obvious. From starting off as a labourer to overcoming all obstacles to follow his dream of being a writer, Mr. Rao’s story is every bit worth sharing and soon I am going back to meet him and learn more about his life story.

Laxman Rao, tea seller-cum-author

With two interesting tea sessions done, it was now time to head to Le Meridien, this time to learn more about tea from a connoisseur’s perspective. At the hotel, another tea tasting session awaited the guests, curated by tea sommelier Mr. Vikram Mittal, who enlightened the tea enthusiasts about the fine art of tea tasting and appreciation.

Tea session at Le Meridien, New Delhi
Tea session at Le Meridien, New Delhi

Set amidst quirky tea props, the tea tasting session gave interesting insights about tea brewing and the various varieties of tea available. I really had a great time understanding the details about brewing and have been experimenting with my tea quite a lot post this session. There were exquisitely packed tea samples too on display and they seemed to be attracting everyone’s attention.

Tea session at Le Meridien, New Delhi

In all tea-trailing was a lovely off-beat experience with a fine mix of history, heritage, inspiration and tea. I love how Le Meridien, Delhi’s social team keeps curating such interesting programmes and activities to engage their guests and visitors and always put up an efficiently organized show.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my tea trail experience. Do you love tea? If you do, then I would love to read about your love for tea. 🙂

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