It wasn't planned of course. I happened to visit a Persian chai joint at Imambada in the heart of Bhendi Bazaar. I discovered the bright blue Mughal Masjid (the only Iranian mosque in Mumbai), the Irananian hamam (bath) next to it and I found this really tiny joint called Cafe Khushali (meaning happiness in Persian) next to it. That's where I had had Iranian tea. Not to be confused with the Irani chai, which is a Mumbai staple, the Iranian tea is black tea. You put a piece of sugar in your mouth and sip the tea through your tea. It tastes awesome. I liked it because it didn't look like our ordinary chai - masala or not. After that, I did try out a couple of Arabian and Moroccon spice teas at Oxford Cha Bar at Churchgate (which my chai-loving pal dismissed off as mint-and-clove water). As for me, I couldn't figure why I should have mint or clove water. It was aweful.
It took me a whole year to actually try out tea again. The occasion presented itself yesterday. My friend had had a nasty lunch (I had made the mistake of recommending pasta to him while I comfortably tucked into my risotto) and was hungry. I took him to Tea Centre (Churchgate) for salads and sandwiches. I love the place. Unlike a coffee shop, this one allows for a more comfortable setting for mindless, idle conversations. It took my friend one and a half hours to tuck into his sandwich. The waiters were very patient. They didn't throw us out. They just suggested that we try some tea. After all, it is Tea Centre.
My friend asked me to select. I thought it was for him. I suggested rose tea. My friend asked me whether I would like to try it out. I was hesitant. Even when the bearer poured it into my glass cup, I wondered whether I should try it at all. I picked up the cup. Thankfully it smelt of rose. I loved the smell. I would have used the concoction as an inhaler if I didn't have to pay Rs 70 for a couple of cups. My friend asked me to try it. I held the cup to my lips, but couldn't sip. It was tea after all. I put the cup down. Second try. More rose steam. This time, I sipped it. And in a few minutes it was all down. I don't know whether I relished it. But it felt really good after it all went down. The honey, the rose and maybe the tea. I wouldn't mind doing it again. Who knows, I may actually become a rose tea connoiseur.
But chai...I don't think I have the stomach for it.