City Food – Jane Austen’s Chai Stall, Bharat Ram Road
The love of pavement tea.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
If British writer Jane Austen was still alive and happened to stumble across this unusual tea stall she’d probably express ardent admiration for its owner. Mahaveer runs this unique stall where chai is served in dainty kettles, akin to a drawing room scene in one of Ms Austen’s famed novels.
These kettles seem to hark from another era but in fact “they’re just five years old,” says Mahaveer. “They break all the time, but you can get new ones at Azad Market.” But there’s more to this well-known stall on Delhi’s Bharat Ram Road. It’s one of the very few establishments where chai is brewed on a coal-fired stove instead of a gas burner or kerosine stove. It’s the way Mahaveer’s father did it, “and I’m just following his tradition.”
To be sure. It takes longer to brew the tea. Mahaveer always warns first-time guests to be prepared to wait for at least ten minutes.
So, the chai is brewed to the customer’s specification, of course; but then unromantically served in plastic glasses. This disappointment is offset by quietly gazing at those smoldering coals in the ash-dusted angeethi (stove)—a rare sight nowadays.
His stall is open daily from 7 am to 8 pm except Sundays.
The high chai