City Food – Alam Tea House, Kucha Chelan
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Musty smelling. Pink walls. Toasted rusks generously smeared with Amul butter. And sweet milky chai.
Alam Tea House feels like one of those Walled City chai khanas that must be a legacy landmark, the ownership staying within the family, the inheritance passing down from one generation to another. But that’s an illusion. The tea house opened only a year ago here in the congested Kucha Chelan neighbourhood. It was earlier located just a few doors away on the same street. That original chai khana— which was founded 5 years back–had bright blue paint peeling off the walls that seemed to reveal patches of moss-like greenery resembling continents. It was a deeply felt loss when it shut down last monsoon; today an apartment stands on its spot.
But the new Alam Tea House has swiftly amalgamated with the character of its older counterpart, and has also developed a distinct personality of its own.
This morning the place is filled with labourers who do “PoP work” on nearby buildings. Some of the guys are glued to their mobiles while others are smoking beedi. One fellow is crooning a Hindi film song as unconsciously as you would in your bathroom.
A makeshift fan in the ceiling seems to have been expunged from an air cooler, while over there, a staffer’s shirt hangs from a hook. Over all, the place suggests an intimacy with the area’s labourers and carpenters who come here daily.
The chai is great. But the real charm at Alam is simply soaking up the blabber around you. Feeling the texture of the locale’s daily life.
Open from 6am to midnight–and do take a careful look at the cup the tea man uses for making chai. Encrusted with tea leaves, it’s a work of art unto itself.
Pleasures of an atmospheric chai