1Tea – The National Drink of India
The traditional chai is getting a makeover in India. Rising incomes and demand for a refined experience transcending tea are spawning posh tea lounges in the the nation’s biggest cities.
The ventures are seeking to strip chai of its street credentials and elevate it to a higher price point, while introducing middle-class Indians to finer leaves from around the world.
But the biggest challenge for these businesses will be in picking prominent locations that draw in customers while keeping rental costs under control.
Euromonitor International data show per capita spending on tea in the second-most populous country was $1.7 a year in 2014, versus $18 in the UK, showing potential for up-selling a premium version of the drink.
Tea seems bigger opportunity than coffee as consumption of the leaf-based beverage beats its rival 30 cups to one. Indians consume about a fourth of all the tea produced in the world.
India’s tea consumption expanded 2.4 per cent in 2009 and 6.6 per cent in 2013 to reach 1 million tonnes, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2015.
Retail chains in India spend about 9 per cent of their revenue on real estate, compared to an average 3-4 per cent for global retailers, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report.
Indiaretailing.com brings to some of the choicest tea retail outlets in different categories:
3Elma’s Bakery, Cakes and Tea Room
Category: Posh and Pricey
Need to Know: With its flower-print curtains, ivory-handled silverware and crochet patterns, Elma’s Bakery, Cakes and Tea Room is an imitation of an old style English tea room with a lavish spread of delicious bakes and a variety of tea infusions. On offer are a commendable variety of breads: walnut and raisin, pumpernickel, chocolate, bacon and sausage loaves. Pastries include traditional preparations with deviant twists. There are plenty of options for vegans and the gluten-allergic too.
Specialty: Kali Zulph, Hari Talvar, Kala Moti,
Best Paired With: Cheese and Mushroom Toasties, Chorizo and Cheddar Toasted Crossiant and Bacon and Cheese Jacket Potato
Price: Rs 1,000 for two
Category: Old School
Need to Know: Sit back, pull out a book, read and hopefully it will be on a day that isn’t choc-a-block at Cha-Bar. Nestled inside Oxford Bookstore, Cha Bar is not only popular among tea-lovers, but also famous authors like Salman Rushdie are known to frequent this place. Their teapot wall is a beautiful display of tea traditions from around the world. To add to the charm, they have a unique kettle for every type of tea they serve.
Specialty: Bollywood Mix Masala Chai, Truck Driver 100 Mile Ki Cha and Kangra Spring
Best Paired With: Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwich, Choley Frankie in Spiced Pita Wrap and Sev Tikki Pao
Price: Rs 300 for two
Category: Pocket Friendly
Need to Know: Chaayos puts a fun twist in every cuppa. It is a contemporary interpretation of the chai adda, serving freshly made chai. Their menu includes 25 varities of teas customizable in 12,000 ways. Started by young entrepreneurs Nitin Saluja and Raghav Verma, their intent was to give a homely feeling for teatotallers.
Specialty: God’s Chai Hari Mirch Chai, Aam Papad Chai and Vanilla Chai
Best Paired With: Paneer Makhani Sandwich, Bun Maska and Anda Pav
Price: Rs 250 for two
Category: Shopper’s Paradise
Need to Know: A tea lover’s paradise, this place is stuffed to the ceiling with Indian teas, herbs, and spices. Originally started in 1954, this tea shop was one of the first to sell leaf tea in India, and has grown in repute and fondness over the years. Run by a family of tea tasters and lecturers, this store houses teas from all over the world, including China, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Nepal.
Specialty: Assam Malti Sarani, Earl Grey Avenue and Peach Strasse
Best Paired With: Apple Cinnamon Muffin and Spinach and Corn Quiche
Price: Rs 300 per kg onwards
Category: Pop-up stall
Need to Know: Jugmug Thela derived its name from the two different types of cups used to serve tea in – jug and mug. A unique movable chai kiosk that serves tea from various states of India and around the world has been operating as a pop-up stall at various high profile events across the capital – India Fashion Week, India Art Fair, India Design (ID), apart from corporate events, flea markets and organic farmer markets across Delhi and Guugram. They even retails their tea and coffees in cute handy packaging.
Specialty: Chat-pa-Tea, 12 Spice Masala Chai, Chocolate Cinnamon Iced Chai and Raw Mango Iced
Best Paired With: Baked Matthis and Amaranth and Almond Wholewheat Munchies
Price: Rs 400 for two