Chai, chatter and cheer

Deepa Narwani
Filed on October 10, 2010

Many tiny cafeterias in the city of life, brew bliss. The favourite drink can do wonders to the senses. No slips here, just sips of the steaming liquid from thermocol or porcelain cups.

It’s a perfect way to start the day, or even to call it quits at dusk. Many contemplate, with their cuppa, on the future with a faraway look in their eyes ... it all feels like home. Extra sweet, no sugar, light or strong, the aroma is refreshing. It’s hot, and oh so tasty here in Dubai! Some park their vehicles outside the tea-shops for a concoction of tea bags dipped in boiling water, evaporated milk and sugar. Well, the ingredients may end there, but a tiny addition here or there and the taste varies from cafeteria to cafeteria. The chai business in town is booming and a visit to a few of these small, yet practical outlets will tell you why. Social barriers are broken as the rich, the poor and people from various nationalities gather. The flavour binds them.

Al Hara Cafeteria in Hamdan colony, Karama, is one of the many such popular spots in town. It’s small, but practical and there’s always a crowd inside and outside. Hashim, the supervisor loves to talk of the special tea sold here. “Our famous tea is the special Disco Chai. This chai is a big hit with customers and many cups are sold daily.’’

A crowd gathers inside in the evening, while other customers sit outside, around small wooden tables on plastic chairs, chatting away about their day, discussing issues and cracking jokes.

Prashant, a first-timer looks lost while sipping his chai. “I am new to Dubai and I am having my first cup of tea here. It tastes delicious and reminds me of my hometown,” he said.

The scene at the large parking lot is altogether different. People just back from work, park their cars and chit-chat. A bite of samosa and a cigarette puff between sips of the steaming, hot liquid is the perfect way to unwind.

Nilesh has been a loyal client of the cafeteria since many years. “My friends and I have been coming here for more than five years. It’s a perfect hang out spot for us, as there is more parking space and the tea is simply the best.”Another hot spot is the Fili café, which opened its first shop in 1996. Their newest branch is situated in the Public Library located in Mankhool. Mohammed Sameer, one ofthe attendants say, “Our famous tea is the Fili Kadak Zaffran Special. The zaffran chai is renowned because of the saffron that is added to make the tea more aromatic. People start coming in by five in the evening and they keep coming until two in the morning. We sell almost 2,500 cups of tea a day.”

This café is a cool hangout joint for a quiet evening with friends. The interiors provide a soothing effect with comfortable sofas, high stools and low-lighting. Outside, there are sofas to lounge on. It’s no wonder that teens make up the majority of the crowd here.

Bobby Hussain is a regular at this café. He loves the place because of its serene environment. “I like the setting of the café. Plus, there is ample parking space here. There are not many places like this and you are served with quality stuff at reasonable prices.”The petrol pump premises adjacent to the New Gold Souk building in Bur Dubai has been home to Al Ismaily cafeteria for 16 years.

There is always a line of taxis parked outside the cafeteria and you can find taxi drivers inside the shop drinking tea and having a snack before rushing off to their duties.

Basheer Moideen, the cafeteria’s manager says the shop is a stop-over place for people of all nationalities. “Anyone who wants a break from a long drive or a hard day of work comes in for cup of sada chai to refresh themselves.”

Many are seen ordering tea and snacks to their cars. A Toyota Corolla and a BMW share parking space.

“We sell 1,500 plus cups in a day,” says Basheer. Prices per cup range from Dh1 to Dh5 depending on the variety of tea sold.

Well, it’s time for a sip from the steaming cup that cheers, it’s sheer pleasure. But, isn’t tea time the best time of the day?

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