Having spent my early years in the Eastern part of India in a family of tea lovers, “Chaa” (Tea in Bengali) was one of the first words I uttered, closely preceded by “Maa” (Mother). Having a cup of tea was a ritual that was diligently followed at home every morning and evening apart from those impromptu cups to greet a visitor. I skilfully remained out of this ritual for years until my work stint in Japan and my tryst with Jasmine Tea at meal times.Recently, I was invited to the launch of a new outlet of Tea Trails Bistro in Bangalore which has gained immense popularity in Mumbai and then spread out to Delhi , Chennai, Hyderabad and Vizag. They are the first chain of Tea Cafe’s in India with a gourmet Tea experience.
Over different flavours, colors and types of Tea we chatted with Kavita Mathur the lady behind the concept of Tea Trails and one of the four founders. She narrated her passion for the leaf that nudged her to look beyond the regular brown / black liquid in the cup, identify signature blends and devise a whole new menu around Tea that was presented on the plate.
Tea in the Cup:
We started with cups of elite Silver Needle White Tea biting slices of super soft maska bun (buttered bun). While the tea addict will turn away from a cup of white tea given the lack of color, it actually is one of the best anti-oxidants and anti ageing of course !! Next up was the Japanese Glenmaicha tea with roasted rice grains popularly referred as the popcorn tea.
As conversation flowed cups of Lapsong Souchong (black smoky Chinese tea), Kullad Chai (spiced milk tea); Better Wife, South African Red Tea, Moroccan Mint arrived on the table. I had my share of Kashmiri Kahwa which was perfectly matched for the cool Bangalore weather.
We took a break with the Lychee Bubble Tea from Korea which was essentially lychee flavoured iced tea with gummy fruit bubbles that burst into the mouth. The detox tea which was a concoction of turmeric, ginger and other herbs was the perfect sip to close the evening.
Tea on the Plate:
We had the Japanese Matcha (green tea) soup, followed by the signature 3 Cheese Risotto served with green tea butter and Burmese Tea Salad. The Risotto was infused with Parmesan, Cheddar and Gryuere cheese and the Burmese Tea Salad was lettuce with roasted nuts and dal generously doused with fermented green tea. As conversation flowed, cups of different varieties of tea and Pita Bread with Green Tea infused Hummus, Marbled Egg Salad and Grilled Sandwiches followed. While everyone gorged on the hot crunchy pakodas sipping into Kullad Chai desi style, I went back to the bowl of fried rice steeped in tea. There was something about the flavour and texture of rice that hooked me on. It was a perfect blend of tastes.
Pairing Tea with Food
While Tea is paired with food in the Far Eastern countries like China and Japan it is not popular in India. You will find someone sipping a cup of hot tea after food but never along with it. I loved sipping on Kashmiri Kahwa after an elaborate Wazwaan. Some of the pairings suggested by Tea Trails that we tried out were truly an infusion of the East and West !!
- White Tea with Bun Maska (soft sweet bun smeared with dollops of butter).
- 3 Cheese Risotto with Oolong Tea. The cheesiness of the risotto balanced by the dark green Oolong not just in taste but ensuring that the calories don;t add up
- Smoky Paneer Sandwich with Smoky flavored Lapsong Souchong
- Green Tea Hummus with any Iced Tea. Hummus and Tea tend to enhance the sweetness in each other.
- Onion Pakoda with Kullad Chai ie India’s favorite anytime, anywhere
- Fruity Desserts with a sip of Red Zen ( mix of herbs, fruits and flowers)
There is something classy and warm about the decor. The rows of pendant glass lights at the entrance are truly beckoning. The green and yellow shades on the wall with framed pictures of the tea ceremonies from around the world gives it a nice cafe bistro look. Nice place to hang out with friends or family over cups of tea.
Ring Side View:
Coffee was always regarded classy over Tea in India, not sure why though. During my travels to various countries and my stay in Japan and England, it was all about tea. Back in India, I hardly found any zing around Tea while the hype around Coffee got louder and louder in all age groups. With the coffee shops and cafes mushrooming, our beverage culture was Americanized. Tea started making a turnaround a couple of years ago but perceived to be street corner. Tea Trails has made a great start of bringing Tea back to its rightful place with different varieties in the cup and on the plate !!