Ratna Chotrani/Hyderabad: There was a time Irani Chai exclusively defined the café culture in the city; be it an early-morning newspaper reading session or a casual get-together with friends, sips of Irani chai, a bite of Osmania biscuit or the ubiquitous maska bun used to perk up the mood of a quintessential Hyderabadi.
With many swanky cafeterias coming up across the city, there is a fear that the historic Irani cafes with their old-world charm where aficionados loved their ‘cutting chai’ shared over hours of gossip are losing the race.
However, the good news is the territory of the Irani Cafés remains unshrunk and is growing. Iconic to Hyderabad Irani Chai -the milky-sugary concoction of tea leaves brewed for hours is a must try for visitors.
If you are an Irani tea afficionado, try the brew at Taiba that sells at least 6,000 to 7,000 cups a day. This small café situated at Shanthinagar offers an assortment of delicious cookies and other baked goods. Their tea is a must try for its taste that leaves one asking for more, says Imran Khasim, a regular at the café.
Another regular visitor Amir Ali says each time he returns from a visit abroad, he comes there to enjoy the chai. Though his family takes him to the city’s best restaurants for lunch and dinners, he says, “but tea - I never drink it elsewhere. Nothing like the chai of Taiba.” The place has ardent fans who start their day with the traditional Irani chai at Taiba. ‘Ek Pauna, do biskoot,’ ‘do chai mein ek kadak’ and ‘one by two chai’ are the most heard lines even today.
Mohammed Noman Ali, the owner of the Café, says the Persians came to Mumbai via sea route during the last century in search of a better life and trade avenues. From Mumbai, they migrated to Pune and later to Hyderabad. Someone came up with the idea of Irani chai. While serving it, milk is poured in the cup first, followed by the tea decoction.
They use good quality tea leaves and brew the concoction to perfection. Unlike other cafeterias, at Taiba café, they don’t use milk powder; they use organic milk...but also the employees working in office complexes around who throng this place. The latter seem to have discovered an affordable café to hang out.
The café serves the famed Osmania biscuit – this sweet salty cookie was first baked on the demand of the last Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan after whom the biscuit was named. Besides, it also serves muffin, doughnut, pastry, rusks and Khari as perfect accompaniment to the tea.
One can also buy grilled sandwiches, pizzas, burgers, cakes, cold pastries, samosas, vegetarian and egg puffs etc. there. Noman Ali says the fame of Osmania biscuits has reached far and wide making it a must-have for those visiting the city and carrying it home.
The café also offers Haleem during Ramadan and Lassi in summer.
It opens around 6 am to serve those who prefer to start their day with their favourite brew. Taiba is garnering more attention than others; it’s not just the casual customers
At any given time of the day, one can see a huge crowd enjoying freshly-brewed steaming hot cups of tea, tantalizing fusion food, delectable desserts and cool refreshing beverages.
Noman Ali has customised tetra pack kettles for takeaways that have become a rage for those ordering from Swiggy and Zomato. Many homes and offices also order tea, and tetra pack kettles are perfect for such deliveries. The cafe is open till late midnight
One must try the Pauna tea which comes with more milk added to dark and over-boiled concoction. Also, try the malai bun, a delicacy to relish Irani Chai with. Taiba is not just brewing up and serving a beverage, but keeping alive a slice of the city’s history.