Hyderabad: No party is complete without it. Nor any business deal can be clinched sans it. Even the morning newspaper smells stale without a steaming cuppa. And so is celebrity gossip. The ubiquitous tea is the most sought after beverage the world over. In Hyderabad few drinks can give a kick like the Irani chai. Along with the Osmania biscuit it forms a heady combination.

Of course Hyderabadis are head over heels in love with chai. The first thing they do in the morning is to reach for a warm cuppa and the last act before hitting the bed is the same hot brew. The city boasts of exclusive tea joints where chai lovers can be seen hanging around for hours. The Nimrah cafe near Charminar and the Niloufer hotel near the hospital of the same name showcase the chai craze. Chai aficionados simple spill over to the road – cup in hand. Just to ensure that people make room for others, most hotels carry the adage – time is money.

A variety of tea flavours seem to add to the vibrancy of Hyderabad. Where else can one find people ordering one-by-two chai with the Osmania biscuit? The flavours go by different names – masala chai, kadak chai, Lasa-Lamsa chai, Isphani chai, pauna, khade chamche ki chai and burkhe wali chai. The last three are most sought after in the old city. In khade chamche ki chai the sugar is so much that a spoon will stand straight when inserted. The burkhe wali chai gets the name because of the thick layer of malai that covers the cup. Pauna, which literally means three-fourth, has more of milk and less of tea power. Of late ghava, the Arabic brew, has become a rage in parts of the city.

“It is the now extinct Madina Hotel which introduced Irani chai in Hyderabad during 1960s”, says noted historian, M.A. Qayum. The Madina Hotel along with the Alpha Hotel near the Secunderabad railway station and the Vicaji hotel at Abids were the hub of Irani chai and biryani. The Vicaji hotel was the favourite restaurant of the 7th Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. This hotel regularly supplied Osmania biscuits and other delicacies to King Kothi, the official residence of the Nizam, it is said.

If you are looking for the authentic Irani chai, don’t head for star hotels. It is the road side joints which excel in this concoction. No point asking for the Irani chai recipe – it is a closely guarded secret. One thing is for sure. Whoever takes ‘subha ki chai aur badon ki rai’ goes a long way. For most Hyderabadis happiness remains a cup of full chai.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. Currently he is working on his third book - Poets and Writers of Deccan.

Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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