Sunday 12 June 2016

Tea Trails, Fort, Mumbai

Chai. Whether it be the memories of parents sipping that Kulhad wali Chai in trains when we were going to our grandparents' home in vacations or just the freshly brewed tea our parents have to consume every morning while reading newspapers or that cup or warmth everybody in India offers to visitors to their home, Tea is an integral part of our lives :) 

Or is it? 

A bloggers meet at Tea Trails last week seemed like a place for tea lovers to converge which I am not. But then I gave them a look over and it seemed like this would be something different. So I decided to land there. And boy, was it an experience to remember :) 

We started our journey by talking about Tea and Chai. India is second largest consumer of Tea in the world but most of the time,we are talking about Chai, the concoction with milk and sugar and also those brands that sell tea mostly use the left over after exporting the best leaves abroad which are mighty expensive! Tea on the other hand is different, a variety of flavors and textures depending on the soil where it is grown, how the leaves are selected, crushed, brewed and so on. Mind starts spinning as a whole new world comes alive, while we have been singing praises of all the coffee shops that have taken over our lives, here is a world that remains untouched. Tea Trails is trying to unlock that very same world and deserve a round of applause for that :) 

Without turning this into a PhD session, let me just skim over the main points. Tea Trails is the first chain of Tea Cafes in India, and from personal experience, very much worth a visit. Forget those coffee dates and do rush here as I surely will. Now why should one do that? Because they serve gourmet tea of various varieties to suit every palate, from hot to cold, from subtle to strong. Their staff is trained to let you taste various brews and select the one that you love the most (something I have not seen anywhere else!). Most extraordinarily, this is one place where we can not only drink but also EAT tea, with many dishes infused with varieties tea. Trust me, they are all worth a look-see. When there are so many varieties of tea in form of both beverages and dishes with myriad health benefits for everyone, why would we not want to take advantage of that? And it is easy on the pocket too for the quality that they serve. 

Internationally, people are getting more and more health conscious and opting for 'Chai Lattes' everywhere, it is high time that we respected the culinary wealth we have got right here in our country too :) 

On this particular evening, we had the pleasure of going through Tea-Food pairings just like many places hold Wine-Food pairing tasting sessions. It was not perfect but again, full marks to them for creativity and coming up with something new. We could also see the staff patiently explaining the nuances of all that Tea Trails offers to various walk-in customers. Oh there are many other refreshing beverages if you are really not into tea :D 

Go for Better Wife, Bubble Tea or Red Zen which I can see sipping everyday if time permits :D Better Wife is refreshing mix of fruit juices, herbs, mint, green tea - think of jaljeera that we drink in the summers and add everything else good in it and there it is :) Bubble Tea is on the sweeter side and a must try for all children at heart, refreshing iced teas with various flavors (lychee, mango etc.) and those fun little balls that burst and turn into a party in the mouth :D Red Zen is beautiful to look at and a subtle, very mildly naturally sweet-ish drink made of herbs, fruits and flowers, light and able to transport anyone into a Zen state. No kidding. My favorite of the beverage lot. 

I suggest however that you talk to the staff and take a swig of their extraordinary range of teas. But first, throw all assumptions of tea out the window. You think green tea is bitter? Me too! But have the Kashmiri Kahwa (a kind of green tea) here and you will be left wondering just like me, exactly why have we been sold those green teas that taste like poison all these years? :P It comes infused with saffron and some dryfruits that would change the way we think of green teas. Great for glowing skin and losing weight, this is something I can sip all day long :D 

Silver Needle Tea is a premium White Tea with mildly fruity flavor. What is white tea you ask? It is the one that is obtained when tea leaves have not been oxidized,thus keeping a lot of health benefits intact. We paired it with Bun Muska (sweet ones, just like served in Irani Cafes) and it went very well together. It was actually like drinking very mildly flavored hot water only, there was no heaviness left behind, difficult to believe that this is tea after having spend whole life equating Chai with Tea :) 

Then we had the aforementioned Kashmiri Kahwa, I loved it on its own too, and being green tea (that is obtained when tea leaves are about 40% oxidized) it is choc-a-bloc with myriad health benefits too. We paired it with Burmese Green Tea Salad and Olive & Green Tea Bruschetta. Note that this is something unique that they are doing, so again I would reiterate this might not be perfect for everyone. But give them feedback and this would be an ever-evolving process. 

I found the dishes fantastic on their own. The salad is a guilt free trip with lettuce, nuts, fermented green tea bringing pop and flavors galore on our tongues. A definite must have, finish it off before it gets soggy! Olive & Green Tea Bruschetta had very mild flavor of green tea, this is like a light meal for a light eater, very full bodied. Delicious. Green Tea goes great with salads or toasts and there are many combinations to be tried in this arena :) 

For the adventurous ones (and I implore you to be one!), Blooming Tea is a must try. Go with a group of friends and see a little flower bloom into something beautiful. The way they serve teas here is a show in itself. Ever seen one of those Japanese tea ceremonies, this one is like a contemporary twist on that. Make in India gets a new boost for sure. Speaking of Japanese tea, try out the Matcha Shake, it is a thick rich drink made of Japanese Green Matcha Tea, like a milkshake but lighter, frothier, more fibrous, much much healthier. It is not something that would appeal to anyone instantly but give it some time, and do think about the health benefits, it helps :D A refreshing boost to the day. 

Another favorite of ours was Lapsong Souchong, a Black Tea (almost 100% oxidized) paired with Smoked Paneer Sandwich. This one is a strong flavor and goes perfectly well with those full bodied, delicious Paneer and Caramelized Onions in Barbecue Sauce sandwich. A clear winner of the evening for everyone there and something we would travel to have. And don't think that Black Tea does not have any health benefits either, it helps immensely in reducing cholesterol. The thing is that when tea leaves are oxidized to different levels, they take on different health attributes so no matter which type you have,you always give something nutritious to our body. Mindblowing,right? :) 

If you are feeling like you just sat through some Masterclass and want something down to earth, go for the Kulhad Chai. There is something for everyone here and this is the strongest, down-to-earth drink you can imagine. If you have ever had Kulhad Chai, then that earthen flavor will make you come back here again & again just for having this and don't forget to pair it with Onion Pakodas just like mom makes at home :) 

We also had the pleasure of trying Bombay Masala Sandwich, a city specialty we all love, with fresh cucumbers and a touch of mint to let us de-stress immediately. There was 3 Cheese Risotto which was probably the most calorie dense dish there, it was very heavy on tongue on its own, but it had this green tea butter at the bottom that cut through all the cheesy heaviness effortlessly. A must have if you like risotto or just want to have something different. 

If you really want something light, just go for an Iced Tea with Olives & Green Tea Hummus where both Pita Breads and Hummus are so smooth & creamy,they will transport you instantly to foodie heaven :) 

A look at the menu and it is evident that it is filled with so many healthy options. In our busy lives, this is probably the easiest way to stay healthy. Even if you want to indulge in something once in a while, try out the guilty section of the menu such as Mix Fruit Pastry which was perfectly spongy with fresh fruits compote (nothing artificial) or Red Velvet which was a bit dense and cheesy but come on, don't count calories when having that! :P Choco Chip Muffin is a good bet too but it was a bit dry but the chocolate chips were really dark just the way I love them. It just needs to be a bit more moist. I have my eye on that tempting Dutch Truffle on the menu that I am keeping on my wishlist for next trip here :) 

As I said in the beginning, we have so much culinary wealth in our own country which is ironically respected more in other cultures! When the whole world is turning towards Ayurveda and Natural/ Organic Health Foods including different varieties of Tea, we still have no idea of what we are missing out on

I am mighty impressed by Tea Trails not only because they have endeavored to bring this wealth in front of us, they are also working hard on educating people. It is not an easy task but they are doing it by focusing on good food, great service, excellent hospitality and welcoming ambiance. International in looks, Indian in thoughts. That is what makes Tea Trails special for me. I am going back for continuing my learning process as well as chilling with my friends and effortlessly boosting my health quotient. Hope to see you there too :)


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