Tea, Crumpets and Conversations

Marking a surging trend with an adaptive taste for the popular beverage, yet maintaining a local touch is an archetype among the youth and the urbane, observes Esha Chaudhuri

By Esha Chaudhuri

Through the generations, the sha – dud and saw have reigned in our hearts and veins. However, in an increasingly mobilised, well connected world and a globalised setting, the consumption of the traditional cuppa in an elevated fashion has steadily witnessed an upward trend. This is by and large a trending wave with the rising cafés, restaurants, and coffee shops that offer a diverse list of selections under the umbrella of tea. In this edition, Sunday Shillong explores the emerging culture of tea in eclectic fashion and tastes – some advocate the traditional while others embracing levels of global standards varying from tea rooms, a refreshing boba tea, and/or a quick cutting chai on the go.

Tea – not as we know it

Breaking the norm, three tea places namely, Enchanté TeaRoom, Boba Tree and Chaiops have set off a new era of tea drinking in the city. Taking cue from English teas and American breakfast spreads, Founder and owner at Enchanté, Beverly Kharsyntiew says, “I have always loved the idea of the English afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream, arranged beautifully on a tea tier stand with a beautifully brewed pot of tea and a breakfast place. Shillong was missing that, and so I thought of introducing this concept here.”

Enchanté, a French word that translates as a social pleasantry meaning “pleased to meet you.” Most that have thronged Enchanté would vouch for the same. Mark, who had visited the cafe for the first time in 2019, says, “The selection of 50 types of teas along with a breakfast menu including parfaits and eggs benedict, makes it so special.”

Another Keneth Sequeira expresses his joy, “It makes for a great place to unwind, eat and drink one of their infused teas.”

“I read a book or play a board game while enjoying one of their local teas and snacks,” says Kartikeya Kashiva.

Passion project Enchanté Tearoom offers an array of tea encapsulating the experience of a typical English afternoon tea with sandwiches, pastries, and a number of tea blends.

Inspired through her travels and visiting tearooms across the world, Shillong bred Kharsyntiew explains Enchanté’s concept – “We’ve tried to keep it as authentic as we can. Our teas are sourced from different tea sommeliers from all over the country like Darjeeling, Imphal, Assam, Maharashtra, Dehradun, I also make some of the blends that are served. We have teas like chilli black tea, mandarin orange black tea, Russian lemon black tea, lavender white, blue pea flower tea, Moroccan tea, rooibos tea, saffron kahwa, ginger infusion, Japanese matcha tea,apple spice, mango mint and we also serve teas made out of local ingredients like roselle (jajew), garcinia (soh danei) and sumac berries, including different tea lattes like chai tea latte and London fog. All our iced teas are also brewed in house using our tea leaves only, we also serve kombucha tea which is a fermented tea.”

A trend setter in a new age consumption of tea, Boba Tree has been every millennial and Gen Z’s preferred choice of beverage with its global, yet cosmopolitan appeal. From its first branch in Shillong in 2020 to the second in Bengaluru, Boba Tree has invented a new age of tea consumption leaving Gen Z raving about its matcha and Thai milk tea flavours. A Taiwanese tea popularly known as bubble tea or Boba tea started in the 1980s consisting of tea with chewy tapioca pearls which may or may not entail toppings along with flavours. As its Proprietor, Sabina Pariat articulates, “I first tried Boba tea with my children who have been receptive to world cuisines and drinks. I liked it and thought why not open a space in Shillong.” 

Speaking on the response and existing competition in the market, Pariat says, “This is a niche industry with almost no competition since there is no organised brand that serves bubble tea.”

“The response has been stupendous. Yes, it is the young that have welcomed bubble tea and it can be called a millennial drink.”, she exclaims.

Featured in GQ Magazine and other popular lifestyle sections, Boba Tree has won over the hearts of many. As Colette Nongbet says, “It was a mouthwatering and delectable treat. I will be coming back.”

“We ordered Thai bubble tea and blueberry bubble tea and the taste was good, I’ll come back for the same menu,” adds Chaeyoung Kim.

Running a chain across a number of cities in India, Chaiops assembles popular tea choices from different parts of India. From masala chai, cutting chai, filter coffee and many versions of the popular iced tea, Chaiops has been witnessing an exponential growth among different tea startups. Owner of Chaiops, Marqueen Sun says, “We bring tea of different flavours from all over the country and serve it with warmth along with popular food accompaniments such as Maggi, nachos, pizzas and burgers.”

Emphasising on their selling point, Sun adds, “We source our tea from Delhi and localise them in accordance to the preferences of the people here.”

Even though fairly new in the market, Chaiops’ extended popularity from other cities along with their pricing and relatability is making room among Shillongites.

Beverages, just like food, underline a unifying force. They bring people together – something that people bond over. All three have pioneered a new era of tea consumption- far from the traditional choices, shaping a vibrant cafe culture in the city.

Coming of age – innovative and attractive

As the city accounts for options like those in the metropolitan cities, people’s choices, however, are not always alike. Taking the example of tea, as Kharsyntiew explains, “Tea is an art, the more you learn about it, the more fascinating it becomes. The correct brewing methods, the correct temperature and the correct brewing time are very essential to have the perfect cup of tea.”

While many have adapted to the detailing of tea making and drinking, others remain rooted in their choice – making room for respected differences. On this note, what did the people of Shillong have to say?

Not finding extensive coverage is tea served in the classic, and local manner, is the traditional sha and tea stalls strewn in and around the city. One that continues to fancy the traditional and the blue collared. “I have a round of chai in the morning and evening in between my taxi shifts for the day. I have not known tea in any other form” says Suraj, a local taxi driver.

A contractor in the construction business, Lamkupar says, “I have seen the young in the city carrying fancy cups of tea and coffee. For me, tea is the one I drink at home or at Kong Deng’s Sha shop.” 

On being asked about the new wave of tea and tea places, Ibahun Swer, an employee at a government office says, “Yes, the city has a number of them. I’d go with my teenage daughter, and I did find the blends interesting. Personally, I’m a traditionalist at heart – I enjoy brewing my own; a mug full of wellmade tea with two spoons of sugar with a slice of local teacake.”

A growing fad? A neo-capitalist, bourgeoise objectification of a regular beverage? Or an amalgamation of worldly cultures under one roof? People speak. However, whether this trend will see a full lifetime is for time to tell.

It is not a pitch for pitting one against the other, but rather to focus on the embracing of an elevated taste of consumption. The existence of and the appreciation for these enterprises authenticate this shared enthusiasm.

This, when connected with tea, finds itself a special place in the hearts of Shillongites. So, grab a cuppa of choice and rejoice it with friends on Friendship’s Day!

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