Friday, September 16, 2011


My Article in THE PUNEKAR

Pune is a Tea Town but soon it may not be so, for the culture of Pune is fast changing. Youngsters don’t drink tea anymore – they consider it infra dig to have a cup of tea. Yes, the young and the restless prefer Coffee. And mind you, not the rejuvenating cup of pea-berry-plantation filter coffee served by the Udipi restaurants, which we used to love but the expensive stylish alien international coffees served at posh Baristas, CCD’s and high-falutin coffee shops proliferating rapidly all over Pune.
Just imagine, the other day I couldn’t get a cup of decent tea in a multiplex but there were plenty of varieties of exotic coffee all around – coffees which are quite “alien” to the Indian style and do not fortify the strong cup of Indian Filter Coffee or what a cuppa of Amrut tulya tea does.
Going back to my childhood days in 1960s, Pune [or Poona as it was known then] was a 100% “TEA TOWN”. Everyone drank tea, except some quirkyupaas type aunts.
There were chiefly two types of tea for the laidback discerning gourmet Punekar to relish: the tasty flavoursome Chaha at the ubiquitous Amruta- tulya tea shops at every nook and corner of Pune and the peerless Irani Chai served by the numerous Irani restaurants across the city. Places like CafĂ© Naaz, Lucky, Good Luck, Volga, Vahuman etc were popular for their tasty chai. Indeed Amrut-tulya Chaha and Irani Chaiare an important aspect of the culinary heritage of our Pune.
Irani Chai is the most rejuvenating beverage I have ever had. They keep the steaming rich tea brew and hot milk in separate containers and mix it in just the right proportion to get the terrific inimitable gulabi Chai.
A few years ago I got a shock of my life when I discovered a Barista coffee shop in place of my favourite Naaz. Yes, my favourite Irani Restaurants, Naaz, Lucky and many others have disappeared and only the redoubtable Good Luck at Deccan Gymkhana remains.
Amrut-tulya Chaha stalls too are fast vanishing. The one nearest to where I lived on Tilak Road in Sadashiv Peth in the 1960’s next to Ashok Bakery have disappeared few years ago. Further down the road past SP College towards Maharashtra Mandal there still exist the legendary Ambika and New Ambika Amrutatulyas. A friend of mine used to savour his morning cuppa in Ambika and his evening cup of tea in New Ambika. If you look around you will still find a number of Amrut-tulyas in the heart of Pune city though in the newly developed cosmopolitan suburbs there are Tapris.
Amrut means nectar and tulya means comparable, so “Amrut Tulya” means “Comparable to Nectar” and indeed, true to its name, Amrut-tulya tea is comparable to nectar –  sweet, ambrosial like the elixir of life!
I love watching Amrut-tulya chaha being prepared. They prepare tea in front of you in a brass vessel. The speciality of this vessel is that as it starts ageing, the tea becomes tastier. Milk and water are boiled together, with plenty of sugar, cardamom powder, crushed ginger and tea leaves, stirring continuously to make sure it concoction does not overflow. The aroma of this tea is tempting enough to pull you inside for a hot cup of tea.
As an ardent tea lover, I am glad to share a recipe of traditional Amrut-tulya chaha
If you live in Pune, get the famous CTC+OP (CTC – Crush, Tear, Curl; OP – Orange Pekoe; BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe) family mixture tea powder from any of the tea depot located in the heart of Pune City. You may use some good Assam CTC tea.
Full Cream Buffalo Milk
Fresh Water
Fresh Ginger Crushed (Better still you can crush the juicy fresh ginger with the chimta directly into the water-milk concoction to let the ginger juices flow out and blend in smoothly.
Cardamom – peel, crush and powder the pods
Please remember that Amrut-tulya tea is not your traditional masala chai so please do not add any teamasalas or spices like clove, cinnamon, black peppercorns or herbs like gavati chaha (lemon grass), tulsi leaves etc. Also remember it is not the khada chamach or cutting chai, so please don’t boil away to glory.
  • In a brass vessel [or stainless steel, if you can’t get a brass vessel] mix one cup of water and one cup of milk.
  • Add four teaspoons of sugar.
  • Put on the stove on medium heat.
  • Squeeze in a bit of fresh crushed ginger and add a pinch of cardamom powder and the freshly crushed peel.
  • Lightly and lovingly stir the concoction, let it warm and bring it to boil.
  • Add two teaspoons of tea powder and keep stirring gently to ensure the boiling concoction does not spill over.
  • Keep boiling till the tea attains bright golden-orange colour.
  • The moment you see a reddish tinge, give the heavenly brew a loving last stir, twirl the vessel and sieve the Amrut Tulya Nectar Tea, your Special Chaha, directly into the cups.
You can drink Amrutatulya chaha from your cup but you will enjoy it better if you drink it from the saucer sucking and pulling in the yummy liquid with your lips and let it deliciously emulsify on your tongue for that heavenly elevating feeling.
Sip the delicious tea slowly and mindfully, roll it on your tongue, let it mingle in your palate, close your eyes, absorb, discern the flavour, the rich taste, relish every sip lovingly.
Amrut-tulya Chaha is truly lip-smacking tasty and soul refreshing, blissful ambrosia, an experience of nectar – you can take my word for it. Now you know why they call this refreshingly delicious and nourishing tea Amrut Tulya “comparable to Nectar” Chaha.
Cheers!!! Enjoy your cup of special Puneri Amrut-tulya nectar tea. If you are a true blue Punekar, don’t head for the nearest coffee shop – always look around for an Amrut-tulya.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
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A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and he is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

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