Tea strong over old songs

Cup that Cheers

The sun took a break from shining bright, the clouds hovered over the city...

It rained. Mud-filled roads saw pedestrians come out with umbrellas. I didn’t have one on me. With the cold making me shiver all over, and the hot breakfast doing almost nothing to warm me up, I searched for a cup of tea,
with naught but the hood of my jacket over my head.

Across the road outside my home in the new block, I saw a group of people huddling around, with a film of thin smoke about them. Near-sighted, I thought they were surrounding a fire. But as I crossed the road for a closer look, I found a tea stall – a beautiful one – and an elderly couple busy making tea.

The shop is a makeshift awning, an extended part of a rickshaw, which stores biscuits and sugar, around which are gas cylinders, two stoves and few stools. A wall on the back is decorated with a variety of tea boxes from West Bengal; Darjeeling, to be more specific.

Welcome to ‘The Singing Tree’ – the utopia of tea lovers at Chittaranjan Park Market 1. Now, I am not the first to write something about this 26-year-old shop: You can read the articles written on ‘Raju Dada Chaa’, cutouts of which are hung on the wall behind the stall, along with a variety of colourful bottles and earthen cups for you
to choose.

“I serve tea to people from all classes. If you are new to the city and come to me with a hope that the price of tea is similar to Kolkata, you won’t go dissatisfied. My combo of one matthi and a cup of tea also comes for Rs 5,” says
the tea-maker from Kishanganj, Bihar.

Cardamom, ginger, basil, green and less-sugar-more-liquor are some flavours from the variety of teas they sell. On the other hand, flavoured milk and leading coffee brands available in the market can also be found here. While the couple sells regular tea for Rs 6 and Rs 8 a cup, spend two bucks more and ask them to make something special. Chances are, you will go gaga from the very first sip.

The seven-minute preparation of Raju Saha goes something like this: He boils the water, sprinkles two full spoons of tea leaves, a spoon of dust tea and sugar, holds it for three minutes for the flavour to come out, adds milk and covers the utensil with its lid, and serves it after a minute or two.

People still call it ‘Raju Dada Chaa’, but for me it is ‘The Singing Tree’. Why? Well, just a few days ago, while leaving for office, I hailed an auto from in front of the under-the-tree shop. The auto-driver peeped out of his three-wheeler and said, “Sir, it’s time to rest after a good lunch and a great tea.” Angry, I felt like complaining to the Government number made available for situations just as this, but pitied the poor guy, thinking he must be an avid lover of good music and tea.

Now, tea you knew, but where did the music come from? Turns out, Raju Dada had smartly placed, or rather hidden, a radio somewhere on the tree. The beverage aficionados can’t see it from underneath, but the old melodies it belts out add a pinch of nostalgia to the rich aroma of the Bong teacups.

Visit this place once before winter leaves the city. Spend 20 minutes under the painted bark of ‘The Singing Tree’, soak in the sunshine and enjoy the best tea experience available in the city. Don’t doubt a Bong over his taste
of tea; just try it.

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