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Churchgate, as an area, has always been known for its interesting restaurants – from Jazz By The Bay to now Pizza By The Bay, Café Mocha to now Salt Water Café, the ever-popular Sundance to the new, modern Café Sundance and even the 60-year-old K. Rustom Ice Cream. Apart from these popular eateries, there are several other – and sometimes lesser known – cafés. One such gem is The Tea Centre.
The name would have you think it is a tea stall or a shop dedicated to chai, but this colonial club-styled café is so much more than that. It is housed in the building where the Mumbai branch of the Tea Board of India is located, and is owned and run by the government. They also have a lovely little Tea Bazaar that sells some of their stellar products. Expect anything from oolong, Darjeeling first flush, second flush, Kashmiri kahwa, orange pekoe and so many more. This really is a tea connoisseur’s delight.
The restaurant is full of adorable tea quotes framed on their stark, white walls, and is full of an old-world charm that is rarely found in the city these days. There is almost a hush of silence once you enter this cozy nook, and it makes you feel like you are miles away from the bustling traffic and intense heat outside. No fancy plated meals here. No superstar chef or one who is trying very hard to be one. No done-to-death pasta, risotto, pizza, burger, or nacho options. Instead, there is a simple, humble menu that is divided into two sections: international meals and snacks, and Indian ones. The cream of mushroom soup, palak paneer, cheese and jalapeno poppers, hara bhara kababs and prawn or chicken koliwada are just some of their show-stopping dishes. Much like their famous banana caramel tea or the kulhad masala chai, which some patrons have been religiously drinking for years. People flock here throughout the day for their fix of tea and snacks. Interestingly, they are open for breakfast and serve a wonderful selection of eggs, toast, jam, poha, upma, several other dishes and, of course, tea.
While tea has now become trendy and people are getting innovative by using tea elements in food and even creating tea-based cocktails, Tea Centre has been at it for a while with their impressive selection and various flavoured ice teas. While tea rooms are mushrooming all over the city, this one remains special and will always be the original trendsetter.
If you are in the area, pop in for a cup of their famed hot buttered apple tea and delicious chilli garlic French fries. It is a winning combination!
Follow Roxanne @The Tiny Taster
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.