The city of Kolkata is still steeped in the Victorian culture of evening tea spreads at 4pm sharp. Its proximity to Darjeeling ensures that the tea in Kolkata is an experience unlike elsewhere. The exquisite Darjeeling tea is not just available in the posh tea salons but some roadside chaiwallas too can serve up a golden Darjeeling “liquor cha”. Here’s a list of the best places to hit for tea – from the city’s best afternoon teas for those who want to experience something special, to street-side chai in clay cups.
Lalit Great Eastern
The celebrated colonial hotel – The Great Eastern, once hosted Nikita Khrushchev and the Wilson’s Hotel that opened in 1840 received a mention in Rudyard Kipling’s The City of Dreadful Night. Now renovated and renamed as the Lalit Great Eastern, it serves high tea in a tea lounge which has a glass ceiling. The spread includes tea cakes, croissants, brie with apricot chutney on walnut bread, éclairs, strudels, scones with Devonshire cream preserves.
Downtown Abbey, anyone?
For old-style English high tea spreads, head to The Taj Bengal. They lay out an array of teas with scones, macaroons, tea cakes, petit fours in the Promenade Lounge. You may be forgiven for thinking you are in an episode of Downtown Abbey.
Belvedere Rd, Alipore
Legendary Dolly’s is an independent tea café dreamed up by owner Dolly Roy, a tea taster (some say she was India’s first female one). This tiny café with cane chairs and tea memorabilia has been around for a while, and is a favourite of the Bengali ‘aatel’ (intellectual) crowds who love to sit here for hours downing cups of tea over long sessions of adda. Dolly’s serves up a huge variety of hot and iced tea sourced from tea estates around India. Snacks include plates of shrimp cutlets and ham sandwiches.You can also pick up bags of tea for your friends and family packed in tailor-made pouches.
Young & hip
A cosy café located in a quiet, green part of South Kolkata is known for their cupcakes and desserts. Try their afternoon tea spread with assorted mini frosted cupcakes, sandwiches, raisin scones and a pot of Darjeeling. Or The Magpie Special Afternoon Tea which offers a choice of teas with cupcakes, petit fours, assorted biscuits, loaf cake, and sandwiches.
Hindustan Park, Gariahat
Expect a range of funky tea varieties –apple pie, lavender citrus, rose delight, Moroccan mint, et al. Tea Trove has three cafes scattered around the city with a food menu that includes Indian, Mexican and Continental flavours.
Lake Terrace; near Deshopriya Park; Sarat Bose Rd
Addas and art
Abar Baithak is a hip and happening hangout for the Bengali art, theatre and lit crowds. If you visit on a Sunday, you may find a storytelling session or a music performance. Over board games or a game of carom pick from the menu a good selection of teas (Darjeeling, a few flavoured ones), coffees, sandwiches, wraps, finger foods and great desserts.
Kolkata’s legendary tea room, Flury’s offers the calm of afternoon tea. Founded in 1927 by Mr and Mrs J Flurys, it is the perfect place to sit and enjoy afternoon tea. The tea spread here includes Flury’s cream tea with scones, preserve and whipped cream or the Flury’s afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, butter cream pastry and a seasonal fruit parfait. Do order some Baba Cakes – it belongs to the ‘heritage category’, the butter-cream pastries and almond cheese tarts.
This joint close is a venture run by people from Kala Bhavan, the fine arts campus of Visha Bharati University in Shantiniketan. Flip through the newspaper format menu and you will come across an impressive selection of tea – try a passionfruit iced tea or a hot Kashmiri Kahwa. The burgers are great here or order a Nutella burst grill cake or a fresh-baked pot cake with ice cream with your tea. You can also pick up crafts from Bengal – from ceramicware to handmade jewellery, and clothes.
Near Tollygunge metro station