There are many reasons why Bandra is such a loved and adored suburb in Mumbai. Expansive sea promenades, trendy cafes and restaurants in every corner and in-between, and cobbled streets with quaintly-named houses are just some things off the top of my head. But instead of counting all of Bandra’s blessings here, I will pick just one, and leave you who hold her close to your hearts to tot up her charms, because, as Bandra’s iconic St. Peter’s Church message board says, ‘Listen to your heart. It may be on your left, but it is always right!’
The one thing that continues to fascinate visitors, tourists, and even people like me who live in the area and see them day in and day out, are the charming old bungalows of Bandra (see here), some of which have been restored into cafes, restaurants, home stores and even lifestyle hubs. These bungalows are amongst the last remnants of the glory days when Bandra was a collection of 25 small but distinctive and flourishing villages.
One such bungalow is in Bandra Reclamation, housing the Taj Mahal Tea House. The inky blue Sanatan Pereira Bungalow is perhaps the best example of the charm and proud heritage of Bandra. Quite fittingly, it has been beautifully restored by Bandra boys Ayaz and Zameer Basrai for Taj Mahal Tea (yes, the same Wah! Taj brand), continuing the amazing work they have previously done for Smokehouse Deli with it’s intricately patterned walls, and Cafe Zoe with its delightful skylight and exposed walls, amongst others.Just yesterday, the Taj Mahal Tea House with its comfortable drawing-room setup, colonial furniture, gold patterned walls, and delicate Persian motifs completed its first year, and in this one year, it has slowly worked its way into the hearts of not just Bandra-ites but anyone who loves tea, and likes to enjoy their cuppa in an unhurried, relaxed atmosphere. Mind you, it’s not just for those who consider tea drinking a religion, and enjoy the ritualistic activity as a part of their daily routine. It’s also home to the health-aware, on-the-go metrozens of the maximum city, who are increasingly finding tea ‘hip to sip’!
This, and many such quips came ‘twixt the cup and the lip’ at the recent Tea Appreciation Session organized by Taj Tea House. A quick, easy session on the plantations, processing, regions, types and quirks followed by tastings of some gorgeous teas was helmed by Kurush Bharucha, (Tea Expertise Director, Hindustan Unilever) whose journey from Calcutta, via many local tea estates around the world, to London where he is currently stationed, is almost as interesting as the journey of tea leaves from bush to cup. Here’s a taster… Kurush sips as many as a thousand cups of tea a day, and is still able to tell the difference between each one! Surely that counts as a superpower, eh, Marvel?
Being born in Assam, spending my early childhood amongst the pristine rolling greens of tea estates, and coming from a family of tea drinkers so loyal that they will lug around their bag of special Makaibari Darjeeling tea mix wherever they travel meant I was already well-versed with the culture and aura around tea drinking. But this tea session reminded me of, reinforced even, the beautiful social bond that tea seems to bring naturally into a group of complete strangers, making them connect warmly, and feel like a part of something special instantly (and I don’t mean just a Whatsapp group!).
So just over a week after the session, the ‘tea-totallers’ group (sorry, just couldn’t resist that one!) have already met for a recital of reputed sitarist Sahana Banerjee last Sunday, gone out for a group lunch, and are planning to actively participate in the first anniversary celebrations that kick off with a rare-instrument recital of Surbahar on 15th Aug, our Independence Day holiday (what better way to spend a Monday morning!!) I’ll be there with the others, gobbling down a plateful of their surprisingly tangy House Eggs Benedict, with a cup of Curry Patta Tea for warm company. And then maybe a slice or two of the light tea cakes being served for the birthday celebrations!
Oolong, see you there! 😉