Cutting chai Food

Café Niloufer: Tea trails

Café Niloufer remains an all-time favourite Photos: K.V.S. Giri  

There is Irani chai and then there is Café Niloufer’s Irani chai. Gaining its name from its proximity to the famous hospital of the same name, this traditional Hyderabadi café serves smashing chai to the teeming crowds who have been flocking to its humble digs for decades. The place’s tryst with fame started in 1976 when Babu Rao who started out as a cleaner in the cafe took over the reins of the management and started the story of its unprecedented success.

Café Niloufer: Tea trails

The genial owner remarks that they have always been famous for the consistency in quality in what they serve and adds, “I realised early on that chai is an essential and it is one thing people consume multiple times in a day and yet want the taste to remain the same. I have ensured that it remains so. We blend our own tea powder to get the correct colour, consistency and flavour.”

One sip of the kadak chai here, and you know that it warrants all the hype and adulation it receives. The strong flavours hit the taste buds instantly (with a hint of spice) and the concoction is a trifle creamy without being too sweet. Served in a white ceramic cup and saucer (text book Irani café fare), one cannot but marvel that this staple Indian tipple is turned into an art form here, whose appeal draws everyone from politicians visiting the nearby assembly to die hard patrons who have been regulars for decades.

Café Niloufer: Tea trails

Another equally popular offering here, often paired with the chai are the delectable Osmania biscuits. Fluffy and light, they form a dream pair with the tea and are famous for the fact that there is always a fresh batch from the oven. Babu Rao shares, “The way you make the biscuit is very important and our methods have not changed in decades. The maida and the ghee used are of good quality and we make them fresh every hour so that they go straight from our kitchens to the customers.”

Café Niloufer: Tea trails

The small café is always crowded and it’s easier to stand outside than inside for a cuppa! Just a stone’s throw away is the newer five storied premises (started about a year back) which has better ambience and more options ranging from cookies, pastries and small eats. Serving a whopping 5000 cups every day, the owner is the first person to sample the chai each day (at 4.30 am) and gives feedback to ensure that the taste remains true to his stringent standard.

Ask Babu Rao the secret for his success and he is open about it when he says, “When you take good care of people who work for you they give their best. I was a labourer myself so I know all the problems they face. Here, even a cleaner can dream and become an entrepreneur which makes my staff put their best foot forward.” While many things have changed at the café, in the past four decades (including the price which moved northwards from 25 paisa per cup to ₹12 now), its relevance and reputation have remained intact and the café has continued its tryst with what is a unique Hyderabadi offering.

Café Niloufer and Bakers

Where Red Hills Road, Lakdikapul

Cost for tea ₹12

Opening hours 4:30am - midnight

Contact: 8466868670


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 7:55:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/caf-niloufer-tea-trails/article19401993.ece

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