Tea Kadai Puraanam


When the radio volume is kept high during school days, parents and others at home will remark ” Ennada tea kadai maathiri radiova vachirukke” . I remember tea shops at Chennai playing radio in high volumes. When you visit the outskirts, one sees a thatched shed with the boiler, with Viboothi and kungumam, on the body. The boiler is the same one we used to have at our homes during 60s and 70s for making hot water for bathing during rainy season and co called winter months of December and January.

I remember one such boiler, which was kept in the backyard at our residence at Lazarus Church Road, which was stolen one night during early eighties. Surprisingly on a complaint given to the Police, the boiler was restored and handed over to us.

Some teashops double as newspaper / magazine shops also. With 2 crude benches made out of wooden planks. Those who wile away time with newspaper in one hand and tea glass in the other hand. Many such comedy scenes of Tamil films with tea kadai as backdrop come to my mind with Senthil – Goundamani, Parthiban – Vadivelu and a scene in “Pathinaaru Vayathinile” where the famous dialogue “patha vachittiye paratte” being told to Rajnikanth no of times.

Now we have teashops in Chennai without radios or transistors blaring at high volumes. Now you see TVs in some teashops as you see in the photo shot at Koyambedu Market.. Tea glasses have given way to the plastic cups. Yet I come across some tea shops as described earlier in suburbs of Chennai viz Porur , Ramavaram and Valasaravakkam. I consider the tea in these shops authentic, and with a familiar request “pudusa thool podunga” meaning a request to use new tea dust, the tea shop owner willingly obliges.

I remember, while working in a synthetic resin factory at Madhavaram, on GNT Road, as a lonely shift engineer keeping awake in the night shift waking up a worker to go in the company car to get tea for all of us. The tea will be served in an aluminium cup and the taste of this Madhavaram tea was not felt anywhere till now.

The teashops here make tea by having various components viz milk , water , tea decoction , sugar etc., separately and the brew is made to the requirement of the customer like double strong tea, strong tea, china tea, paal tea and the like, I have seen in places like Delhi ,Chandigarh, Simla and other North Indian cities where the tea is made in a tea strained kettle where the milk is poured first, tea is measured in hands and put. Like an expert chemist, the teamaker puts the sugar and allows it to boil. I have seen in some places, the teamaker stirring the tea with a karandi (forgot the English word ) and he will pour the tea in his hand and taste with his tongue. Add some more sugar, filter directly into the glass and will be served hot. In the cool climate, the tea served comforts the drinker.

The tea in so called military hotels in Chennai have another taste, which is also good. While many restaurants at Chennai serve authentic filter coffee, in my view one should not have tea in such restaurants. I feel tea in such restaurants are nothing but milk with a faint flavour of tea.

Strangely for a Chennaiite, I am used to taking tea at home since childhood. While the tea made at home tasted differently on different days, the tea made by my maternal grandmother (late) was having consistent taste, which I cannot forget. Unable to tolerate the (in) different taste of tea being served, I decided to make my own tea and for the last decade or so, I make my own tea in the mornings and whenever I am at home during tea time in the evenings.

11 Comments so far

  1. nandhu (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 3:13 am

    do the tamil words need to be translated?

  2. R.S.MANI (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 5:29 am

    Dear Nandhu,


  3. Ravi (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

    GVB, a wonderful post bringing back many nostalgic memories. The boiler is one thing which has almost become an antique these days. The road side tea shop, apart from providing tea and tidbits is one big solace to the lonely solace, with some chit chat with fellow customers, and also providing directions and help whenever required. These tea shops are what I missed abroad. Above all, at the end of your post I felt like having a cuppa! Thanks GVB for a lovely post!

  4. Jeevan (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 11:04 pm

    Even in my school days, there will be a Tea Kadai near my house, i used to sing the advertisments which come on the radio, while getting ready for school.

  5. nessie (unregistered) on June 15th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    karandi = spoon
    loved that post!

  6. david (unregistered) on June 15th, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

    hey gv, great post! brought back memories of the tea shop near my college where we used to hang out now and then. the joke used to be that it was difficult to get your fingers to disengage with the glass when you were done! they were that cursorily washed, and looked cloudy all the time. the boiler, of course, is rapidly becoming a collecteor’s item i think.

  7. suppamani (unregistered) on June 16th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    At Saravana Bhavan, the Special Tea would be prepared only after placing order for the same. It would take 5 to 10 minutes to get ready. The waiting is worthy one. The tea prepare in thick milk , strong and with some masalas and tastes well. But the too small quantity ( a two or three “PEGS” only ) makes you to long for some more.

  8. Nancy (unregistered) on June 18th, 2006 @ 11:00 am

    I really enjoyed reading this – well written and evocative. I think karandi is a ladle.

  9. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on June 18th, 2006 @ 10:51 pm

    Thank you all for the comments. I am encouraged.

  10. Vish (unregistered) on June 26th, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

    Awesome post … :)
    “Oru Tea stronga .. sakkara jyasthi”

  11. thetalkativeman (unregistered) on July 1st, 2006 @ 3:01 pm


    If you are referring to the standard sambhar karandi like this one, LADLE is the good word.

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