Mumbai: French-styled cafe in Fort to give tea-drinking a makeover

Oct 01, 2017, 13:11 IST | Anju Maskeri

A new French-styled tea cafe in Fort hopes to give tea-drinking the makeover it deserves

(Owner Jiten Sheth with his sons Somil and Rohak. Pics/ Tanvi Phondekar
(Owner Jiten Sheth with his sons Somil and Rohak. Pics/ Tanvi Phondekar

It's 4 pm when we meet owner Jiten Sheth and his son Rohak, at Tasse de The, the new French-cum-Victorian styled tea cafe at Fort. It's also the time we crave our daily dose of cutting chai. Today, though, what we have on the table is far removed from the spiced, over-boiled concoction created by the office chaiwalla. 

Poured in a baby pink ceramic cup, it's a thin bodied, coppery coloured fruity blend comprising organic Darjeeling black tea and natural litchi flavour that Sheth has brewed for us. Before we can sip it, he cuts in, "Drinking tea is like sipping wine. There's a science to it. So, hold the brew close to your nose and take a deep breath. Now, throw your table manners out of the window, and slurp the liquid into your mouth and let it swirl," he instructs. For Sheth, having tea is akin to a musical experience -- the notes change with every sip. "It's got layers, just like a musical composition," he explains. It's one of the many aspects of the beverage that he hopes to educate guests in once the cafe opens its door later this month.

Tasse de The means a cup of tea in French. Housed in one of the old buildings with lofty ceilings at DN Road, the cafe, with its French classical façade makes you forget you are in the metropolis. The only reminder is the chatter of the workers putting finishing touches to the decor.

A tea drinker for decades, Sheth's interest in the brew developed during his business trips to the far east. "I would always take time out to visit plantations and meet cultivators, because I wanted to know what went into its making," says Sheth, who has
travelled to Japan, China, Darjeeling, Munnar, Sikkim and Africa to learn about the techniques of brewing. Presently, the cafe receives a supply of tea leaves from 17 different countries. "Nothing is scented here. everything we use is natural," he says. This explains the prices which start at R250 and, brace for a heart attack, go right up to R5K. "The tea leaves can be infused almost five times. You'll get the same consistency or even become better, because we are using whole tea leaves and not fennels," he says.

While Sheth ideates on the nature of the brews at the cafe, son Rohak handles the business aspect of it. "I told him that it's my passion and your profession," says Sheth, who at 52, decided to turn tea blender after his son offered to launch a cafe. Both, however, were keen on launching it in Fort, an area dotted with heritage structures. "Our concept of the old world Parisian cafe with a modern touch goes with the well with the location," says Rohak, adding that Kamala Mills was struck off from the start.

However, he had doubts when it came to his father's inclination to delve into the business. "I thought it might be difficult for him to switch over to something new. But he is as excited as a rookie. In fact, he just completed a course from the International Tea Masters Association in San Francisco, says Rohak. Currently, the cafe houses 300 different blends, of which 106 are Sheth's creations. "All teas prepared here are herbal and aimed at curbing health problems," he says.

Sheth also plans to conduct regular tea tasting sessions to dispel myths. "Tea contains an acid called L-theanine that relaxes your mind. So the belief that you won't get sleep if you drink tea is false."

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