The Tea Pot
by Renu Ramanath
21 July 2009
Peter Celia Street, Fort Cochin, Kerala
On the rain-drenched July afternoon, Peter Celli Street in Fort Kochi looked empty. Almost. In this traveller’s paradise monsoon is the hibernation time. You won’t find too many people out in the streets. And many shops down shutters for the annual maintenance during the monsoon months.
Thankfully, the doors of Tea Pot were wide open. At Tea Pot, every time is tea time. And every pot is a teapot.
Well, not every pot, exactly. Take it as an exaggeration. But on every corner, on every other table, behind the glass windows of the huge white, wooden dresser, everywhere your eyes fall inside the high ceilinged room in Peter Celli Street in Fort Kochi, there is a tea pot.
Tea Pot is a quaint, charming place. The walls with paint (deliberately left) peeling off offer an age old warmth. Heavy wooden beams criss cross across the high ceiling. An equally heavy, knobby tree root holds the large, oval glass table, close to the entrance. You won’t see the glass table at first, but feel that the fragile, blue china tea pots and cups are floating on top of the gnarled roots.
At Tea Pot, a scent of antiquity permeates the air all the time. No wonder. Most of the furniture, the wooden chairs with round seats, the tea pots, the photographs in time-worn frames and many a knick-knack lying around on the tables and counter tops are from another time.
The tea pots exhibited in this café are as varied as imaginable. Fragile, wispy China pots, heavy metal pots where the rust of decades (even centuries) rests, pots that have known the touch of elegant ladies from another age, pots from which the Lady of the House always poured the perfect tea with the perfect poise.
There’s more to the ambience, we discovered soon. The flavour of tea was everywhere. The tables in the inner room were plain, old tea chests, with four blocks of wood serving the purpose of legs. Cartons and boxes of rare teas were scattered among the collectibles strewn across the rooms. Old, rarely found volumes displayed upon the dresser talk of tea. Data about tea, information about tea. Tea lore, tea recipes, tea in literature and what not.
Tea Pot serves around 20 types of flavoured tea. At least, that’s what the menu card told us. Lemon, Mint, Rose, Mango, Pure Peppermint, Blueberry, Cranberry, Cinnamon, vanilla, raspberry, strawber… the list is long. And, there’re the Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiris ‘tea for two.’ You will also get the regular cup of tea, or the masala chai or iced tea.
But there is more to Tea Pot than mere tea and cakes. What’s better than a couple of crunchy, golden samosas for a rain- drenched afternoon?
The Tea Pot samosas have the distinct flavour of spices that is not found in the average samosas you can get in Kerala bakeries. The soft potato filling inside the thick, crusty covering will just melt in the mouth.
They serve breakfasts, and lunch too. “That’s just because we don’t want to disappoint the customers who sometimes ask for a bite,” says Sanjay who manages the place. But the focus is always on tea. The breakfast is always Western, toast, preserves, omelettes, pancakes, waffles. No Idly-dosa stuff. But in the afternoons, there’s appam with stew.
Sanjay points out the different tea pots and other knick-knacks lined up along the walls, on the tables and over cupboards. He had collected most of them over years. And some tea pots were gifted by customers. “People go back home and send us gifts which are invariably are tea pots!” Sanjay chuckles.
Out in the streets, it might be the raging rain, or the scorching summer, but Tea Pot awaits the weary traveller, who may walk in anytime for that hot, steaming cuppa.