Kashmir has got to be one of my most favorite and oft traveled spot in India. Whenever someone asks me how many days to plan for Srinagar, I am at a loss as every time I go there, I discover a new nugget. I can’t get enough of traversing the quiet waters of the Dal Lake in a shikara or clicking the houseboats while walking on the Boulevard or simply daydreaming in the astonishingly beautiful Mughal gardens.
This time I visited Srinagar in peak winters to get a taste of the snowfall and fell in love with the pristine white cloak draped over the landscape, rendering it a dreamy postcard feel with its soft powdery sprinkle over everything.
Since I am such a tea-holic, my hostess decided to take me out to a newly opened Chai Jaai cafe which is located on the scenic Bund on the river Jhelum. I was charmed by the quaintness of the cafe which was actually a re-converted photo studio (Mahatta – very popular name in the world of photography). The walls were adorned with some gorgeous B&W pictures of Kashmir of yore which were a stupendous visual treat.
What I found admirable about the cafe was the way papier mache (Kashmiri handicraft technique) was patronized to do up the walls in a stunning pattern and color combination. The use of modern light fittings married to the traditional, lent the place an endearing air of warmth and welcome.
There was an interesting wall of square cubby holes which displayed gorgeous tin boxes of various teas – some for use by the cafe and some to be bought by customers to take away. Next to it was a beautiful arrangement of old-fashioned metal samovar and sets of Persian kehwa cups.
And yes the selection of teas and Kehwa was good too. I loved the teapot with its multi-hued digital print, echoing the colors of the cafe.
I think their most popular item is the noon chai or the salt tea (I have not been able to develop a taste for it) and Harissa – a meat dish which (take my word for it) is to die-for. Shirmaal which is a sweet roti is another delicacy to try; though with my aversion to sweet stuff, I haven’t sampled it yet! To make it simpler, just go for the fragrant Kehwa with its gorgeous amber tones (from the saffron threads) and the sweet cardamom smell wafting in soft vapors to tease you into ecstasy.
Overall a pretty appealing cafe in the heart of Srinagar to enjoy a hot cuppa while watching the setting sun play with the crimson hues in the evening skies, over the waters of the Jhelum river. Or simply to read a book as you sip on a brew! Don’t miss out on stopping here, whenever you go to Srinagar next!
My favorite pastime while traveling is to visit cafe in the market places and sip a hot cup while watching the city life. Whats your view on that?
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Read about the floating post office in a houseboat on Dal Lake here
- Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and is easily accessible by air and road.
- Kehwa is a popular traditional drink of Kashmir, made out of saffron and cardamom.
- Bund is the fortification of a section of the river into a channel to contain the flow of water.
- papier-mache is a Kashmiri art of layering paper (first soaked in glue and water) over any surface (like boxes, trinkets, etc) and then painting it in gorgeous floral patterns and bright colours, often with gold leafing too.