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Boiler tea shops have become a rarity with the escalation of fuel prices. A scene at a tea stall near Bussy Street.
PUDUCHERRY: M.K. Muralidharan opens the tap of his boiler for the steaming water. Even before it flows through the filter filled with tea leaves and into the glasses, he hears the voice of his customer shouting: “Nair, tea engappa?” With quick movements, he adds sugar and milk to the “decoction” and makes the cup of “chaya” for his visitor.
Though tea shops dot every street corner of this coastal town, finding one that serves the famous “boiler” tea is quite a task. Over the years, most tea shops in Puducherry have switched to what people call the “dum tea,” made directly by adding tea leaves to the milk and not with the hot water from the copper boilers.
Ayyapan Swami, who has been serving boiler tea at his shop near JIPMER hospital for over 30 years, says that the dum tea allows one to re-use the leaves over and over again and cut down on the cost. “If we use 2 kg of tea leaves every day, people who serve dum tea can do with 1 kg. Therefore, the profit margin for every glass of tea increases,” he says.
Also, the boilers demand that the flame on the stove is kept continuously burning in order to provide steaming hot water.
A lot of fuel could be saved with the dum tea as the stove is switched off when not necessary.
But what keeps such boiler tea stalls going is the patronage of the customers, some of whom have been coming to the shops for decades. Ravindran, a mechanic by profession who drives all the way from Mudaliarpet to Chinna Subbrayapillai Street for his tea in the morning, says that the flavour that boiler tea provides is unique. “Unless you brew the tea with hot water, you won't get the real flavours. You could easily feel the difference in the body when you have the boiler tea,” he says.
These stall owners say that one of their long-term demands to the government is that they should not be treated as commercial units and should be given LPG cylinders at lower cost. “Unless our fuel costs are brought down, boiler tea would be thing of the past very soon,” says Muralidharan.
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