Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “May, 2016”

Review: Tea Trails Café in Connaught Place

White tea served with a tea timer and details

Green tea served with a tea timer and tea details

For some, tea is passion. For some, it forms the very core of their being. Unable to function sans the morning cup, unable to think straight without that specific cup of chai with the mixture of cardamom, clove and ginger, tea becomes a way of life.
For Kavita Mathur, the co-founder of Tea Trails, tea is sheer passion. “I took a sabbatical some years ago. During that time I read up about tea. I visited places and realized tea is huge is other countries. We wanted to take the tea experience to another level in India and with our past expertise in franchising, we (with husband Uday) set up Tea Trails in Mumbai in 2013,” smiles Kavita. The name has grown across India with the aim to have many more such outlets across the nation by 2020.

Burmese tea salad paired along with white tea

Burmese tea salad paired along with white tea

Attention to detail
I visited their newly-opened bistro in Connaught Place on a weekday evening. The location is absolutely fabulous in the heart of the city. What impressed me as I stepped inside was the set up. From the pale green and white combination of colours to soothe the eye to dark polished seating, Tea Trails has got it spot on.
As you sit down, the smiling server offers you a welcome drink. With over 80-100 combinations of teas, coolers and chais on the menu, one has a lot to choose from. I loved that each tea is accompanied by a little note which explains the origins, brewing time and how best to drink it. And, their sampling table is perfect because one can decide on what to take back if one wants after tasting the various flavours.

The sampling counter

The sampling counter

Kavita Mathur

Kavita Mathur

Re-invention, re-discovery
The aim of Tea Trails is to re-invent the popular beverage. To get more people to rediscover tea. Tea Trails believe in pairing tea with food, with the use of leaves in many preparations. “It’s almost as if one pairs wine with food, we pair teas with food,” Kavita adds.
As a delicate white tea was served alongside a delicious Burmese Tea Salad with olive and sesame oil dressing, it paired beautifully with each sip. The balance of the leaves and the flavor was perfect.
Making tea is not an easy task. It depends on the quantity of leaves used, the temperature of water, the brewing time, the quality of the leaves and from where it’s procured. Tea Trails have tied up with tea gardens in Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiris to give the customers an authentic experience, alongside procuring leaves from different parts of the world.

Kashmiri Kahwa

Kashmiri Kahwa sans sugar

Delicate white tea

Delicate white tea

Another view of green tea from Kashmir

Another view of green tea from Kashmir

Too many varieties
For the first time I tasted Kashmiri Kahwa without oodles of sugar dissolved in it. It was beautiful. And it pair gorgeously with the olive and green tea bruschetta. My favourite was the smoky Lapsang Souchong from the Fujian province of China. The buttered apple tea was interesting as was the Red Zen tisane. The word tisane always takes me back to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirit who loved his sirops and tisanes!

Olive and green tea bruschetta

Olive and green tea bruschetta

A cup of smoky Lapsang Souchong

A cup of smoky Lapsang Souchong

Eggs Kejirwal, a deelish Mumbai favourite

Eggs Kejirwal, a deelish Mumbai favourite

Masala chai with lemongrass washed down with Bombay vada pav

Masala chai with lemongrass washed down with Bombay vada pav

Red Zen tisane!

Red Zen tisane!

My suggestion would be to go and check out this new café at your earliest. It’s pocket friendly and has something for all palates. Including filter coffee for the non-tea lovers!

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Visakhapatnam

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5 Ways to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget

The Sleeping Beauty Castle

The Sleeping Beauty Castle in Germany

It’s summer in Europe and before you know it, you’ll be walking along Champs de Elysees, biting into churros dipped in chocolate and loving the ruins at the Roman Forum. But it’s the pre-holiday bit – the planning – which can be daunting. Especially when you’re travelling to Europe for the first time. Many feel it’s impossible to travel to the Continent on a budget on your own. So, they prefer to travel with groups and eat Indian food day in day out. But if you want to explore Europe on your own, eat and travel the way locals do, planning a budget trip is easy. Here’s how:

1) Set a Budget

The first step is very important. If you’re not earning in Euros or Dollars (I earn in Indian Rupees i.e $1 = Rs 63 approx) you must make sure you know how much you approximately want to spend on your trip. If you have an idea of how many days you want the trip to last, setting a budget becomes easier.
Eg: During my last trip to Europe, I decided to travel for about a month and accordingly set my budget. It included my return flights, internal travel, accommodation, food and the attractions I wanted to visit.

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Notre dame in Paris

Notre dame in Paris

2) Save Money by Planning Ahead

It sounds preposterous but if you can figure out which part of the continent, which city or country you want to be in when around an approximate time, it becomes easier to save. Instead of shelling out 100 euros for a train ticket at the last moment, you can end up buying tickets for less than 10 euros.
Eg: I got an overnight bus ticket from Amsterdam to Paris for 8 euros since I booked about 12 weeks in advance. (Also Read: Loving Amsterdam on a Budget)

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

3) Travel Route

Once you figure out the approximate plan, decide your travel route. Start checking travel websites for deals in and out of Europe from your country. If you book 3-4 months in advance you will find cheap deals. It’s always easier to compare the prices on a travel website and then purchase the tickets from the actual airplane website.
Eg: I got a return fare from Munich to Delhi at Rs 42000 approximately.

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona. Isn't the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona via Vueling.
Isn’t the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

Now decide how you want to travel from city to city, country to country. The best way is a combination of trains, buses and flights. It’s useless to invest in a EuroRail pass. Eg: Instead of buying a pass for Rs 60000 approx, I used a combination for all internal travels at less than half the price. (Also Read: Paris on a Budget)
All tickets go on sale around 3-4 months before, so if you buy then, you save a lot.
Subscribe to Rail Europe, SNCB Europe, DB Bahn, Eurail, Eurolines, EasyJet, Vueling. They keep having offers.

4) Cheap Accommodation in Europe

Stay in key cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin can be expensive. But instead of booking in hotels, try booking in dorms or private rooms in hostels. Check out HostelWorld, HostelBookers and AirBnB.

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

Couchsurfing is a wonderful way to meet new people and understand the city from a local’s perspective.
Eg: I’ve surfed and hosted couchsurfers and I can vouch what a great experience it is. I’ve stayed in hostels in Italy, couchsurfed in Austria, France, Germany and booked in rooms via AirBnb in Spain. (Also Read: Why I Love to Couchsurf)

5) What to See, What to Eat

The best way to see a city is on foot. Instead of investing in City Cards, decide on the attractions you want to visit depending on the days you stay in the city and purchase separate tickets. You can never visit all attractions offered in a card in the limited time-span. Buying separate tickets often work out cheaper.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it's delectable.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it’s delectable.

Eating out every meal burns a hole in the pocket. Why not make a meal yourself? Buy local ingredients from markets and indulge in fresh baguettes with olives and meat in Paris. It’s cheap to taste the local street food. You can find crepes at less than 3 euros in France, Paella and Churros with Coffee at less than 10 euros in Spain, delicious pizzas at about 6 euros in Italy. So go indulge! (Also Read: Eating my way through Spain)

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

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Who can not try Paella in Spain, right?

In Photos: An Impromptu Visit To Fatehpur Sikri

It was last year this time that about 10 friends had come home for lunch. From devouring chicken curry with rice, fish in mustard sauce and ending the spread with two desserts (chocolate cheesecake and lemon pie if memory serves), talks turned to travel. It’s no surprise really because every time the gang meets, travel plans are discussed. The only issue, they fall through because it’s very difficult to get so many people who are free at the same time.
The conversation went somewhat like this… “Its been ages since I travelled,” said A. “Oh I can’t remember when I just packed my bags and left.” “Where did you go?” asked B. “I just came back from Kheerganga,” informed C. “Roadtrips man, it’s been a while,” said D. “Why don’t we go for a roadtrip tonight?” a voice was heard from among the chatter.
We all turned at her. “It’s Sunday tomorrow. We are all off. So why don’t we leave tonight from Delhi to someplace nearby and we’ll be back in the afternoon?” That was an idea! Quick calculations later, we zeroed in on Fatehpur Sikri. Three cars, munchies, a good music play list and a need to get out of town is what egged us. We had all been there before of course, but there’s something so tempting to go back to places we’ve been to before. Beer helps in that decision too, just saying!

The view as one enters the complex

The view as one enters the complex

For history buffs
Akbar, the third great Mughal ruler, built this city and shifted his capital here in 1571. However, after his death and thanks to insufficient water supply, it was abandoned but the majestic Indo-Islamic architecture wows travellers to this day. Barely 40km away from Agra, the red sandstone walls of the palace has found its way into many must-see travel lists.

Inside Fatehpur Sikri

Inside Fatehpur Sikri

The complex is famous for structures such as the Buland Darwaza, Paanch Mahal, Diwani-Khas, Tomb of Salim Chisti, Palace of Joda Bai, Hawa Mahal etc. As one enters the complex, it’s a step back in time. You realise the grandeur of the Mughal era, wishing you had a chance to see it when it was a flourishing city. It must have been a fantastic sight to behold.

That's a pose in front of the massive Buland Darwaza

That’s a pose in front of the massive Buland Darwaza

It's a massive door - Buland Darwaza

It’s a massive door – Buland Darwaza

The Darwaza from inside the complex

The Darwaza from inside the complex

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

Corridor in symmetry

Corridor in symmetry

Anoop Talao

Anoop Talao

Diwani-Khas, the picture we've seen in history books all our lives

Diwani-Khas, the picture we’ve seen in history books all our lives

The Paanch mahal was being worked on, so the next best thing was to go under it

The Paanch mahal was being worked on, so the next best thing was to go under it

Tomb of Salim Chisti

Tomb of Salim Chisti

The sunrise from the hill top, before entering

Seeing the sunrise before entering

The sun rises

The sun rises

The beautiful complex

The beautiful complex

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