Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just for a cup of tea!

Last week on a rainy morning, I and a friend of mine strolling around Little Russel Street went to a tea shop in that area. I had tea and my friend handed over four Rs 20 note to the server and asked him to keep the change. He looked surprised and asked for Rs 20 more saying that the cost of the bigger cup tea we just had was Rs 50 each.
Recently I got a quote from the ICCR café for tea and cookies for a function at the ICCR which was about Rs 229/- per person inclusive of taxes and service charges. I was shocked as the rate quoted was almost at par with that of the 5 star properties in the city.
Tea, which is a common man's drink across India with few exceptions in South India where coffee is more popular, with this kind of pricing of a regular man's drink is not very common. There was a time when we used to know only about liquor tea and milk tea. Only the elite class differentiated between the leafy tea and CTCs. On the other hand, Indian Darjeeling tea has set various world records for its aroma and price.
During my travels abroad to some of the remote places in off beat countries, I have observed that the moment you introduce yourself as an Indian the name or topic of Darjeeling tea automatically came up sooner or later.
During the past 10 years, Indians have started recognizing the various flavours and flushes of tea although the Europeans and American style brewed fruit flavoured tea is still not very easy on the Indian palate. But tea priced at Rs 50 and tea and cookies at the ICCR at Rs 229 is rather difficult to accept.
I have in my book The Safari written about a similar experience while en route to Ranthambore. I and my friends stopped at a spot called Gangaur 60 kms from Ranthambore where we decided to have tea. I was surprised to find that a cup of tea cost me Rs 80.
The fact is that people are willing to take advantage exploit such situations. This may shock us but should not surprise us. However, I am still trying to figure out how the pricing at ICCR and Russel Street be so steep when there are scores of shops selling it, the same stuff, at much cheaper price and, some of them, at even better ambiance.
We all know we can't compare the prices at market place with those offered amid plush ambiance, for example a plate of plain rice would cost anywhere from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 in five star properties and a plate of potato curry too would cost the same which cannot be compared with the potato available in the market.
Infact, when I was discussing this matter, somebody told me that at one of the shops of the same kind on Russel Street the tea costs Rs 80. I am sure, compared to the overhead expenses of a 5 Star property these so called “morning tea and samosa shops” have no such overhead expenses. Few of the shops sell only tea and samosas the whole day.
Is it what comes with new economy or it is just the name sells.
ess bee

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