Delhiwale: Khan Market’s most enduring chai

It pays off to head to Khan Market on a full stomach. This way, you don’t have to pay the high price of eating there.

In the Capital’s most upscale shopping enclave, cafes and restaurants are as super-expensive as the rest of the market. Consider the humble chai. A famous Khan Market cafe used to charge ₹155 (plus taxes) for one cup. The place shut down following the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, but if you insist, there still are places here to burn your cash for tea.

Or, alternatively, you can have an equally tasty but far cheaper chai from JP. Unlike many Khan Market destinations that keep appearing and disappearing with puzzling regularity, JP’s chai is an institution. It has remained in business for 35 long years. Started by late Rama Nandan, it is now run by his grandson. While his distant cousin Daya Shankar makes the chai, the aforementioned JP (Jai Prakash), serves it. With one arm holding the deliciously-chipped chai kettle and the other carrying a stack of paper glasses, JP can be seen throughout the day busily walking about the market lanes. His patrons include folks working as shop assistants in the fancy showrooms, as well their doormen and door women, and the showroom owners themselves.

A native of Jaunpur, in UP, JP arrived in the city in 2002 to carry on his grandfather’s legacy while his father kept being a farmer in the city. “My wife and children live in the village,” says JP on being ambushed with queries during his rounds in the Middle Lane. JP, 39, turns out to be very friendly and polite, he speaks Hindi, and seems to be smiling as he talks, even though he’s wearing a mask. Watching him walk about the market is like seeing a man strolling inside his own home. “I live in Khan Market,” he says, freely giving out the address of the room he shares with his cousin.

Daya Shankar and JP’s chai has the flavour of home, with a strong flavour of adrak (ginger). Some days it tends to be a tad too sweet, but this cold smoggy evening it is just perfect.

But taste is not the only point of JP’s chai. It is also about the kick that one gets on dunking down this delicious offering for so cheap (₹10 only) in this unimaginably pricey destination. Sipping it is like partaking in a Khan Market secret, beyond the reach of the passing fashionable crowd. JP serves from 10am to 1pm, and from 3pm to 6pm. It’s easy to spot him in the lanes—just look out for the tea kettle.

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