On A Fan-tea-stic Trail

Some call this their Elixir of Life. For some, this is their Holy Grail. A Chinese stamp that is loved by the entire world. 

Recently, I got a chance to visit the new outlet of Tea Trails, opened in Anna Nagar, Chennai. This was a place that I longed to go and when I got an opportunity to be their guest, my joy knew no bounds. After what seemed an eternity of searching and cursing the Google Maps, I located the place and walked in, to be welcomed by the Manager of the store.

He started off by explaining that Chai and Tea were two different things. While I have been a fan of the classic cardamom and ginger tea for a long time now, I hadn’t really thought about the difference between the two terms. Apparently, Tea is the version without milk and sugar, while Chai is the more Indianised version that we consume with milk and sugar.

Tea Pairings are more like Wine pairings. Not every food-tea combo is good. Some teas complement a particular kind of food, while some just doesn’t go well together!

I had the fortune to try out a fair share of the menu, along with its respective pairs. Silver Needle- Bun Maska, Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad, Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich, Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras, Red Zen, a few other coolers and food, finally a dessert.

Silver Needle- Bun Maska 

Silver Needle is a variety of white tea. It had a very mild taste and was very light when consumed. It is paired with the classic Bun Maska, which is sugar filled mild bun topped with a dollop of butter. The combination was elegant and light even when had together.

 

Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad

Next up was a brew of Green Tea, called as Kashmiri Kahwa. This one is had with almonds, saffron and other Indian Spices that gives it the distinct aroma of Indian Biryani. Pairing this up with a Salad is because of the low-calorie value of both the items, giving the health conscious people the full benefit of the tea. I loved the salad for it was crunchy at places owing to the occasional roasted Split Bengal Gram in it. Surprisingly, the salad also had infused green tea leaves that blended well with the brew I had with me.

 

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The Kashmiri Kahwa in the black cup and a plate of the Burmese Tea Salad, infused with Green Tea leaves

 

Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich

This is a Chinese Smoked variety of Black tea, which takes a little over 3 minutes to brew. The tea has its smoky aroma and aftertaste which is paired with a paneer sandwich. This variety of tea is a tad heavy and is aptly paired with a heavy food item. Well that being said, smoky dishes are not for everyone, so use your discretion while ordering this. I personally loved my smoky black tea.

 

Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras

Now we enter the Indian Chai domain. The Hyderabadi Special Irani chai was up for tasting and it was sweeeeeet (Yeah! That sweet). Being over-sweet is its trademark. Take sips of hot chai with bits of piping hot Onion Pakoras, that should be ideal for a rainy day.

Did you know?! Irani Chai is made with Condensed milk which is the reason for its extra-sweet taste

Red-Zen

This was another brew of hot tea that blew me away. This is technically not a variety of tea, but a tisane. Tisane is herbal extracts that do not form part of the tea family. Red Zen is one such extract of herbs, fruits, and flowers. It has a springy aroma which might remind you of some distant memory of Pot Pourri and may seem feminine for some of you. The taste was brilliant and refreshing, true to its name.

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Coolers

What about people who are not into hot teas but need something to cool their spirits? Fret not, for I also happened to try out some of their varieties of cool beverages.

Lychee Bubble Tea

The Classic tea, strongly flavoured of Litchies, with flavour-filled bubbles popping in my mouth. I would actually prefer to have the chewy variety of bubbles than the poppy ones (You can inform them of your choice when you place the order, actually). Nothing out of the ordinary, I found this too strong to my liking.

Matcha Shake

This Japanese Green tea is blended with cold milk and some butterscotch essence to present a rather heavy drink to the customer. The taste was good, with very slight trace of green tea. A healthy option when compared to the traditional milk shakes.

Better Wife

A rather controversial name, this drink is a mix of herbs, mint, and green tea. It reminded me of the mint lime coolers available in the market and was refreshing. A definite choice to beat the heat.

Veg Ham Bruschetta

I love bruschettas. The ones that were available here was well made with chunks of mushroom and basil leaves on the warm cheese. It was yummy and the taste lingers for quite a while.

Paneer Pizza

Again a heavy choice, which would go well with glasses of coolers, the pizza was generous in its toppings. So much so that I felt the thin crust was not able to handle the weight of all the cheese, sauces and the paneer chunks on its head. Extremely tasty, could have been cooked a little more, since the crust was still white and kinda raw.

 

Alfredo Penne Pasta

One just can’t have enough pasta. Let’s agree on that for peace to prevail. Well-cooked, amply loaded with black olives, capsicum, zucchini and chunks of tomatoes, the pasta had a distinct taste other than that of cheese. I think it extracted more of the zucchini pieces than what was necessary. The texture and the consistency were good though.

 

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The Alfredo Penne garnished with the usual suspects- The Oregano and Chilli Flakes

 

Schezwan Vada Pav

A Chinese twist to the desi vada pav, this was more like a potato pattice pav. Very yummy and piping hot, with all the right flavours, I enjoyed this one.

 

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Schezwan Vada Pav

 

Dessert- Chocolate Waffle with sauce and nuts

Freshly made choco waffles generously topped with Hershey’s chocolate sauce and nuts are enough to make a girl go weak in the knees. I would have still preferred those brownies to waffles.

 

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Choco Waffles with Chocolate sauces and nut toppings

 

All teas are freshly brewed and can be refilled twice each time you order, making it value for money

Each order of tea comes in a tray of steeping pot, a cup and a saucer with a timer. The card in the tray indicates how much time the brew must be steeped for and lets you handle it from there. If you need a stronger brew, feel free to dabble with the timing accordingly.

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The food is on the higher side of pricing. It sure is tasty and is suitable for those once-in-a-while cravings or splurging. Who doesn’t like that occasional pampering right?

The ambiance is great and so is the decor, which makes the outing picture-worthy. The people in there are cordial and warm, serving us with a smile.

 

The parking space is sufficient for two-wheelers and cars can be parked on the side of the road since this store is located at the fag end of an underused road.

My Picks- Kashmiri Kahwa with the Burmese Tea Salad, and a serving of the Red Zen

I had a great time and would recommend you to take yourself on a date to Tea Trails and experience it yourself.

 

*This is a sponsored post, although the feedback is honest*

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The New Journal In The Town

Remember the good old days when diary writing was a fad? It was one of the ways we recorded memories and revisited them whenever we wanted to. It was also one of the trails which we had, to check how far we have come, as a person. My earliest memory of diary writing is when I used to write in a notebook, about all the silly fights in the classroom during sixth grade. It gave me a lot of perspective and solace until it was read by one of my other classmates. ūüėÄ End of the story.

The advent of the internet has given us many other means to record our lives. Instagram, Facebook etc act like an online diary, at times throwing a wrong memory at us. Still, the charm of writing on a paper lingers around.

I got this journal for one similar purpose and had already earmarked it for that. Matrikas Paper Products sent me this in a day. To start with, I was floored by the swift action from their side. That is how you gotta win customers.

The look of the journal was aesthetic, something that you would compare to the visual scene of a Mani Ratnam movie. It was not over the head with grandeur, but classy and elegant.

The single lined sheets were smooth and the feel was good. It felt like premium paper thick. To get the feel, I jotted down a few lines and it felt smooth too. I certainly would not need a butter-flow pen to get the smooth flow of ink on the paper.

The journal also had good stuff for time-pass. Blank sheets where you can scribble, doodle or zentangle, sticker sheets with quirky stickers to make your own customised¬†messages and lists and also adult coloring sheets to keep you occupied when you are in a bad mood. It is a complete package. And no one needs to know that I am a crazy, quirky, liberated soul inside thanks to the classy cover to bind it all in. It’s super fun, isn’t it?

Another important feature in this journal that I loved was the elastic band that is in place to hold the journal closed. It feels tight and just right.

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It is a good one to indulge yourself in, especially when you are looking for something to hold in all your memories and creative spurts. Stationery hoarders can thank me later too, for this one is a must have in your collection. They come in quite a few varieties as well. I had hoped for a pink and gold butterfly one but got a red and gold feather one. No worries though.

Thanks, Matrika guys for being super-cool. I loved this one ūüôā

 

 

Healthcare at Apollo

Quality health care is one of the biggest concerns that is plaguing India right now. For the level of population our country is at right now, the number of hospitals and doctors is dangerously low. Chennai, a city known for its medical tourism and organ transplants, has a lot of hospitals that provide quality healthcare to people in need of it.

Apollo Hospitals is one such chain of hospitals , which assures quality health care in the city. The winner of the best hospital (in the country) award  for about 14 years continuously, Apollo boasts of world class facilities for the patients who come to them for treatment.

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Speaking to us about the objective of the organisation, Mr.Subbiah, the COO of Apollo Hospitals group, says, “Health care inclusion is one of the major objectives that we, as the best healthcare provider of the country, have. We have a programme called “Priceless Lives Expedition” where we have set out to enroll the people in and around our hospital into our healthcare program, so that they could approach us in case of any and every health emergency they fall into.”

Apollo Hospitals specialises in Tertiary care which, in laymans language, means treating diseases that have reached an extreme point of severity.

As a visitor,I was offered to be shown around the hospital and honestly I was amazed at the facilities that they had with them. The Emergency Room, The MRI centre, The blood bank, The physiotherapy centre and the ambulance were all well equipped and had systematic procedures in place to ensure quality in treatment.  Their ambulances always come with an in-house trained paramedic who is qualified to provide life-support at times of grave danger.

The Physiotherapy lab impressed me the most. They had the most sophisticated instruments and a well equipped rehab centre to bring back the patients to normalcy. “Getting cured from an infection is one thing, but restoring the patients in a position to resume their normal lives is totally another thing, which is what we aim to achieve”,¬†says the Head of the Physiotherapy Department.

On a face to face with the COO, again, after the tour, I had an opportunity to ask him about the affordability of the services that they provided. He responded by saying they have competitive charges which assure the quality and the wellness that the patients require. He also stressed on two things- The importance of getting a second opinion on the probable cure method and the importance of getting a health insurance.

“When a treatment is being recommended to a patient, we would welcome suggestions from the patient on alternative procedures and if possible a second opinion on the diagnosis. We want the patient to talk to us and be open to us about multiple possibilities in the field, which we would consider, if it was not known to us before that”

The COO also added that having a medical insurance has its own benefits and it is always advisable to enroll oneself and ones family with an Insurance service provider from early on, so that the premium will be less and the out of pocket expenses would not end up in giving a shock to the patient.

“Apollo is one place that leverages technology to the maximum extent. We have provided expert guidance to patients in places as far as Himachal Pradesh, in times of emergency with the help of telecommunication and have achieved success in such operations”,¬†prides the COO.

Apollo also has pharmacies spread across the country to cater to the growing need of medicines.With tie-ups with the best in the fields across the world and the best of doctors to complement the facilities, Apollo has come a long way since the day it was founded. It also has a very long way to go.

Let us hope that hospitals of such repute do more for the betterment of the country by promoting affordable and assured healthcare across all the sections of the society.

 

Let’s Go Frsh!

How difficult is it to get quality, fresh and piping hot food and affordable prices while on the move? Tough to imagine isn’t it? No worries. We have Frshly to make things possible for us.

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Nested away beyond the city limits of Chennai, Frshly is a venture which is known for its unique concept of Food Vending Kiosks. Providing quality, fresh, hygienic and hot food to its customers has been its USP since inception.

Well known in the railway circuit, this company has been working towards making good food accessible to the working class and for those on the move. It is evident from their presence in the railway stations, airports and IT parks across the city.

For people who have no idea of what I am talking about, here is the deal.

  • Go to a Frshly Food vending machine installed nearby.
  • Choose your option from their generous spread from renowned eateries.
  • input your order and choose your preferred method to pay, from their touchscreen installed at the kiosk.
  • Make the payment.
  • Prepare to enjoy hot and fresh food within 90 seconds from punching the order.

“It all began in 2013. The problem that I wanted to solve was the lack of accessibility to quality food for the people in transit” , says the CEO Mr. Satish ChamiVelumani.

He also adds that Frshly helps the organisations avoid the heavy initial capital outlay in the form of buildings, furniture, interiors and staffing. All the space that the kiosk requires is about the size of a small booth.

I happened to get a chance to visit their office and check out the real deal all by myself and I was impressed. The office was cozy and gave a warm feeling.

The kiosk that I had a chance to see was the one at SP Infocity, MGR Salai, kandanchavadi, Chennai. It was a fully automated process from placing the order to taking the food out to eat. No touching squishy squashy business out there! It was slick!!

They also have an app which can be used to reserve your food from your work-desk and then picking it up when you finally reach the food court. It is fully at your convenience. No strings attached.

The food is packed extremely well and the particulars, including the time of packing and the centre for which it is packed is mentioned in the packet, easy for the consumer to identify and be aware of.

“Any food packet that is loaded is not older than six hours from the time of packing. A minute beyond the designated six hours, the food will be trashed and not sold” says the Head of Marketing and Brand Management Ms.Dhivya.¬†

So essentially it is just like our good old Dabba food that we pack from home.

The machine, that does all the work- from identifying the order, to microwaving the food and finally delivering it at the counter, is fully automated and is the brainchild of the CEO.

Behind the success of the venture is a young and upbeat team that is working tirelessly. The team ensures that the technology behind this idea is up-to-date and the quality of the food served is world class.

“We are in the process of tying up with more restaurants and kitchens for food and we have also had many prominent ones approaching us for tie-ups. We, at present have outlets like Anjappar, Madrasi Biryani, Delhi Highway etc collaborating with us in providing quality food”

Frshly has been on a major growth mode and has also presented the concept during the Rail Vikas Shivir, organised by the Union Government , in the presence of our Prime Minister. They are also in talks with IRCTC to secure licenses to operate the kiosks in the Railway stations across the country.

Frshly is now on a scale of expansion and is hoping to begin its Singapore operations in March 2017, with the help of the Government of Singapore.

This could be a revolutionary idea in the area of food technology and who knows, this could even solve some of the major problems that the industry is facing these days!

Omnomnom in the neighbourhood

The OMR is one of the “happening” places in Chennai. Apart from being hustley and bustley during the weekdays, courtesy, the numerous organisations that have set their centres here, in those giant glass buildings, this place is equally vibrant even in the weekends.

I must confess that I haven’t really been out in this area during the weekends before. I made an exception to that trend and shunned my famed laziness to get to what is called the OMR Food Street.

Located at a prime place, opposite to the CEEBROS Boulevard (people who have had some experience of searching for accomodation in the OMR would definitely know this place ūüėõ ), this is literally a small “sandhu”. ¬†It is lined with small shops that sell food ranging from coffee and soda to Mexican and Burmese.

I stepped in, donning that not-so-famous foodie hat and took a quick look around to see what can be made of the evening.

My first stop was “TASTE”.

This place is located right next to the Wraps shop and the menu board is lined up with varieties of Paniyarams. Carrot, cheese, Egg, paneer, mushroom etc are the variants with which the Paniyarams are served. I ordered a Cheese paniyaram, all excited about what I would be getting in a plate. Equipped with quite vivid imagination, I went to heaven and back, thinking of the cheesy paniyarams when I was served with what looked like normal paniyarams sprinkled with a miserly quantity of grated cheese. That is innovation, right? The paniyarams tasted fine and so were the chutneys.

Strutting like Dora in Exploration mode, I set my eyes onto the next stop, Bits & Bytes. I scan the menu and settle for a veg roll, which was sizzling hot and served with Ketchup. The best thing about the veg roll was that it was moderately spicy and very,ummm, well cooked. Among a couple of places I have tasted veg roll, this place would be the best. I enjoyed as my taste buds thanked me for not harassing it with the usual masala overdose.

I climbed up the stairs to taste the Organic Sirudhaaniyam Village food and ended up in 200BC!

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That is the name of the outlet and they specialise in using Sirudhaaniyams like millet, raagi, red rice etc in making conventional food items like pesarattu, dosas, sweet pongal etc. After bites of Thinai Sweet pongal ordered by Sindhu and Thinai Adai and aviyal from Goku , we gorged on the Ragi onion dosa from my plate. All of these were excellent and light on the tummy.

It was by then that¬†Katie¬†Ma’am brought some Sarbat from Zuki & Co. Yummy and pleasant, I rushed to get some for myself and quench my thirst.

My last stop was the Oasis, which turned out to be my Discovery of the Day!

Cute lil shop near the MilkyWay outlet, it was colorful and even yummy to look at. We ordered a Fruit salad with Ice cream, a jeera lime and a sweet lassi.

If you are the type who would love something to read while gorging on desserts, then this is the place. They have good stuff on their menu card that gives nice history of Chennai’s landmarks. The place is pocket friendly and is quite spacious too.

In a nutshell, OMR Food street is heaven for people who wish to have variety at a single place. You are spoilt for choices and are saved from shelling out a bomb on weekend food.

Do check their website out and also make time to visit in person, I am sure it will turn out to be a memorable foodie evening.