Doodh Patti

Travel, Food and and Khaalis Doodh Patti Mind {and Lahore}

Steeped in Doodh Patti

Rafay Mahmood

"For me, doodh patti is a blessing." So declares Dr Mustafa Ayubzai when confiding in Kolachi about his obsessive tea-drinking habit. For anyone who doubts his love affair with tea, Ayubzai adds, "Whenever I feel down or overworked, I order my peon to get me a cup of tea from a nearby dhaba. I need a cup every two hours just to keep my brain working. Without it, I don't know how I can ever see so many patients everyday."

Ayubzai's craving for tea is something many Karachiites can relate to, if the sales of tea are anything to go by. A local dhaba owner in a commercial area reveals that on average, 1,800 cups of tea are sold daily using a total 30 kilograms of milk. Affordable and addictive, it is the drink that unites college students, journalists, labourers and doctors alike.

Ever ready to serve their needs, doodh patti dhabas have always been a regular feature of Karachi, but surged in number twice in recent history. The first was after the Russian invasion in the eighties, when immigrants uprooted and moved to big cities, and the second in the aftermath of 9/11, when the Northern areas of the country were attacked, forcing residents to flee. Many of these residents wound up in Karachi and opened up doodh patti dhabas. Well-known names include Café Pyala and Quetta Unabi Hotel.

So just what is it about the famous doodh patti that endears it to so many hundreds of people? Kolachi spoke to Zaman Khan (not his real name), owner of a tea dhaba in Saddar, to find out. "People in Karachi are always busy, frustrated, and overworked. When they come to a dhaba, they want something strong enough to take their mind off things."

According to Khan, the trick lies in the boiling technique. "When making my tea, I don't add extra tealeaf. All I do is add extra milk and boil it until the real essence of the tealeaf – in other words, caffeine – is released. At home, people just boil it a little, but here, we boil it for longer, which makes it more addictive."

However, Khan says that this is not a technique all dhaba owners subscribe to. "I don't want to name them, but there are a few dhaba owners who extract opium from its stem, grind the stem left behind and let it boil in the tea."

The popularity of these dhabas becomes evident whenever they have to close, such as during ethnic riots in the city last month. "I did not care about what was going on in the city," confesses Ayubzai, "but when I couldn't get a cup of tea at my clinic during the four days the dhabas was closed, I felt really down – not because of the violence in the city, but because I couldn't get my doodh patti."

On the other end, the ethnic violence resulted in huge (financial) losses for the tea dhabas as well, which is a source of livelihood for thousands of people that sometimes work late into the night. Some dhabas remain open as late as 3:00am. "Hundreds of people visit our dhaba daily in the morning either for breakfast or just for a cup of tea," confirms Mohammad Nawaz, a waiter at a tea stall in Saddar.

Regardless of what is in the tea, however, there is a much simpler explanation for why these dhabas are always thronging with people. "The best thing about doodh patti dhabas is that they are cheap entertainment," remarks Saqib Anwar, a student. "Our group of friends goes to the nearby dhaba every day. It's a place where you can sit and talk for hours, and no one will stop you.

Link: Tech Blog

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:23 AM,

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