In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Swagat Sengupta, CEO at Apeejay Oxford Bookstores Private Limited shares the experience of having 'cha' leafing through the books.
What was the whole idea behind Cha Bar and how much time did it take to build the brand?
Cha Bar is the first of its kind urban contemporary space that created a rage in Kolkata in year 2000, turning tea from a dry page in history to a lifestyle drink. A brain child of Priti Paul backed by generations of Apeejay Surrendra group’s experience in tea plantation business, Cha Bar was created as an integral part of more than 90 years old iconic Oxford Bookstore in city centre Park Street. The concept was expanded pan India integrated into Oxford Bookstores and customers loved the experience of being able to browse at leisure, leafing through the books of their choice, over a cup of tea from the wide selection available at the Cha Bar or simply unwinding with friends sipping the rejuvenating beverages.
What’s special about your menu?
Cha Bar’s menu boasts of exotic and cultural blends like the moroccan mint, south african rooibos, decaf teas, green teas and ayurvedic teas with healing powers and all of them are popular amongst our patrons. Special category of ‘Chai Hindustani’ and the Cutting Cha has been reinvented here at Cha Bar. Single estate virginal teas from our plantations in upper Assam are also served here in a truly contemporary setting delivering an experience that has made Cha Bar a preferred destination. It was in April 2007 that we first brought bollywood masala mix cha, truck drivers 100 mile ki cha, katakali, formosa oolong, yellow tea, emerald green, vervain blue, jasmine pearl, chinese lapsang souchoung, verbena tea, licorice tea, fruit melange, and japanese genmaicha to our menu.
What do you offer to complement tea?
To complement the collection of teas, Cha Bar offers a wide selection of a la carte savories such as fresh wholesome salads like the mediterranean salad, classic caesar with a choice of dressings that are perfect for a nutritious meal. Scrumptious finger foods like chilli cheese toasties, cha piazi, cocktail sausage rolls and fish and chips are the ideal appetizers to share with friends and family. Other tit bits include the classic english tea sandwiches, pita wraps and rolls, house special soft centered muffins, freshly baked cookies and cupcakes, home-style special cakes and pies like the carrot and walnut apple and cinnamon pie is perfect to round off tea-time or take away. Other delightful savories include falafel hummus in pita pockets, earchi pathiri, barbeque chicken sausages, paneer khurcan roll, keema samosas and double chocolate chip and walnut cookies to name a few.
What makes your restaurant stand out in the crowd?
We offer around 160 varieties. Whether one prefers a rich, full-bodied, strong flavour, or a light fragrant taste, Cha Bar offers a wide and enviable choice. Cha Bar believes that there is indeed nothing quite like a good cup of tea and a plate full of awesome food so every cup of blend and every dish of food it serves has journeyed, be it from the dhabas in India or from across the globe from other cultures.
How do you see the response?
Customers love and appreciate the stylish and relaxing ambience of Cha Bar that can make hours go by browsing through our huge collection of books while one is spoilt for choice with an assortment of tea blended and prepared with precision, and after exhaustive research, with personalized and informed service.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is everyone who loves tea and books. Our customers range across demographics such as age, social status, education and gender.
How do you maintain supply chain?
The entire tea ranges we offer are sourced out directly from gardens of various regions. We also have a quality assurance team which helps our supply chain management team to source products from certified vendors, making it sure that we offer best products to our consumers. The Cha Bar team is also supported with in-house experts at Apeejay Tea Group with experience of nurturing tea in our plantations dating back more than a 100 years and renowned Chefs of the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels with nearly 5 decades of experience in fine hospitality and award winning Food & Beverage offerings.
What are your expansion plans?
Cha Bar shall be expanding to all major cities very soon.