Invigorating, sapid or soothing, our penchant for tea infuses a round-the-clock tea culture in the city. A hot cup of tea can be therapeutic for defeating the winter doldrums and satiating the senses. As such, the tea hotspots located at various corners of the city seem nothing less than divine dispensations. The wee-hour tea joints, with their unique blend of traditional and innovative concoctions, give the tea aficionados the perfect cup to caffeinate their system. Balwant Singh’s Tea 10/B, Harish Mukherjee Road Bhawanipur Gurudwara Kolkata – 700025 Timing: 4 am to 3 am Balwant Singh’s is a legendary name among the North Indian food joints and was the first to start the steamed-milk tea trend. From film stars to sports personalities, this place is always bustling with customers at all times of the day. The sight of Balwant Singh’s tea house replete with eager faces awaiting their bhaanr (clay cups) of tea is an exciting foray into the frenzied appreciation of this beverage. Ask any morning walker at Victoria Memorial and he will swear by the masala chai (tea with cardamom and ginger) or kesar chai (saffron tea) at Balwant Singh's. The best part about trying tea here is the lively feel that this place emanates. Price: Regular tea – Rs 20, Rs 30, Rs 50 Masala tea – Rs 50 Kesar tea – Rs 50 Apna Dhaba 13B, Harish Mukherjee Road Kolkata – 700025 Timing: 4 am to 3 am If you are looking for some quality tea with a variety of options, then it has to be Apna Dhaba, drawing in large crowds in just two years. Unlike most other joints, the proprietor Romi is always present, catering to his customers and helping them with their orders. The choice and the quality of tea served shows his passion towards this beverage. A must-try at this dhaba is the kesar chai topped with a generous helping of saffron. The rich saffron tincture overwhelms your senses, combined with a constant flow of fragrance from the beverage. Apna Dhaba is perhaps the city’s only tea-joint serving tandoori chai. “An empty clay cup is baked in the tandoor (oven) for a while. It is then brought out and filled with normal tea. The smoky flavour of the clay cup is thus infused into the tea. The tea is then poured into a normal clay cup and served,” shares a passionate Romi. Unexpectedly, there lies a huge surprise in store for chocolate lovers – chocolate tea! This novelty item is made with Dairy Milk chocolate topped with chocolate sauce. You are sure to be back at this dhaba for more of this heavenly, creamy concoction. Price: Regular tea – Rs 20 Kesar tea – Rs 50 Tandoori tea – Rs 50 Chocolate tea – Rs 50 Desi Cuisine 11, Harish Mukherjee Road Kolkata – 700025 Timing: Weekdays – 6 am to 3 am Saturday / Sunday – 6 am to 4 am His intense love for tea and the aspiration to do something on his own made Shivkant Shukla open a dhaba, which sells tea round the clock. The popular Desi Cuisine holds its own amidst the other well-known dhabas of the area. Frequented by morning walkers returning from Victoria Memorial, this joint gives them their first cup of health with green tea served in traditional clay cups. We recommend their kesar chai. They also serve sugar-free tea on demand. Price: Special tea – Rs 30 Kesar tea – Rs 50 Green tea – Rs 50 The Box Sec-B, 1/A, Eastern Metropolitan Bypass (Beside Bypass Dhaba) Kolkata - 700105 Timing: 5 am to 2:30 am If you ever drive down the E M Bypass in the odd hours, the resplendent Byepass Dhaba near Chingrighata is bound to catch your attention, which also has a separate tea-joint called The Box in the car parking area. The strategic location makes it accessible for people coming from the north and the airport as well as people living around Salt Lake City. This four-year-old joint serving regular tea is open on all days inside a sprawling parking lot. It is an ideal hangout for the nocturnals. Price: Regular tea – Rs 20, Rs 40 Gautam’s 26 P, Duttabad Road, (E M Bypass) Near Ultadanga, Kolkata - 700064 Timing: 5 pm to 2:30 am Gautam’s remains open for only a few hours in the evening and yet it is a dedicated tea joint you cannot miss on the E M Bypass. They may not be selling too many varieties, but the tea, served in beautifully-designed clay cups, is really good. After a gruelling day, it's a good idea to stop by for a tea at the Gautam’s and liven things up. Price: Regular tea – Rs 20 Sharma Tea House 53 / 5A,Hazra Road, (Ballygunge Phari) Kolkata – 700019 Timing: 6 am to 9:30 pm The Sharma’s on Hazra Road at Ballygunge Phari, is one of the most frequented tea joints in the city. An extremely humble Nimai Mishra, the manager, who has been serving for the past 25 years, is very happy with the way the business has picked up ever since his induction. Their focus is not to serve a wide variety but to maintain the taste of the typical North Indian tea. They have a wide range of accompaniments to go with the delectable beverage. Price: Regular tea – Rs 10, Rs 20 Kesar tea – Rs 30, Rs 60 Russel Punjabi Dhaba 41, Chowringhee Road, (Russel Street)Kolkata – 700071 Timing: 5:30 am to 12:30 am Located in the Park Street area, Russel Dhaba is one of the oldest dhabas in the city, which gives you the typical Punjabi-dhaba feel. This dhaba was started by Bhag Singh before Independence which is now being run by his son Sukhdev Singh. Sukhdev has seen a lot of upheavals in the last 50 years. At 75, he is vibrant with energy and sits throughout the day in his dhaba, serving his customers a typical dhaba-chai, which is replenishing and has a full-bodied flavour. While office goers frequent this dhaba in the morning hours, evenings are happy times for the families. Price: Regular tea – Rs 20, Rs 40 Ginger tea – Rs 30, Rs 60 Kesar tea – Rs 40, Rs 80 So, the next time you develop an irresistible craving for a cuppa in the odd hours of the day, you know where to go. Happy sipping!