MYSURU: The aromas of spices, masala and tea hang thick at Mir Farman Ali’s shop atop Chamundi Hills. For tourists, trekkers, and devotees to Chamundi temple and surrounding hills, no visit is complete without having Ali’s masala tea. It has become so famous that several people have made it a point to return to his shop whenever they visit Mysuru.
Coming from a family of artisans, Ali (53) is an expert in inlay works and used to sell his products to visitors atop Chamundi Hills. “Things were going good for some days and I used to earn enough to take care of the family. But as the business declined my earnings were not enough to feed the family. I then thought of selling tea to visitors coming to the temple on the hill,” said Ali.
He set up a shop and started selling tea, but realised he did not have an edge over other shops. He remembered the way his mother prepared tea when he was a child and tried out the recipe.
In 1991, Ali opened up a small shop, SDR Cool Point, and began selling masala chai - the way his mother used to prepare it. He also sold canned beverages, but it was for his masala tea that visitors queued up. Not disclosing his trade secret, Ali said the ingredients for the masala tea include jeera, ginger, black and white pepper, saffron and black salt which are ground in the correct proportion. His mother still grinds the ingredients for the masala mix and gives it to Ali for use in his tea shop.
He added that these ingredients are useful to fight inflammation, fatigue, cold and flu, improves digestion, boosts metabolism and helps fight diabetes.
“Chai lovers are particular about their tea and are sceptical when it comes to substituting it with something like green tea. Although green tea has health benefits, masala chai is equally healthy and tastes better than green tea,” he says.
Ali adds that even film stars who have tasted his masala tea have complimented him. A few have bought the powder prepared by his mother. He said if it hadn’t been for his mother’s recipe, he would have never been this successful. While there are others who sell tea atop the hills, many make it a point to visit Ali’s shop for that stress-buster cuppa.
Thangavelu, a tourist from Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu, said he had visited Chamundi Hills two years back on a pilgrimage, during which he had Ali’s masala black tea. When he was leaving, he took a sample of the masala. He said whenever he visits Mysuru, he tries to visit Ali for the special chai.
PK Anil Kumar, a trekker, said he is not a tea drinker but always visits Ali’s shop for the masala tea. Kumar says the tea is very refreshing, especially after the long climb to reach the hilltop.