Sharif Alom, an office staff, working in a bank in Motijheel spends most of his time serving tea and Shingara to the hard and dedicated bankers working over there. But for his own cuppa, he pays a visit to Kazi Alauddin Road in Nazira Bazar, near his home in old Dhaka.
Why crossing such a long distance just for a cup of tea, one might ask?
"Nazira Bazar has the best tea store in the city. It's incredible. After all the day's hard work, a cup of special malai cha (tea made with creamy milk) on my way home is very refreshing," stated the 18-year-old office staff with a content smile.
Old Dhaka, the city's gastronomy centre, has everything you need to satisfy your hungry tummy, that too without putting a hole in your pocket.
Similarly, 37/2 Kazi Alauddin Road in Nazira Bazar is no different; from Beauty's cool and refreshing lacchi and faluda to the juicy and tender kebabs and chaps of Bismillah Kabab Ghar, and of course, old city's age-old Bakarkhani.
In the end, for Bengalis to conclude a full-course meal, one must have a warm cup of tea; especially one with ample amount of sugar and milk, and the right colour.
Like any other alley-ways of Dhaka, Kazi Alauddin Road is also home to several tea stores; some big and some small. But out of them, one shop in particular stands out raising the bar for its fellow competitions.
For the last three years, Pannu Khan Tea Store has been serving premium quality tea, which over time has become a fan favourite, so much so that people come to visit the shop from far-away places like Mogbazar, Dhanmondi and Motijheel just to get a taste of their famed malai and liquor tea.
Pretty hard to believe, the 24/7 tea store has gained this grand popularity in such a short time and that too in a place like the old city, which is difficult to navigate through.
So how did a small business garner so much popularity that it has become a landmark for the locality?
Ironically, it was not Old Dhaka where the shop began its journey. "Our first tea store was in New Market at the premise of Gausul Azam Super Market back in 2008. It was a small shop, more like a tong (tea stall) but it was our tea that made an impact," stated Razib Hasan Raj, Pannu Khan's younger brother.
"The tea stall's popularity prompted us to open another one near Dhaka Medical College. After some time, we were facing difficulty operating both the stores for lack of man-power. We decided to shut down one shop. It was a difficult decision, especially for those who became our premium customers," the young man added.
Around 2016, Pannu was having some quality time over a cup of tea with friends in Kazi Alauddin Road. The road was home to a kebab house, a lacchi store, an upscale biryani restaurant and so on. But it lacked a quality tea store. A place where friends could chat over a cup of tea or a passer-by may ask for a cup on his way.
It was then and there Pannu decided to open his now famed shop; a full-fledged tea store dedicated to selling tea and other add-ons.
"It was a great place to start a shop. Being the first tea store of its kind in the street, we did not have any competition. Business boomed as people started to drop by after finishing their meals in nearby restaurants. Our success encouraged others to open similar tea shops thus prompting a competition," added Razib.
Taking lessons from the past, the store employs eight staff working in different shifts round the clock. Of the eight, the store has two staff members completely dedicated in making the tea of one's choice.
The menu includes a classic malai tea, a liquor tea for those trying to avoid milk and sugar, and last but not the least, a Pannu special tea.
Even though I made a visit to the store in a warm and sunny day, I had to get a cup for myself. I relied on Razib's judgement and asked which one I should try.
"Go for the special one, I know for a fact you would not be disappointed!" exclaimed the teen.
A sip of the special tea was really something. Though I was sweating profoundly, the special tea felt refreshing. It made sense when a young official claimed the stall to be "the best tea store in the city."
When I inquired on what made the tea so special, Razib slyly smiled, and replied, "A good magician never revels his secret."