One should not be surprised if ‘Diya Snacks’ near Chennai Divisional Railway Manager’s office brings to mind the Rajanikanth dictum, “naan oru thadava sonna nooru thadava sonna mathri”. For, this is no ordinary tea and snacks shop, but one that serves 100 different herbal teas suffused with health benefits. The tea master of this hugely popular medicinal tea shop in Chennai is a Malayali from Sreekrishnapuram in Palakkad, R Rajeev.
Rajeev is an ardent believer in the traditional healing techniques which were prevalent in Kerala. His tea shop aims to infuse each glass of tea with the goodness of herbs known as ‘ottamooli’ – the ayurvedic concept of using a herb as a single medicine therapy. He is also on a mission to spread the idea of a herbal garden in the backyard which can provide handy home remedies for most ailments. When he’s not brewing exotic tea varieties, Rajeev keeps himself busy supplying saplings of medicinal herbs to anyone interested – all for free.
Lessons from grandma
His tryst with home remedies goes back to the days spent in the company of his grandmother at their ancestral home in Mannadi, Palakkad. The trees, plants and thick overgrowth in the yard were all ingredients for wonder potions with which his grandmother routed out most maladies that tormented the little ones. She often let Rajeev tag along as she went about scouring the yard for the right ‘ottamooli’ to chase away a nagging cold or a bout of a tummy ache. Today, he thanks his grandmother for those early lessons and the confidence that brews in each glass of herbal tea.
Prescriptions for tea
After finishing pre-degree, Rajeev went to Chennai to look for jobs. His father had a tea shop back in the village where Rajeev used to help out. Hoping to lure the Chennai population with his tea making skills, he opened his first shop near the Madras Medical College hostel. The would-be-doctors, spent and overworked, would often come looking for a hot cup of tea. They would ask for specific brews from the ingenious Rajeev – tulsi tea to cure a sore throat, lemon tea for an upset tummy and so on. Soon, Rajeev began to stock herbs and medicinal ingredients to make the many kinds of teas that the doctors prescribed for themselves. But the shop had to be shifted to its current location near the Railway Division Office when the dental college came up.
When the new shop was being set up, Rajeev decided to put to use the experience he had gained in making herbal teas. Backed by the lessons from childhood, he launched a research on ayurvedic medicines that can be used in teas. He read up books that well-wishers suggested, took the help of Ayurveda doctors and noted down recipes suggested by the customers visiting his tea shop. Before long, Diya Snacks had a make-over with a cracking USP – one that has100 different herbal teas on the menu and brews custom-made ones too.
To serve the brews that are not on the menu, Rajeev stocks a supply of herbs sourced locally and from online shops. Herbs are directly used as far as possible in all the teas, says Rajeev, except for some herbal mixtures which are hard to come by and therefore stored as a powder.
Fan of Mammootty? Try Oolong Tea
Oolong tea may or may not be on Mammootty’s diet plan. But we could bet on that, says Rajeev, since the actor is a perfect example of what this Chinese tea can do for your skin. Whether or not inspired by the Mamootty connection, oolong tea has many takers in Rajeev’s shop.
Other star attractions include ‘nilavembu’ tea, a herb now known to bring down temperature and fight fevers like chikungunya and dengue; ‘aswagandha’ tea for nerve disorders, ‘aymodakam’ tea for indigestion, gymnema tea to control sugar levels and much more. Hibiscus flower tea, said to do a lot of good for heart patients, also has a lot of fans.
Sugar is replaced by jaggery and palm sugar in his teas, says Rajeev. Tea can help you cool down too, he says, and urges you to try ‘nannari’ tea. Fancy teas too figure on the menu like chocolate tea and honey tea.
Twenty-six in one
Going by the ads of bathing soaps and cosmetics that list out the number of ingredients as proof of their goodness, Rajeev should be calling his multi-herbal tea as twenty six-in-one. This medicinal concoction can help you get rid of fever, body ache, cold and related symptoms, he says. All the teas are priced at Rs 10 per glass except for honey tea which costs Rs 20.
The herbal garden campaigner
Once the tea shop was going in full swing, Rajeev turned his energies to spreading awareness on the importance of having a herbal garden at home. Going back to home remedies can be huge health booster, he believes. He supplies saplings free of cost to anyone who is interested and assists in setting up the garden. He can be contacted at 95001 91311.
Also read: More places to eat in Kerala and beyond
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