ISLAMABAD-Nestled in the food court of Giga Mall, DHA-2 Islamabad, are two small tea outlets belonging to two different genres; one a kiosk, Coco Republic and second a ‘dhaba’ called Tandoor Chai. This is where the east meets the west.

Coco Republic’s menu is pregnant with all sorts of delectable drinks ranging from coffees, ‘smoothies’, chillers, cocktails and you name it. The excitement does not stop here as there is more than the eyes can meet. Belgium Waffles, Molten Lava and brownies makes the menu card of this giant golden kettle kitchen factory look pretty. But the ant up the sleeves is Coco Republic’s nitrogen ice-cream which by all means can be called the show stopper.

This novelty at the kiosk is by itself a treat to watch as it is assembled. The flash freezing of the material results in an extremely creamy texture as it is free from air bubbles. The concept generates inquisitress by itself. Once the liquid nitrogen is poured on the ice-cream, a volcano lookalike cloud of smoke engulfs the surroundings, mystifying the sweet tooth lovers as it turns into solids. This ice-cream at Coco is preservatives free; fresh and made with natural ingredients, testifying 100 percent healthy life to the drinker. The customer needs to pick their choice of flavour ranging from vanilla, chocolate to salted caramel. It is custom made ice cream which is made with ice-cream base, yogurt and flavours of your choice.

“We only use imported, high-quality coffee beans. Our vendors are from Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatemala, the 3 countries which produce the best coffee beans in the world” said Rafia Daud, the brain behind Coco Republic. Rafia has been an ardent lover of coffee since childhood and has participated in different tea making courses abroad.

Coffee range at the tea shop covers all kinds starting from Café Latte, Espresso to Mochaccino, smoothies in the likes of strawberry, mango, M&M, Kit Kat, moving on to margaritas and Mojito’s , in peach, mint, and raspberry choices. The bartender was a through professional as one could tell after the first sip of Mango smoothie. Right proportion of the king of fruits mixed with milk, well blended with morsels of mangos swimming in the Mason jar, made the drink to fall in love in nanoseconds. The damage on the pocket is quite negligible within the range of Rs100 to Rs150 unless you are really craving for a fresh fruit ball which cost Rs250.

Not a distance too far from Coco Republic is Tandoori Chai, dhaba style tea shop serving desi tea of varied likes. This place is a paradise for tea lovers by all means as it offers 7 different varieties of tea with 7 different tastes. It is very challenging and uphill task for the tea drinkers to point the finger on their favourite. From Karak to Ginger and Shahshahi to Qalandari, the price range differs as one walks down the menu list. However, the catch 22 at Tandorri Chai is the making of it. The tea is made separately as per the order; once boiled and ready to drink, it is poured into old-fashioned terracotta oven baked mug making it sizzle, the moment the liquid touches the clay cylindrical mug. The aroma from the sizzle is simply beyond description and fascinating at the same time.

Karak is made with cardamom, whereas Shahi with almonds and cream. The top two sellers at Tandoor junction are Shanhshai and Qlanderi as they fall into heavily-loaded drinks. Shanhshai is cooked with finely-grinded pistachio and cream fusion whereas Qlanderi carries a load of cashew nuts, pistachio, almonds and cream.

“I cannot say which one of the 7 teas at my stall is a hot seller. I get customers for all and my price list starts from Rs120 and goes up to Rs170. So yes, Karak might have a slight edge over the others as it is priced the lowest, said Shahid Kazmi, the owner of the Tandoori dhaba.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.