Ghanashyam Pandey saw selling tea as an easy way of earning money with a small investment and started doing so in 1956 in the streets of Butwal. As the small shop started gaining more popularity, he could make ends meet and was able to provide a good life for his family of six.
And today, in its place stands ‘Chiyawala’, a popular spot for tea lovers of all ages and professions.
Though as children, there were times when Ganesh Dev Pandey, son of Ghanashyam Pandey, and his siblings were embarrassed by their father’s profession, they realised the value of his work and labour as they grew older. Pandey brought ‘Chiyawala’ to life mainly as a tribute to his father and to honour his profession.
Pandey is a tea lover himself. “After coming to Kathmandu, I roamed around the narrow streets of the town looking for the perfect cup of tea, but I found nothing that actually quenched my thirst for it”, he says.
As his curiosity grew, Pandey began learning and experimenting more with new ingredients to make tea. “During those days, the concept of flavoured and orthodox tea was limited to a small part of Nepali society”, he explained. “I learnt a lot later that there are so many more varieties and types of tea”, he adds.
The menu has a variety of unique and interesting flavours of tea. 90% of the tea served here is brought from various places in Nepal while the rest is imported from China and India. The most popular drink in the menu is Ghanashyam Chiya, a simple cup of milk tea which Pandey named after his father. “Just like this cup of tea, my father was also a simple and pure man. That is why I named this tea after him”, he explains.
It is quite clear that Pandey spent a lot of time and energy while creating this place. “I have handpicked every little thing that we have here”, he says. Many things including tables, chairs, decoration pieces and stairs are all recycled or thrifted.
One of the most interesting items amongst them is a log of wood that stands in the middle of the cafe as a decorative piece. It first belonged to a butcher before Pandey talked him into selling it to him. Today, it stands there with a statue of Lord Buddha, as a message that peace always triumphs over violence says Pandey.
In three years, Chiyawala has become a go-to spot for tea-lovers of all ages and professions in Kathmandu. “We usually have college students in the morning and afternoon. However, the evening crowd usually consists of office goers,” says Manita Magar, a staff at Chiyawala and who has been working there for two years.
Like any business, Pandey also struggled during the lockdown. Tea leaves and food items that were in stock faced the most damage. However, Pandey manages to have a positive mentality about it. “Even though it is sad how businesses are falling apart due to the lockdown, we must know that it is temporary”, he says. “The entire world is affected by it, not just you. And like any other thing, this too shall pass”, he adds.