Capitalise on what is idiosyncratic to Calcutta, add assorted X-factors, strategically place it in the heart of the city’s culinary haven and what do you get' A non-conformist eatery, summoning the past in architecture and spirit, rising against upmarket espresso bars in the shape of The Tea Table, or T3 for short. And the best thing for students: it is cheaper than its made-over sibling Flurys across the street, and allows you to light up unlike the chain cafes in the vicinity.
T3 has taken upon itself to provide just the right conditions to continue with the tradition that Calcutta’s coffee shops have of igniting young minds without emptying the pockets. “T3 is a good option for us because you can sit and talk for hours by ordering a minimal meal. Also, you get to enjoy the added advantage of air-conditioning on sweltering summer afternoons. What else can a student ask for'” says Gaurav Banerjee, a third-year student of St Xavier’s College, down the street from T3.
Mohua Sarkar, a second-year student of Jadavpur University, may have to cross the city to get there, but that’s hardly a deterrent. “The ambience at T3 is great. We often have our meetings outside college there. In many ways, it’s better than other coffee shops across town — consider the prices, to begin with!”
The rundown yet lovable atmosphere of the old Flurys we have all grown up with is alive and well here, and a welcome change from the yuppie fare and feel of newer alternatives. “There’s an old Calcutta charm about T3. Conversations don’t have to be yelled out over loud music unlike other city cafes,” says Paromita Banerjee, a second-year student at Loreto College. “There’s no non-smoking area in T3 unlike other places, which definitely is an advantage,” she adds.
A tea snob’s delight, T3 features something for other taste buds too — though not much for the coffee connoisseur. Unfortunately, the prices prevent it from being a daily student haunt. “I love my good old big omelette with extra cheese and button mushrooms, plus a cup of tea. But as a student I really can’t afford this more than twice a week, or even less. Then I have to just stick to a cup of tea,” frets Paromita. “It’s usually chicken breast loaf that comes for something less than Rs 20 and a cup of tea for me. Anything more is just luxury...it could use a little expansion of the snack menu,” adds Mohua.
In desperate times, students often have to skip it all and dig into the one thing that makes them keep coming back despite budgetary concerns — rum balls. “The best time for us to pay a visit to T3 would be when we have a long break between classes or sometimes even after college, just for the heavenly rum balls,” says Kornica Ganguly, a third-year student of St Xavier’s College, to the enthusiastic nods of her gang.
Then there is the service — near legendary for its sluggishness — which students seem to actually appreciate! “The slow service is to our advantage when we can just sit for hours without being blamed,” laughs Gaurav.
But there are times when even students are in a rush. Like, for instance, when they want to bunk one professor’s class but have to attend the one that follows. “Sometimes we opt out of T3 as an option for a quick snack because of the slow service,” complains Mohua. “The waiters need to be a little more attentive; it is quite frustrating to have to yell and wave for eons before we catch their attention,” agrees Paromita.