"I didn't want to shut our doors at all but sadly, here we are", Vasu Gupta, owner.
Taking a seat in Lucknow way back in 1964, Planter's Tea Bar & Book Cafe gradually became a pally name that resonated with the youth and the oldies, alike. Starting with Roop Narayan Gupta dealing with loose tea to his grandson, Vasu, serving an expansive range of exquisite tea varieties to Lucknowites amid a contemporary cafe setup, this brand has chronicled an uphill journey since its inception. But the confines of the pandemic and its repercussions have now led to the shuttering of this iconic establishment and we don't think we're ready to bid goodbye just yet!
Brewed a steaming teavolution in the city with over 150 sorts of tea
Counted as one of the renowned establishments of Lucknow, Planter's
is was a homegrown joint that has shouldered the task of brewing a steaming teavolution in the city with over 150 sorts of tea. However, the harsh lashes of the pandemic haven't spared this tea bar and now, we'll have to live with the knowledge that Planter's isn't going to be there for our next hangout plan or any one of them at all.
Speaking to the third generation owner, Vasu Gupta, we discussed the past, present and future (if any) of Planter's and it felt like a conversation that should've taken place at one of the Planters outlets because of its intensity and our emotional connotations.
"In 2014, we started with our first tea cafe, serving food and beverages, at Aminabad (Model House Chauraha). It was a small and cosy concept cafe to test the audience response. The response was overwhelming and a lot of people from Gomti Nagar and Indira Nagar were driving down to this place. After that, we came up with an outlet at Gomti Nagar-1 in 2016. My father, Rajendar Kumar Gupta, was a professional tea tester and he curated all the tea ideas and brew blends by himself."
The Cult of Planter's: Cups of chai aur charcha!
Talking about the cult of Planter's that has a grip on Lucknowites, especially the millennials, Vasu added, "I always wanted my cafe to be a destination where we would promote underground music, live performances and more, at no cost at all. Our stage has helped many musicians, comedians and other entertainers to find their paths and now, a lot of them have garnered huge success! To make it all the more better, we also wanted to incorporate books in our set up. I have been to innumerable cafes in India and abroad, which inspired me to do so and it was an instant hit amid the masses!"
He even stated, "To personally connect with all and to create a safe space, I have spent most of my time at the premises of the cafe and ensured that everyone was comfortable. A lot of places have restrictions that don't allow people to comfortably speak their minds but that wasn't the case here! I have encouraged every topic under the sun, be it religion or politics and the process of winning hearts just snowballed, I guess."
A detailed past but a blurred future!
Vasu then added, "Due to COVID, things are getting nasty for business owners. There are no tax waivers and the landlords are also not offering any concessions. As a result of this pandemic, there is no crown in the hospitality business. Earlier, we were earning around 80-90 k per day. But now, it has come down to 11-12 k a day and we had kept the brand alive through our savings. The situation has worsened and now we cannot do it anymore."
Further, talking about the comeback of Planter's, Vasu stated, "We're not really planning on coming back to the market; at least not now and definitely not where we were before in Gomti Nagar. I have another concept in mind and after 15-20 years, when I have my own land, I might start something. But not so soon. I didn't want to shut our doors at all but sadly, here we are!"
Until next time, chai buddy
Although Lucknow has umpteen number of cafes to its credits, the feel of entering Planter's and the vibe of an evening spent here, is simply unexampled and apparently, it will be so until they return again. But till then, we do have a pocket full of memories and a taste of exotic chai blends to rely upon and honestly, we'll probably never stop hoping for Planter's to put up a post saying, "We're Back Again".