For decades, Iranian cafes have been a popular haunt for youngsters looking out for their daily quota of bun-maska and chai. Standing strong since 1964, Café Yezdan has seen modernization, contemporary problems, rising prices of real estate, youngsters unwillingness to carry on the family business, and a lot more.
Pune: Continuing the Iranian-Zoroastrian trade of “chai-khanas” (tea-houses) in India, Café Yezdan was started by Khodabanda Irani after having fled Iran. The Irani Cafes present in Pune are a mix of Muslim owned and Parsi owned cafes. The Muslim ones are much more in number, and Café Yezdan is one of the very few Parsi owned Irani cafes left in the city.
Situated at Sharbatwala chowk in Pune Camp, this little café is always bustling with customers. From 6 am till 8 pm, there is not a single minute where you’d see the waiters idle. Before we met the manager, we decided to ask a few waiters about the place and business — “Bun- maska chai aur broon bahut famous hai. Broon bahut jaldi khatam ho jata hai, aur yahan ka bun-maska chai toh poore Pune mein famous hai” (the bun-maska chai and broons are very famous; broons get over quickly, and the bun-maska chai is the most popular item on the menu) The staff here is extremely jovial, helpful, and efficient.
Even with food prices going through the roof, Café Yezdan is still more competitively priced than several other eating places,and a good option for those who find it wasteful to spend much on a cup of tea. With the marble table tops, Irani chairs, tiled floors, and ceiling fans ambience might not be their forte. But this has never stopped the customers from coming in for a plate (or more) of the special chai and bun-maska. It has developed its own style over the years, one very different compared to other restaurants — there is a distinct presence of the old-world style of the Iranis. This has, over the years, become an iconic feature in the locality.“We recently renovated the place 10 months ago, and now we see men getting their families along. We have seen an inzcrease in the number of women in the café. With the “No Smoking” rule, women and children are feeling a lot better at our café,” said Shapoor Irani, grandson of the late Khodabanda Irani. He continues, “The buns are all outsourced from Persian Bakery, and the broons from Imperial Bakery. We do not have an in-house bakery. Everything else is prepared right here. And majority of the sales are of the bun-maksa and chai.”
Majority of the customers are individuals with modest means, looking out for simple and wholesome meals and snacks. This café also sees a bunch of people meeting for interviews, or plain social gatherings. Like all the Iranian cafes, this one too has created a loyal following, irrespective of caste and class.Bun-maska and chai for two cost us a total of Rs. 70. Unless you are not too particular about hygiene, there is no reason you should be missing out on the bun-maska chai they have to offer.