Irani café

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Irani cafés are Iranian-style cafés in the Indian subcontinent.[1][2] They were originally opened by Zoroastrian Irani immigrants to British India in the 19th century, fleeing Safavid persecution or looking for better economic prospects.[3] In India, Mumbai and Hyderabad boast a number of Irani cafés, which are very popular for Irani chai (tea).[4][5] In the 1950s, there were 350 Irani cafés; today, only 25 remain.[1] Karachi, Pakistan, was also home to many Irani cafés.[6][7]


They were originally opened by Zoroastrian Irani immigrants to British India in the 19th century after they fled from Safavid persecution in West and Central Asia.[8]

Writing for the Hindu Business Line, on "Mumbai's Irani hotspots", Sarika Mehta stated, "The classic format of these cafes is basic with a subtle colonial touch; high ceilings with black, bent wooden chairs (now cane in some cafes), wooden tables with marble tops and glass jars that allow a peek into the goodies they hold. With huge glass mirrors on the walls to create a feeling of space, visitors are greeted with eagerness and a whiff of baking. The speed of operations is impressive and service quite hassle-free."[9]


Mumbai cafés may serve bun maska (bread and butter)[10] or brun-maska (hard buttered croissants),[11][12] and paani kam chai (a strong Iranian tea, lit. 'tea with less water'), or khari chai (very strong tea), mutton samosas, and kheema pav (minced meat served in bread rolls), akuri (scrambled eggs and vegetables), berry pulao, vegetable puff, vegetarian/chicken dhansak (a spiced lentil dish with meat and vegetables) and biryani, cherry cream custard, cheese khari biscuits, plain khari biscuits, coconut jam and milk biscuits and Duke's raspberry drink.

Many Irani cafés offer sweet and salted biscuits[13] like rawa (semolina), til-rawa coconut, nan-khatai (sweet, crisp flaky Irani biscuits), Madeira cake (tutti-frutti biscuits).

Cultural references[edit]

Nissim Ezekiel wrote a poem based on instruction boards found in his favourite Irani café: the defunct Bastani and Company in Dhobi Talao, Mumbai.[14]


  1. ^ a b Jayshree Bajoria (27 April 2005). "India's Iranian cafes fading out". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Parsi Cafes, A Centuries-Old Tradition In India, Are Vanishing". Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  3. ^ Masashi, Haneda. "Emigration of Iranian Elites to India during the 16-18th centuries". Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Quintessentially Hyderabadi—Irani Tea". New Indian Express. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  5. ^ Naomi Lobo (May 20, 2007). "Irani cafés: Inheritance of loss". India Express. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2007.
  6. ^ "Where have the Iranian restaurants gone?". Dawn. 26 July 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  7. ^ Noorani, Asif (10 September 2016). "Looking back at Karachi's Irani cafe culture". Dawn. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  8. ^ Krishna, Anubhuti (28 June 2018). "Irani cafes make a millenial comeback". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Miguel, H.S. (2012). Mumbai. Intellect Books - World Film Locations Series (in Indonesian). Intellect Books. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-84150-632-6. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  11. ^ Koppikar, Smruti (28 March 2005). "Alvida, Brun-Maska | Outlook India Magazine". Outlook India. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  12. ^ Noronha, Paul (27 October 2012). "Bye-bye to Brun maska?". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  13. ^ Damle, J.Y. (2011). Pune: Tradition to Market: a Study of Changing Trends in Consumption with Special Reference to Service Sector in Hotel Industry. Kalpaz Publications. p. 117. ISBN 978-81-7835-895-6. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Sunanda Sudhir". Retrieved 25 December 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]