DUBAI: A tea shop in Dubai serves an incredible 6,000 cups a day thanks to a mother's recipe that has got UAE residents hooked on the brew.
On weekends, Filli Cafe dishes out the staggering number of tea cups to customers lining up in Al Mamzar area near the Corniche.
In the evenings, the otherwise sleepy neighbourhood turns into a virtual conveyer belt of cars honking non-stop to place orders - saffron tea, hard-boiled, ginger, black or plain varieties.
Waiters are kept on their toes, juggling big trays full of cups and loose change, rushing back and forth countless times.
On work days, it's down to "only" 3,000 cups.
The no-frills, hole-in-the-wall cafeteria attracts guests from as far away as Abu Dhabi and regulars in Dubai have been showing up almost daily for six years - sometimes more than once a day.
An Emirati customer said the tea there was "addictive".
"It's all down to our mum, she knows her tea. We use what she taught us," said Rahfath Filli, 23, who manages the family business along with his brother Rameez, 25. The duo hail from the south Indian state of Kerala.
"We were doing well when we started - in 1991. But it got really busy after 2005, when we introduced the saffron tea. It's just tea - we use our own loose-tea brand from India - with saffron, but we make sure everything's right," Rameez added.
"We taste as many cups as we can to see they all taste the same, we drink a lot of tea." Though the "zafrani" (saffron) tea is the menu star, "chai karak" (strong tea) is a close second. People from all nationalities, age groups and walks of life throng the cafeteria. Million-dirham supercars can be seen pulling up alongside Japanese hatchbacks from the early '90s.
Some play board games on a nearby patch of green, while others stand chatting and sipping, getting frequent refills.
The almost carnival like atmosphere lasts well into the night, till about 3.30am when the shop closes.
Filli now has nine branches in Dubai, but the Al Mamzar outlet remains the most popular.
"We started with just one shop, now customers are asking us to open branches close to them, in Jumeirah and even in Al Ain. They say, ‘Please, just put up a counter, it doesn't have to be a proper cafeteria'," Rahfath said.
Filli has been featured on food shows on TV and even has a mention in Wikitravel. Oh yes, it also has a Facebook page as well as a website, www.fillitea.com.