Tea Shop Life Profiles Lucky Seven
Story and Photographs by Marie Starr
Before the name became a small chain, the original Lucky Seven was founded on 49th Street, Upper Block in Pazundaung Township. Tea Shop Life is a series that MYANMORE will be running to profile Yangon’s best teashops and other local haunts.
The Lucky 7 tea shop on 49th Street greets you in a different way to its competitors. Colourful lanterns along the street outside wave you in from a distance. The signage is cuddled by a greenery of pot plants and shrubs that shade the patrons from the morning sun. An oasis in the downtown combat.
Lucky 7 is popular. Though a large place, it is often full to capacity and you may have a short wait for a table. The number of customers only adds to the atmosphere. Hollering teashop boys dash from table to kitchen to table and customers chatter above the buzz of maxed-out fans chasing away the March morning heat.
The crowd has gathered in honour of a celebration – the Burmese breakfast. With strong influences from India and a sweet tea thick with condensed milk, breakfast in Myanmar is by far the best part of the day. At Lucky 7, a celebration it is – poori and mutton curry with meat that melts in your mouth, samosas straight up or in a salad, parathas served savoury or sweet, ‘poor–man’s–breakfast’ of boiled pea rice topped with a runny fried egg, and of course mohinga, Myanmar’s national dish.
On wooden stools we look through the voluminous menu. Hovering close by are the boys working on the floor who wear matching blue and red jerseys. Daubs of thanakha on their cheeks contrast their ‘awesome’ bleached hairstyles. The numbers on their shirts tell us that there are probably 40 people working this morning. Sweet teas and tin plates of curry are swooped down to our table within minutes.
In the shaded outdoor areas and inside the shop itself families get together to catch up. Fashionable couples share dishes and old men chuckle over cups of sweet tea. Everything is overlooked by the tea shop matron with a stern face and lots of gold jewelry.
We speak to one floor manager who is distinguished by the red colour of his jersey, the wad of money in his hand and the look of smug on his face. He is 19 and has been working here for 6 years. He reveals there have been many famous customers at Lucky 7 throughout the years, the names of none he can remember right now.
Lucky 7 has history. It has been operating for 16 years and word has it that it was a popular place for meetings to talk about topics deemed suspicious by the military government in Myanmar’s previous years. There is also said to have been a secret library, Naga Library, sporting books of a banned nature. None of this is evident today, however, in the bright and cheery teashop already glowing yellow from the sprigs of the plastic padauk flowers of Thingyan.
Lucky 7 is clean as is the food. Early morning is the best time to visit because the open-air nature of the tea shop makes it fairly hot later in the day. The service is friendly and quick and the price is very fair. Mohinga, poori mutton curry, chicken noodle salad, mohinga and two teas add up to 5,000 Ks. Bright smiles and waves escort us out to the street and our table is quickly taken by the next hungry customers.