Sunday, 1 August 2010

Musings at Cafe Coffee Day

Overlooking the Cubbon park, in Bangalore is the Café Coffee day square.( Earlier known as Tiffany’s square). Swanky is an understatement to describe the ambience. The place, the imposing façade overlooking bangalore’s Cubbon park is very befitting location as headquarters for a entrepreneurial venture that started out as India’s answer to starbucks.

In Bangalore more than in most other cities in India, a Café Coffee day outlet is just almost there at every nook and corner. If you wanted to meet up an old friend who was around in your locality, you just said , lets meet up at café coffee day and you are sure to find an outlet in your neighbourhood. Complete with a wi-fi enabled infrastructure, it is a nice swanky place to spend a little bit of time or to meet up with someone, Could be an old friend, a business prospect or a casual date.

Like the Starbucks it is not so much about the coffee but about the ambience, the relaxed atmosphere and a decent place to hang out. Not exactly inexpensive though for a cup of coffee.

I grew up in a household of coffee drinkers. As far as Coffee drinking goes I am the black sheep in the family. Am not much of a coffee lover . I can savour a cup of coffee just as obligingly as one drinks a potion of ‘kashayam’ or ’castor oil’. Many a times my grandmother has exrpessed her deep concern as to what a hopeless daughter –in-law I might turn out to be, if I did not know how to serve a satisfying tumbler of Filter coffee to my in-laws. ( Thankfully I have’nt been subjected to that ordeal as yet).
At my parents place, as in any pure bred ‘Tambram’ household, Coffee is not a just a beverage , it is a way of life. The’ degree kaapi’, needs to be piping hot, made out of fresh milk, freshly ground coffee seeds with the right amount of chicory powder at 5.30 am in the morning and then at regular intervals through the day. In the morning just as the milkman delivers the milk and the local temple blares out ‘venkatesha suprabhatam’ much to the irritation of the youngsters who watched a late night movie and have just managed sleep a couple of hours ago, the decoction is brewed in a coffee filter.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee lingers around the house around the same time as the bird’s screech their lungs out and the orange colour of dawn breaks out from the grey sky and announces the arrival of yet another day.
The ‘filter kaapi’ served in a steel tumbler placed inside a ‘davara’ held in one hand is best
savoured with a ‘Hindu’ newspaper on the other .
The aroma of filter ‘degree’ coffee remains undiluted in its standards in most ‘tam bram' households to this day . It was therefore with a slight trepidation that I took my parents to a starbucks café when they were visiting us in London. With the knowledge I do have about the exacting standards of coffee they are used to ,we ordered for them expresso coffee, that would be the closest possible resemblance to the one and only form of coffee that they recognize and acknowledge as ‘kaapi’.
When the orders were ready and called out at the counter , I went and fetched the tray . We settled into the counch as I poured out the coffee , some milk and reached out for some sugar and stirrer from across the our couch at the self service counter. I prepared and handed out the coffee to them and settled down to sip my vanilla flavoured iced tea .
From across the couch my father looked at the board over the self service counter that listed the menu of a 30 different varieties of coffee being served and he asked me which was the one they were having.
'Esspresso – hot' I replied.
He digressed into a pensive mood for a moment and did some mental maths.
He said he did’nt quite get it. ‘If you have to fetch your own decoction from the counter, pour a few teaspoonfuls of cold milk and add the sugar on your own, then what are you paying him a good 280 bucks ( 3.60 GBP) per cup for ?.
Back home, in Sri Krishna Vilas or Madras café they would serve you a much better conction, piping hot and that too within minutes.
Is this just bad customer service or is there more to it?
I tried to explain to him that coffee did come in various other sizes, shapes, colours and prices.
I have made a mental note to take him to café coffee day outlet in our neighbourhood in Bangalore one of these days to drive home the point yet one more time.

It is probably an exaggeration to say the Café coffee days will wipe out the degree coffee at ‘madras café’ , Sri krishna vilas’ or the local ududpi restaurant in a few years to come.
But then the reality is not far away. We do see signs of Pepsi and coke putting the ‘nimbu pani’ vendor out of business in some pockets where there is money to throw away. I am not sure if ‘degree coffee’ and ‘Cutting chai’ are on their way to extinction is a similar way .

Chaya Kadai Courtesy :
I would like to believe my fears are exaggerated. Chaya kadai , filter coffee , nimbu pani and vada pav have weathered far too many summers and winters to fade away from our taste buds to be forgotten as a result of changing lifestyles.
No matter how much surplus money you have to throw away at a ‘café coffee day’ or a ‘Barista’ your conscience still nudges you that this is still an indulgence when you can get ‘namma ooru kapi’ or a ‘cutting chai’ with ‘hot vada pav’ for one tenth of that price round the corner .

Years ago in Mumbai my husband- to-be wooed me over many mugs of hot & cold coffee at the Barista behind the Capitol cinema near VT station where we headed frequently a long days' work.
We have hardly been there for many years now. I once suggested we should go there, just for old memories sake.
‘ Expensive indulgence’… he remarked with a sigh and turned down the idea.
I would like to assume he referred to the cold coffee we used to have over there and nothing more.

1 comment:

  1. Even though it is nowadays fashionable to meet at Coffee Day/Barista, the charm of Filter Coffee/Vada Pav/Bhel Puri will never go away ... Maybe we will have some improvisations in future with the regular filter kaapi and vada pav served in places where people can wile away the time/money yet retaining the authentic taste !!!