Coffee shops or hang-out joints?
I don’t much like the coffee they serve up in CCD (Café Coffee Day) or Barista. And I am not too upset that earlier this year Starbucks made a decision not to enter India. That’s because I go to a coffee-shop to drink good coffee, not hang out, being past my college days. I am neither a fan of black coffee, nor of the light frothy lukewarm stuff they call ‘Latte’. I thought I probably had no idea what good coffee was (I am basically a tea-drinker) until I saw this post of Arun’s. He is a coffee drinker and he doesn’t think they serve up good coffee, no not even at Starbucks.
I have often asked them at CCD to heat up my coffee and after reading Arun’s post I realised why. This is what he says:
Anyway, I don’t get the point of this foam business. It is fluff and only for look. To generate more of it, Starbucks etc. use cold milk – which of course brings the temperature of the coffee down…the foam takes up most of the cup, and so end up with mostly looks and little substance.
No wonder these coffee shops serve lukewarm coffee – they use cold milk! And as for their cold coffees…spare me! In CCD they mostly serve ice-cream blended cold coffees and customers have to hunt for a ‘normal’ cold coffee on the menu. Even then, there is no option but to have sugar plus cold coffees! Once I asked a sales girl whether she blended ice-cream with coffee when she made the stuff at home. She said yes!! What a lie.
Not all coffee shops are this bad ofcourse. Brio is slightly better…though there aren’t too many of these outlets. I hear that Hyderabad as a lot of coffee shops (they aren’t chains) but here in Mumbai and Pune there seems to be nothing except CCD and Barista!
But even though people like me might turn up their noses at these fancy coffee shops, the reality is that they are doing good business in India…and their old avatars are faltering…if not dying. I am talking of the Udupis. Is there a comparison, between the Baristas, the CCDs and the Udipis?
In my eyes there is. An Udipi restaurant always served up some decent coffee, and many still do. Good hot steaming coffee, extra strong. And these were the places where we hung out when we were in college…Vaishali was one such place, being bang opposite Fergusson college. Vaish we called it (no it didn’t look like it looks in the picture, there was an open space in front) and there was also Café Delite and Marz-o-rin (not an Udipi) in the ‘Camp’ area…and another favorite hang-out joint was the old West End café. Vaishali is not a hang-out joint anymore and nor is Marz-o-rin…it’s difficult to imagine that they ever were. But these were places where we could sit for a long time without being disturbed, just sipping coffee. Wonderful coffee. One cup of coffee costed Rs 5/-! Ofcourse prices have increased four-fold but that’s not the point…the point is that the ambiance is gone.
Today these places are nothing more than commercialised eateries. The menu is a mile long. Café Delite doesn’t exist anymore and West End has been replaced by a a multiplex, and ofcourse, the old world atmosphere has vanished. And the young? They don’t want to sit and eat or have coffee in such places…as there will always be someone looking over their shoulder, telling them to hurry up.
About coffee shops in Hyderabad, Karan has a nice set of reviews. One of his reviews says:
The place has got everything going for it..the ambience, the food, the coffee.. the crowd 😛 (got some amazing chicks 😉 ) , the location.. its just the price which is slightly on the higher side. Pah! Who cares.. once the place is such a treat!
That should explain what the youth are looking for…although coffee is mentioned, that’s in passing. The Udipis missed the writing on the wall… they are infact dying out. And that’s because today Udipi joints have been reduced to eateries…no not just eateries…but plain no-frills type eateries. Udipis are also similar to each other…you go to one and you’ve been to all. Their very pluses – good, clean inexpensive food – have become their nemesis. There are long queues, of the family kind.
You might say so what, they have their own clientale…sure they do, but these places are not making money like they used to…and that’s not surprising. Udipis want to keep their prices down and their standards up (quality of food and hygiene). As a result they have turned into clones of each other, just crowded food factories, with no café persona at all…no music, and a complete lack of attention to decor or comfort.
What’s needed is a hybrid version of an Udipi and a CCD. Good inexpensive food, decent coffee and a good ambiance…until such places come up I think I’ll stick to tea. Thank goodness they serve tea at Cafe Coffee Day.
(All photographs have been taken by me)