Sipping on a flavoursome shot of Noisette, a la Parisian style, one may believe France to be the ‘Mecca’ for this divine drink, but coffee loyalists might be astounded to know that it never was the originating country for coffee. If legend is to be believed, it was in Ethiopia that the first ever concoction using coffee beans was prepared in the late 15th century and it thereon became the first country to export coffee globally. Having journeyed across shores and continents, creating a milieu of zealous coffee lovers, coffee is no longer just a drink; but a cult, a metaphor for a soiree, a quick way to unwind, an ice-breaker or sometimes a balmy therapy, in fact, it could be as versatile as a coffee lover would want it to be.
The ‘Chai’ loving Indian Sub-continent has witnessed a shift in loyalties with coffee’s beguiling aroma and flavour garnering a substantial fan base over the years. Choices and options have evolved from the customary stainless steel filter coffee, served largely across the Southern Indian belt to contemporary artisanal brews that hit the right sensory notes. While the ’90s saw an uprising of domestically bred Coffee Shops (with limited choices of course), as the millennium hit, the stakes had been upped by a cosmopolitan customer base that fancied several state of the art International coffee chains such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks & Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
For the longest time, the conventional coffee consumption in the majority of Indian homes was at best, limited to instant coffee powder brands (beaten till death with granular sugar) which, with all due respect were not even remotely close to the bewitchery of freshly brewed beans. With a considerable rise in global travel by Indians (on personal and professional accounts alike), there is an evolved palette for coffee and a keen interest in its versatile offing. Mediocre preparations with coffee dust have become passé, and have been usurped by a desire for flavourful and rich French press, or an ambrosial filtered version. Coffee machines are no longer held as a barista exclusive domain, in fact, indigenous appliance brands are now largely catering to the household consumer segment.
The cause of a good cup (of coffee) was furthered by the entrepreneurial wave when spirited young guns with a discerning taste ventured into coffee farming to grow a variety of Robusta and Arabica beans across the fertile ranges of Southern India. Today a plethora of fine, home-grown varieties of filter coffee (Blue Tokai, Flying Squirrel, Columbian Brew etc.) are stocked at upscale retail stores across the country or can be ordered at your favourite coffee shop. The savvier lot of coffee drinkers even have an option to go to a contemporary coffee bar, pick up their choice of beans and have them grounded to perfection. The laid back patrons needn’t be disappointed for the likes of Sleepy Owl and Woke Brew have your back with their ready to drink cold brews, easily available online as well as at several gourmet grocery chains.
From a celebratory Pumpkin spice flavoured latte to a heavenly handcrafted brew, be it a frothy steaming cup of cappuccino or adrenaline kicking iced frappe, coffee has chalked up to be the Popular Fiction of (Beverage)Literature; Addictive, Appeasing and Exhilarating.