Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Something's Brewing

The coffee culture has taken over and like how! It’s a whole sub culture of the yuppie-liberal-urban set-up and either you are with it or out with the used beans. Its not just about “coffee” anymore, it’s a whole lifestyle choice.

The days of the ubiquitous India Coffee House are long gone. Those used to be places where the old and the young got together, drank coffee paired with the famous cutlets and talked about everything from politics, cricket and to the neighborhood latest. And this presence of a little coffee haven in a predominantly “chai” driven society was no small feat. It was a small niche, a select few, some in the north, people from M.P, and the filter-coffee drinking crowds in the South kept the coffee movement going. But who would have thought it would become the upscale beverage of choice among the many teens, college students and young professionals in the India of today! Coffee no longer is just a drink; it has become a lifestyle choice.

Bangalore is filled with many branches of Barista, Café Coffee Day and Java City. Hyderabad has its Coffee Days and Baristas along with Mocha and Café D’Art. Delhi too has its usual coffee chains along with Café Turtle. And Bombay again has its usual suspects. My point? Every major city has been hit by the coffee culture tidal wave and you only have to step into any one of these coffee shops in any city to see the appeal they carry with the young India. Loud teenagers in one corner, a furtive couple on their awkward first date, a bunch of college kids ‘hanging out’, women with coffee and smokes in a corner, loud pseudo-intellectuals discussing something at another table. They are all there, just pan the room.
Some of these coffee shops go way out, to appeal to the younger customers and increase their ‘hip’ quotient. I can’t even hear myself think at a Coffee Day, boy, is it loud in there! They have club/ dance music or the latest pop hits playing with volume turned way up, and, adding jukeboxes in most of their stores didn’t help much either. Barista keeps some board games at hand that you can play while you have your coffee and some guitars that you can strum if you are so inclined. This neo-chic, forced youth-appeal is as attractive as using a whole bottle of cologne. You know, after a point, you only stink.

Barista wants to appeal to a ‘family audience’ (whatever that means) and so they have now added a full menu of food. Of food! Not just snacks to munch with your cuppa, but food. Pizzas etc. Why?? Why?? So, now Barista is a fast food restaurant that happens to serve coffee? And Mocha has hookahs (cool) along with strange plants that attract flies by the zillions (ouch!)! Don’t even get me started on Café Coffee Day.

What happened to the coffee place where you came for some conversation and cigarettes? The place where you had quiet discussions or feisty arguments? Where romances started and great works were inspired? Instead all we have is major advertising houses trying to sell us a way of life, cause a cultural shift, a sort of Starbucks’ization of our cities and people.

Now, I love my coffee and I love the “coffee shop”. It’s the associated pretentiousness I can do without. But I know it’s a losing battle, for now anyway. Something’s definitely brewing!

P.S: I don’t know if Starbucks’ization is that bad after all. (Grande Latte, non-fat, no foam, extra hot, to-go please!!)

No comments: