The evolving culture of coffee in India

From merely being an exporter of coffee, to having a coffee house in every corner of its street


October 9, 2018

/ By / New Delhi


India Coffee House in Kolkata

India is known as the nation that drinks chai (tea) across the globe. But with time, the scenarios have changed slowly and steadily. Nowadays the coffee lovers just can’t do without their morning fix, and the freshly brewed instant coffee is seen in almost every Indian households. The country is now the sixth largest producer of coffee globally, and the history of its production and evolution has become an interesting tale.

Not too long ago, majority of Indians preferred to start their day with a cup of tea; however if one wanted a cup of coffee, their options were likely limited to a bland cup of Nescafé. Today, the long-standing ‘tradition’ of starting the day with tea has been challenged by the growing and evolving culture of coffee in the country.

India has long been an important grower of coffee beans – in fact, it is the sixth largest coffee producer in the world. While coffee is said to have been introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 1640s, its plantation was mostly used for exports for a very long time. The beans were first planted in the southern regions of the country, which became a centre for filter coffee (Kaapi). Whatever its virtues, this kind of coffee never spread far beyond south India and certainly never reached the north, perhaps because filter coffee is not easy to make and requires not just specialised equipment, but also a degree of patience and skill.

From the Indian Coffee House to Cafe Coffee Day

Instant coffee still dominated the country. In essence, it is an industrial product, made possible by a variety of factory processes. Its big advantage lies in its easy and quick preparation. However, it was only in the early 1940s when a small group of dismissed Indian Coffee Board members created the ‘Indian Coffee House’.

In 1957, the Indian Coffee House was the first coffee shop to open in the country and is still serving loyal patrons in over 400 locations.

In 1996, bringing the convenience of a barista and providing a proper place for the people to meet up, Cafe Coffee Day got the ball rolling with over 1500 locations all over the globe. The indian company grows its coffee in its own estates of 12,000 acres and is the largest producer of arabica beans in Asia, exporting it to various countries including USA, Europe and Japan.

Keeping in mind its past, the current scenario of coffee in the country is way different from it.

New Variants of coffee

These days, a number of different coffee-house chains, both home-grown and foreign, have popped up in cities all over India including Starbucks and Costa. Along with them, local cafes in the country are offering new variants of coffee — green beans, organic coffee, coffee capsules and the like.

Also, the people who travel around the world tend to bring similar coffee trends to India as well. Just like in the US, people in India can now take their coffee to work or around with them as they run errands, setting the drinking-on-the-go culture famous as it is today.

Young people were the first to jump on the café bandwagon. For the youth, a coffee house is not only a place to buy lattes and Frappuccinos, but also a much-needed urban space.

Shreya Jain, a 23-year old resident of New Delhi and an avid coffee lover says – “I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a kid. Back then it started as a matter of looking cool amongst my friends, but now I have a love affair with my coffee. I like to try new cafes in town, hang out with my friends and colleagues there. It not just provides an appealing space that is neither a home nor a workplace, but also offers my taste of cappuccino, just the way I like it”.

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