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question hour

HARISH BIJOOR | Updated on January 16, 2018

16CT_COFFEE

India’s coffee capital

Bengaluru is the branded coffee capital of India. Am I right?







Josephine, you just might be right. Seeing Bengaluru through its cafes over the last 30 years takes me back to my late teens. Those were days when coffee in the city meant the brew dished out at the many dark and dreary little restaurants that sprung up literally everywhere, from Malleswaram to Chikpet to MG Road. The smaller they were, the better the coffee on offer. And amidst this sea of what we today call rather generically the “Udupi restaurant”, sprung up brand names of every kind. A Vidyarthi Bhavan catered to one area, just as an MTR took care of another. More modern variants sprung up with coffee at Koshy’s and coffee at an Airlines Hotel (served in tall and transparent water glasses that you struggled to hold onto with a tissue as barrier from the heat of the coffee within).

And the Government was not far from it at all. Government’s work was God’s work, as proclaimed at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. And making and serving good coffee seemed to be part of God’s work as well. The India Coffee House on MG Road became astatement of coffee. It served just about everything to eat and drink, but the name remained all about coffee and the place became a coffee destination you could not miss if you were ever to hit the high street and the high life in the city.

The times changed then. In came the early years of the Nineties and there was liberalisation in the coffee economy of the country. The dominant hold of the Coffee Board on the brew was dismantled. The coffee planter was free to trade his coffee on his own. It was for him to plan his future, unshackled by the chains and the bonds and indeed the umbilical cord of the Coffee Board of India. Planters were all of a sudden left in a bit of a vacuum. Many wondered what to do. Some planned a future. And others continued to want support. This period went on for all of ten long years. In the midst of it all rose VG Siddhartha, who grabbed the gauntlet and started India’s first formal fine coffee Cafe, with the then rather generic title of Cafe Coffee Day. The company he formed was even more generic in its abbreviated form: ABC Trading Company Ltd! The first cafe opened its portals in Bengaluru on MG Road in July 1996. Today, with 1,591 cafes, CCD is a ubiquitous brand with the young and young at heart in this country. What started bang in the middle of good old Brigade Road in Bengaluru is today a reality that you will find in a Katra and a Dharamshala, as much as you will find in the bylanes of Bandra and Begumpet as well.

I would therefore credit the role of the father, mother, brother and sister of the cafe revolution in India to VG Siddhartha altogether.

Published on December 15, 2016

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