Hindi Language Blog

For the Love of Coffee: कॉफ़ी के प्यार में Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Hindi Language, Uncategorized

I’m sure most of you have heard countless times about the obsession India (mostly North India) has with “chai” (चाय) or tea. But, as an American who LOVES coffee, I must desist from rehashing a trite discussion of the various forms of “chai” and instead devote this blog to India’s time-honored and burgeoning fascination with COFFEE (कॉफ़ी).

South Indian filter coffee; image by Charles Haynes on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

India’s love affair with coffee is definitely not as recent as it seems. In South India, what is known as “filter coffee” has been beloved for generations. Americans accustomed to black coffee and espresso may not like filter coffee as it contains hearty helpings of milk and sugar, but it is certainly delicious in its own way and the method for making it is beguiling to say the least (watch this video in Hindi on how to make it!). This method of making coffee has made inroads in North India where chai, for the most part, still reins supreme. Yet, the real threat to the dominance of chai in North India lies in the coffee shops and chains that have sprung up all over India, especially in its mid-size and large cities. And no, I’m not talking about Starbucks.

A cappuccino with chocolate sauce at Costa Coffee; image by Dhinal Chheda on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Costa Coffee, a coffee chain from England, is exceedingly popular in India. The prices are high, but the coffee and food is generally good. The coffee here is of the European style with espresso making up the basis of most coffee drinks. Another premium coffee chain popular in North India is Barista (by Lavazza), a chain from Italy that specializes in high-end, espresso-based coffee and snacks. For cheaper but just as, if not more, delicious fare, go to Indian Coffee House, a cooperative founded in 1936 that has chains throughout India. Don’t miss its delicious cold coffee, hakka maggi (Indo-Chinese noodles) and cheese omelette. As a cultural and historical phenomenon in its own right, Indian Coffee House is a must-see; still redolent of the atmosphere of pre-Independence India when political dissidents and radical intellectuals and artists would hold informal meetings and discussions fueled by its tasty chicory-laden coffee, Indian Coffee House really can’t be beat for its energetic environment and unforgettable food and drink.

The unmistakeable garb of an Indian Coffee House waiter; image by Meena Kadri on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Last but not least, the mainstay of most Indian youth, however, is CAFE COFFEE DAY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to this chain, especially in Kolkata, where I lived close to one. This is the place to go for arctic waves of A/C, free wifi, chatting with friends, listening to loud pop music and trying decadent coffee drinks, desserts and snacks. Arguably the most popular and relatively well-priced coffee shop, especially amongst young, educated, urban Indians, you must visit this place at least once to experience the dynamic side of India that it showcases. Forget what you thought you knew about how coffee “should be” and try a cold coffee, an Indian specialty consisting of healthy amounts of milk, sugar, sometimes chocolate sauce and ice cream + of course, coffee. Although this place is certainly not for the self-professed “coffee connoisseur,” it is a must-visit for those who want to see how India does coffee.

A Barista coffee shop in Shimla; image by Jaskirat Singh Bawa on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Unlike most of the coffee shops in the U.S., where people often come to work or study in a quiet environment with a hot beverage on hand, coffee shops in India are decidedly more fashionable, popular and definitely louder places to go to see and be seen, buy ridiculously expensive coffee and snacks and socialize.

A couple at a Cafe Coffee Day in Pune; image by ptwo on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

To get a better sense of the vibe at a place like Cafe Coffee Day, read this conversation between an American student visiting India and a college-going Indian socializing at a coffee shop:

सारा (Sarah): हेलो, मेरा नाम सारा है; मैं अमेरिका से आयी हूँ, पढ़ाई के लिये । तुम कैसे हो?

Sarah: Hello, meraa naam Sarah hai; Main America se aayi huun, parhaii (studies) ke liye. Tum kaise ho?

रंदीप: हाई, ठीक हूँ मैं, और तुम?

Randeep: Hi, thik huun main, aur tum?

सारा: बहुत बढ़िया । तुम क्या करते हो ?

Sarah: Bahut barhiya (excellent). Tum kyaa karte ho?

रंदीप: मैं भी अपनी पढ़ाई कर रहा हूँ आजकल, राजस्थान युनिवर्सिटी में । मैं अपना MBA कर रहा हूँ । तुम क्या पढ़ रही हो?

Randeep: Main abhi apni parhaii kar rahaa huun aajkal, Rajasthan University me. Main apnaa MBA kar rahaa huun. Tum kyaa parh rahi ho?

सारा: वैसे, मैं यहाँ आयी हूँ हिंदी सीखने के लिये ।

Sarah: Vaise, main yahaan aayi huun Hindi sikhne ke liye.

रंदीप: अच्छा !? मस्त है यार । वैसे तुम बहुत अच्छे से हिंदी बोलती हो ।

Randeep: Accha!? Mast (cool, interesting) hai yaar. Vaise tum bahut acche se Hindi bolti ho.

सारा: शुक्रिया! इतने सारे लोग हैं यहाँ पे, कॉफ़ी पीने के लिये ही! लेकिन, मुझे लगा कि ज़्यादातर North Indian (इंडियन) वाले चाय ज़्यादा पसंद करते हैं ।

Sarah: Shukriya! Itne saare log hain yahaan pe, coffee pine ke liye hi! Lekin, mujhe lagaa ki zyaadaatar North Indian vaale chaay zyaada pasand karte hain.

रंदीप: हाँ, वह तो सही है, लेकिन मेरे खयाल से कॉफ़ी ज़्यादा स्वाद है । मैं पंद्रह साल से कॉफ़ी पी रहा हूँ !

Randeep: Haan, voh to sahi hai, lekin mere khyaal se coffee zyaadaa svaad (delicious, tasty) hai. Main pandrah saal se coffee pi rahaa huun.

सारा: अरे, हैरत की बात है! और किस तरह की कॉफ़ी सबसे पसंद है तुम्हें ?

Sarah: Are, hairat (surprising) ki baat hai! Aur kis tarah ki coffee sabse pasand hai tumhe?

रंदीप: मैं तो कोल्ड कॉफ़ी सबसे पसंद करता हूँ क्योंकि उसमें मेरी दो मनपसंद चीज़ें हैं: कॉफ़ी और आइसक्रीम ! (laughs)

Randeep: Main to cold coffee sabse pasand kartaa huun kyoonki us me meri do manpasand cheezen hain: coffee aur ice cream!

सारा: हाँ, मैं तुमसे सहमत हूँ । अमेरिका में मैं बिना शकर और दूध वाली कॉफ़ी पीती हूँ लेकिन यहाँ पे मुझे लगा कि दूसरी क़िस्म की कॉफ़ी चख लूँ । अजीब बात है कि अमेरिका में, लोग अक्सर अकेले कॉफ़ी शॉप जाते हैं पढ़ाई या काम करने के लिये और कोई भी दूसरों से बात नहीं करता ।

Sarah: Haan, main tumse sehmat (agree) huun. America me main bina shakar (sugar) aur doodh vaali coffee piti huun lekin yahaan pe mujhe lagaa ki doosri kism (type, kind) ki coffee chakh (taste, try) loon. Ajeeb baat hai ki America me, log aksar akele coffee shop jaate hain parhaii yaa kaam karne ke liye aur koi bhi doosron se baat nahin kartaa.

रंदीप: अरे! वह तो बड़ा अजीब है । मैं हर हफ़्ते अपने दोस्तों के साथ यहाँ आता हूँ, बातचीत करने और मज़ा करने के लिये । मैंने तो कभी नहीं सोचा कि बंदा कॉफ़ी शॉप जाके सिर्फ़ रठ्ठा मारने के लिये !

Randeep: Are! Voh to baraa ajeeb hai. Main har hafte apne doston ke saath yahaan aataa huun, baatchit karne aur mazaa karne ke liye. Mai ne to kabhi nahin sochaa ki bandaa (person) coffee shop jaake sirf ratthaa marnee (to cram) ke liye!

A Cafe Coffee Day in Karnataka; image by Harsha K. R. on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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About the Author: Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/السلام علیکم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!