Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spilling The Beans

The crisp air holds the promise of a chilly winter. It reminds me of evenings, especially chilly ones when I indulged in hedonism with a cup of cardamom tea, a good book and my favorite piece of music.

Sadly the humble tea has fallen from its perch, and atop pedestal is a concoction of cocoa beans, which the malls love to serve in all its variants; leaving the tea guzzlers at the mercy of road side vendors. The humble tea’s decadence has been taken over by the whiff of compelling coffee leaving one with a feeling of Déjà brew: the feeling that you’ve had this coffee before. So I was greatly amused by the inauguration of ‘Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge’ in a Delhi mall.
I am not a coffee or a tea person. I oscillate between the two, depending on the weather and my mood. But have you noticed that lately coffee tastes bitter and roasted?

Let me spill some beans here. A lot can happen over a cup of coffee but a lot is happening in the cuppa too. The roasted ground root of Chicory plant is replacing expensive Arabica coffee beans. Why? One kilo of pure coffee powder gives hundred cups, but a blend with 45% chicory can give two hundred cups. Since the moral of the market is to make money, chicory rules.

In his ode to the beverage a coffee lover said, “As coffee falls into my stomach, straightway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the grand army in the battlefield. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.” It is therefore natural to surmise that any stimulating conversation needs crushed cocoa beans swirling in expensive bone china for that much desired grey cell activation.

What began in the US with the popularity of Starbucks has become a trend in urban India. Almost anything that fancies the well-travelled and the high-heeled, even if sold at a premium, evokes interest from the desi globalised citizen. Like the Congressmen of yore I sense a hidden hand of South American market forces in conspiring to overwhelm the humble tea lover. Brazil and Columbia, one of the largest exporters of cocoa, after enticing us with their beauties have conspired to hook us to their beans.

As I write, the latest research absolves the market forces and claims to have identified a gene which plays a role in how much coffee people drink. The study says that caffeine protects us against diseases like the Parkinson’s. I can sense the market forces at play again.

That explains why forty percent of the coffee consumed is now gourmet and why the besotted guzzlers find coffee as the best option to douse the sunrise with. But if coffee prices zoom ahead, the Costa Coffees will face stiff competition from price sensitive Indian consumers, who wouldn’t mind venturing in a ‘Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge’. Yes, irrrespective of the quote - "Coffee, chocolates and men - some things are better rich."

We live in stressed times where our frazzled nerves need constant comforting and as long as the ideological shift from ‘tea time’ to ‘coffee breaks’ helps in holding the yawns and forty winks, there will always be too much blood in our caffeine system.


  1. i am myself sucker for tea(preferably the adrak wali road side), used to love cee cee dee's but lately their coffee taste has gone for a toss and the best coffee i have tasted in recent times is at coffee house/beans (?) at select citywalk.tried?

  2. Lovely flavored read! Difficult to judge which one tea, coffee or the latin beauty...

  3. ok for some reason, I never had coffee in india but since i have come to uk its always been Coffee.. I have become a coffee fanatic now , I dont like tea other then Dudh patti as we say in hostel.. Tea in milk :)

    but I make my own coffee in office I do so myself...


  4. I cannot survive without coffee. Coffee is 'Amrit' to me.

  5. Chicory? really?
    i never like the tea in the cafe shops....the road side cuttings are much better...:)

  6. I was not aware of Chicory. I love tea and I would love to go to this lounge. But, nothing can beat the flavor of road side tea...Nice post!!!

  7. I am not a coffee person and the ones they serve in cafeteria is even worse... yeah oh yes Masala tea anytime :) wonderful post.

  8. Who would not love a cup of chaai in a grey winter evening? As you have rightly said, coffee is totally commercial and tea- still retains its heart! And mixing of too much chicory is of course making coffee bitter. But a chaai in a roadside stall can be a greater stimulant than a CCD moccha!

  9. I like both chai and coffee,Coffee=Change mood and Tea=Feel fresh,Nice post. :)

  10. More then Star-Bucks I like Tim Hortons coffee ..A premium Brand of coffee..jus for two bucks ..Very popular Canadian chain of Coffee ..
    Rest the Chai on road side in India nothing can beat that!

  11. I'm neither a coffee person nor a tea.
    Depends upon who's making it and of course, mood.
    But yes, lately I am feeling a bit kadwahat in coffee. I thought, perhaps it is because of the excessive pouring of coco while making coffee. Sigh! It's Chicory.

  12. @maniac hunter...No I havent tried..are u referring to the on on the ground floor or the first floor?

    @Rahul....ha, the Latin beauties stayed with you.

    @Bikky...Yes, the coffee taste grows on you but next time you are in India do try road side masala chai.

  13. @A...Hmm..Coffee is Amrit and Amrit rules!Any weather any season and any place.

    @SUB...Yup, I read in the Economic Times.

    @Saru...Yes, the non branded ones are adding 90 % chicory while the branded ones have increased chicory percentage from 20% to 45 %.

  14. @Rajlakshmi, Cloud nine and Abhishek

    ....Yup, the roadside masala chai rules..more so if it is in an earthen pot.

  15. @Harman..I did not know about Tim Hortons Coffee....

    @Prateek... you have raised a very valid point of whos making it.Girlfriend can concoct anything and it will taste good. But Tea made by wifey can never taste that good.

  16. I love the smell of caffeine and nicotine is all for me, that truly makes me a teacolic or sometime coffecolic ! I can't live without tea or coffee and at times I may consume around 12 cups of them a day. Don't be shock.. that's me :P

    Weakest LINK

  17. i am not a tea or a coffee brought us well, scaring us of them both.though my breakfast has a coffee mug...

    those commercializing it all, know how our mind and brain believe things we want to believe...i go to these cafes more for their hot chocolate than anything else...chalo kahin to chocolate obsession kaam aaya;-)

  18. This is something I haven't thought of.. Thanks

  19. Ironically even the king of chicory, Bru is marketing beans from Brazil, Columbia and Kiliminjaro!

    And Wagh Bakri is too violent a name to entice the true chai connoisseur :)

    You have brewed a heady concoction Alka - loved it:)

  20. Interesting thoughts :)

    My choice swings between Tea and Coffee depending on the mood, and it's plain old Nescafe as the preferred favorite.

  21. @Rachit..I am not shocked, several students do gulp endless cups of tea or Coffee esp during exams.

    @Suruchi...Na Coffee na chai to yeh hai aapki gori twatcha ka raaz.

    @Jon....Hi Jon, how are you?

  22. @Purba...I remember reading one of your older posts on chocolate which was very well researched. True, Wagh bakri sounds funny..Glad you liked it.

    @Venkatesh... Same here.

  23. A cup of coffee early morning makes the day for me .

  24. Brilliant post Alka!!
    Particularly loved 'Deja brew' :)

  25. tea and coffee have become accepted and we will find it difficult to live without them
    nice article like the last para.

    Happy Diwali

  26. First of all I am fascinated by those coffee cup designs they make (and am wondering how this one was made)
    As for coffee, I have had some of the coffee that they have in Europe and this is one of the reasons why they remain slim and trim (when compared to the pot bellied Indians) They never have milk in their coffee or tea.
    Starbucks has lost me (I am no great fan of that great blockbuster)

  27. @Team G square...Thanks for reading.So u are a coffee person.

    @Magic Eye...I picked it up from quotable quotes. Its not mine.

    @sm...Happy Diwali.

    @Haddock...Yes, you are right ,those designs are fascinating.The sugar adds to the calories too.

  28. For someone who does not know much and has not paid attention to details either, this post of yours is truly an eye opener. I mean I have thought about literature being bugged by power politics and economic forces but even our beverage ? Thats something !

    Thank you for such a wonderful read !

  29. @Sritatsat...I am glad u liked it. Have a very happy diwali.

  30. I am crazy about tea..but i think i'll have to switch to coffee after few days when i'll join my company...

    nowadays..i drink more than 10 cups of tea per day..lets see what happens in fututre :)

    stay connected!!!
    its me!!! sharan :)

  31. Alka,

    Read all pending posts now. What you say in Virtual Venom is true. There are persons who try to hide behind this mask to use unwanted languages but do not realise that in fact that show their own upbringing or culture. At times one may need to write under pseudo name for valid reasons but that does not give him or her right to use abuses or offensive language. Cheers brings out what I always tell those who drink that enjoy your drink but never let the drink enjoy you. Unfortunately many a persons not withstanding age or education or status fall prey to easy availability of drinks as we as society have not been able to inculcate sense of responsibility. Had a good laugh at Awards. It is a simple statement MAIN BHI KISSI SE KAM NAHIN by indulging in such wasteful show of Rath Yatra. The questions you raised about funds will no doubt cause a lot of discomfort in those organising this. Coffee or Tea, well it is individual's choice but I agree that it is what bring in more moolah to makers is what matters to them.

    Take care

  32. So the urban Indians are ditching good old Tea for Coffee? Not fair, not fair.....

  33. @Sharan...Keep going.Watch out for the calories though.

    @Jack...Thank you for reading several of my posts. Hope you had a great Diwali Wish u all the best.

    @Giri...Yes, not fair.Commercialization perhaps.

  34. roadside chai: one of the best flavors...
    well summed up
    awesome read !!

  35. I drink coffee for its caffeine and so particularly like the filter coffee freshly brewed. But the first brew of the day is tea -- with adrak. I don't like the elaichi one though. One good thing about global brands is that they serve coffee and not coffee flavoured milk!

    there used to be a tea parlour in Daryaganj in the early 90s, which served the normal tea along with exotic ones. But as Purba says, I wouldn't go into a Wagh Bakri tea parlour :)

  36. I like both tea and coffee a lot Alka, but coffee wins over tea as it keeps my brain in ticking order. And moreover we can say "I am meeting a friend for coffee, it sounds better than saying I am meeting someone for tea" ;)

  37. And come to think of it I just got treated to a brand new coffee machine by my darling husband. Its been cappuccino boulevard ever since!