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.