Two lomoheads go searching for the best filter coffee in Bangalore, India. This is the first in a multi-part series.
It’s been well over a year since I moved to Bangalore, in the southern state of Karnataka, India. I belong to the north-central part of the country and I’ve spent practically my entire life in that region. My local Bangalorean friends would probably (half in jest) refer to me as a roti-eating, tea-drinking Northie and they wouldn’t be too far from the truth!
Opposites attract, they say, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve taken to coffee like a fish to water ever since I moved here. I still drink tea at home, of course, but when I’m out and about on the streets coffee is my drink of choice. And not just any coffee, mind you. It has to be the bitter-sweet, milky concoction that the southerners call Kaapi (percolated, not brewed or french-pressed, the traditionalists will insist).
Coffee is all around you in Bangalore, in much the same way as tea is ubiquitous in Delhi where I come from. No big surprise, since the hills of Chikmagaluru, about 200 kilometres from Bangalore, is a prime coffee growing country. Cafe Coffee Day, one of India’s most well known coffee-shop brands has extensive plantations there and is headquartered out of Bangalore. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that coffee runs like blood in the veins of most Bangaloreans or is, at least, an integral part of Bangalore culture.
For most Bangaloreans, the day starts with a freshly percolated tumbler of coffee (just like grandma used to make?). Practically every self-respecting Bangalorean family would have a generations old, brass coffee percolator that feeds on roasted and ground coffee beans and spews out that sticky, bitter, rich brown liquid known as decoction (don’t ask me why). Take a small shot of this decoction top it up with oversweet, frothed milk and voila- you have Kaapi! Any time of day (or night, in some cases) the percolator is always on and kaapi is always available if you happen to visit.
But the coffee ritual also extends out beyond peoples’ homes. Kaapi is a vibrant social ritual in Bangalore. You can’t be meeting up with a bunch of friends or taking a break from work unless you’re doing it over a steaming tumbler of kaapi! Everywhere I look, on the streets, I see coffee in one form or another. Coffee roasting plants in the heart of the city, merchants in 100 year old shops selling beans and blends that haven’t changed in ages, tiny roadside bakeries that don’t bake anything but where you’ll always find a tumbler of kaapi if you have but a minute to spare and a multitude of Darshinis (uniquely Bangalorean fast food joints, stand-up room only) where no meal is complete unless you follow it up with your favourite cuppa.
So me and my better half (sahilkarkhanis) got to thinking that there may be no better way to get to know this city better than through its coffee! We intend to scour every nook and cranny of this city, over the next few weeks, in our search for the best filter coffee this city has to offer. We’ve been told of tiny shops in the older parts of the city that have been serving kaapi for over 5 or 6 decades! And, of course, everywhere around us we see fancy cafes bursting with the neo-rich sipping on elegant, bone-china cups of coffee.
Our mission is to settle (or start afresh) the question once and for all. Tradition or modernity, kaapi or coffee? We’re hoping we have a decisive winner for the title of ‘Best filter coffee in Bangalore’, but if not we’re still going to have heaps of fun travelling around the city with our two Lomography La Sardinas, snapping pictures and drinking tumblers of delectable coffee! So keep your eyes glued to this space for steaming updates in the days to come. Cheers!
To be continued…