Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Place Where I Can Spend My Entire Life...

A few days ago The Knife put up a post on his blog asking people about their idea of a coffee shop. I wrote in a lengthy response. Of course. I always have a lot to say :)

This post has been inspired by The Knife.

Coffee shops are one of my favorite places to hang out at. Much like book shops. Whether it is to meet a friend or read a book over a cup of piping hot coffee, I can spend hours at a coffee shop. I have.

Some of my fondest memories are tied to coffee shops. Grabbing a breakfast of bagel, cream cheese & coffee with a shot of Irish Cream/Hazelnut flavor before heading to class…killing time before classes at The Daily Grind / Bulls Head Bookshop…spending hours studying for my exams or hanging out with friends at Caribou Coffee…trudging to Starbucks at 6.30am (yes, they open that early, they're not in India!!) for a final round of revision before my 8 ‘o’ clock exam!

These coffee shops were friendly and kind. They let you hang out for hours as long as you kept ordering something every couple of hours. And wouldn’t hustle you out or ask if they can get your bill as soon as you’ve drained your first cup, a phenomenon that Indian coffee shop regulars would be only too familiar with.

Indian coffee shops are abominable. They make me want to grind and French Press the heads of the owner as well as the waiters and dump it in the can! Not to mention the coffee they serve is atrocious.

Here’s my list of what I want in a coffee shop, if you care to read…

  1. CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY. A mocha should taste the same every time I order it. It shouldn’t be ODing on chocolate one time and bitter with coffee another time. A latte should have the same amount of milk every time.

  2. The music should be played at a level that lets people make conversation or read their book or work on their laptop, things that people go to a coffee shop for in the first place!! No one goes to a coffee shop to listen to music. No one wants to have to yell to be heard by someone sitting across the table, either. For that we would go to a club.

  3. No Bollywood music please. And definitely not Bollywood music from the 80s!! Most Bollywood music is trashy and we get to hear enough & more of it on radio and the numerous TV channels that have a habit of playing songs on loop. Give us some international music…retro, pop, hip hop, reggae, Spanish, Latin American, Cuban…the possibilities are endless.

  4. Waiters that aren't retards, can understand the customer’s order, get it right the first time and can answer questions about the coffee that they serve. I also can’t fathom why coffee shop waiters insist on speaking to you in English when they can’t understand it or speak a single sentence correctly! It baffles me. I mean, come on, I’m Indian, you’re Indian. I can speak Hindi (or whatever local language) and so can you. So talk to me in a language that you understand because it makes me very very angry when you mess up my order because you don’t fucking understand or speak English!!

  5. HOT COFFEE SHOULD BE SERVED HOT, NOT LUKEWARM. Contrary to what you may tell me about cappuccinos having originated in Europe where they prefer it lukewarm, there’s nothing more putting off than lukewarm coffee. This too makes me very very angry. And for God’s sake, your waiters don’t even know the difference between a Latte & a Mocha, like they would really know how Europeans like their cappuccino! (I kid you not, I once asked a waiter the difference between two types of coffees mentioned on their menu, and his answer was “Mam, this is coffee and that is also coffee”!!!!!)

  6. Black coffee should taste bitter & strong, not like tasteless hot water. For that, I'll drink boiled Pepsi. Neither should a cappucino or a latte taste like milk. I'd drink milk for free at home if that's what I wanted. Don't skimp on the coffee!!

  7. Coffee shops shouldn't hustle customers to order more or get the hell out as soon as they're done with their coffees. Don’t start clearing away their table or asking them if you can get their bill as soon as they’re done. Give them some time.

I like my coffee shops to have a quaint feel to them, to have soothing yellow lighting, not too bright, comfortable seating, and to play Christmas carols around Christmas time. But then that might be asking too much of Indian coffee shops when they seem to be centuries away from getting their basics right.

Image Courtesy:,,,


The knife said...

I have not been too much of Europe after I shed diapers. But the only lukewarm coffee that we got was at the Starbucks at Luzerne where it was quite chilly. Everywhere else it was piping hot. As it was in Turkey if that counts.

Consistency, tepid coffee, weak... favourite bugbears. I must confess that I have not been hustled out of any of my usual coffee shops in Mumbai though

Scarlett said...

@The Knife - Probably because you don't spend more than half an hour at a coffee shop? Even when I go there to meet friends (when you're there in a group, you'd like to have more than 20-30 mins to talk), they keep asking us if they can bring our bill or if we'd like to order more. CCD more than Barista. Grrrrr. I've practically stopped going to CCD now, and there aren't too many other options here.

The knife said...

I must admit that I don't spend more than half an hour at most places except CBTL Bandra.

But I do glare at people who occupy my favourite seats.

Supernova said...

Totally agree with you about the moronic waiters. It is a joke to expect them to answer any query about the food...we are expected to be gratified that they actually got the order right!
Yesterday I had gone to Barista. I made the mistake of ordering their tasted burnt and frankly horrible. The waiter tried to explain to me that since it was in a white base it had to be burnt a little!!! I had to assure him that I had eaten pasta in white sauce before and could safely distinguish good food from bad.

Scarlett said...

@The Knife - How rude! Glaring is bad.

@Supernova - You know what's funny? Rather, NOT funny. When you tell them to make sure your cappucino/mocha/americano is really really English AND in Hindi...they still bring it lukewarm. I've often contemplated emptying the cup on the waiter's head but have restrained myself thinking it would make me look like a spoilt brat. Hmpfff.

Scarlett said...

I'm waiting for Moonshine's comment on this post. Moonshine, PLEASE comment :P

Moonshine said...

Hi Scarlett!!!! Finally online! Finally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, first things first... i am a tea drinker :)

I am quite neutral about coffee shops... i couldnt care less actually.. my only gripe is that they serve too much coffee!!! And i have never been able to finish it. I dont visit coffee shops too much.

I used to visit coffee shops in my hey days (!!!!) i think... :)

I prefer Barista to ccd.. French loaf here is not half bad.. in fact, we discovered a very nice french loaf outlet.. its a house with a huge garden..

In london we had gone to one random pattisserie (hope i spelt it right)... the coffee there was lukewarm too... but the cinnamon bun.. the doughnut.. were awesome!

The knife said...

I can be quite a bully when hungry

The knife said...

I can be quite a bully when hungry

Scarlett said...

@Moonshine - I'm a coffee lover & my gripe with Indian coffee shops is that their coffee mugs aren't big enough!! For that, I love American coffee shops. Everything there is 'Grande' :D

I'd love to visit the French Loaf you mentioned. Maybe we can when I'm there. Make a list of places like that we can go to! LOL

My favorite coffee shop till date (from amongst the ones I've visited till now) is outside Princeton in New Jersey. It's a few miles outside the city, in the middle of almost nowhere, surrounded by greenery on both sides. It's in the house the owners live in. They've converted one room - living room I presume - into the coffee shop. The door bells chime when you enter, wooden furnishing, comfortable couches...I visited during Christmas & they had Christmas decorations all over & Christmas carols playing. And they served lovely coffee!

The other coffee shop I love is on the Princeton University campus. It's big, sunny & very happy :)