On a hot afternoon in Bombay, my brother and I joined my cousin Amrita and her baby Parthiv for a cold coffee at Barista. Barista is one of the biggest coffee shop chains in India. Along with Cafe Coffee Day (another chain), it is credited for creating India’s coffee shop culture.
As far as I know, very few people stop by a Barista or a Cafe Coffee Day early in the morning to pick up a latte, and even later in the day, it’s rare to see someone getting a cup of coffee to go, though the presence of paper cups in the shop does make the option available. In one sense, it’s nice to think that people drink coffee and tea at home in the morning. However, while homes might have every variety of tea imaginable, they often just have one variety of coffee- instant coffee. That frustrating fact made me want to knock on the door of a Barista at 7 in the morning for the duration of my stay in India. While recovering from my jetlag, I did stop by Barista during afternoons to drink cups of black LavAzza coffee, from the Italian company that acquired the chain.
Unlike in America, where, in addition to its social aspect/coffee culture, coffee serves a purpose- as a caffeinated beverage meant to jolt someone awake- coffee in India seems to be a much more of a purely social drink. The Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days are spaces to hang out with friends in between classes, meet cousins for coffee, or go for dessert late at night. I think both Barista and Coffee Day have wi-fi, which makes these coffee shops spaces to work as well as socialize, and other accessorized coffee shops, like Mr. Bean (below, in Jaipur) and Mocha even have hookah.
Many of the drinks at Indian coffee shops are pretty fancy by American standards. They do have traditional cappuccino and latte offerings, but I think the more popular choices are their various cold coffees. For example, instead of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, try the Brrrista (“blended, full-bodied cold coffee”), the Brrrista Blast (“our finest cold coffee, loaded with choco fudge, ice cream, and whipped cream”) or the Big Brownie Bite (“a thick vanilla ice cream shake topped with a chocolate brownie”).
But…back to Parthiv. Baby P was miniature, round and extremely cute. He was also teething and, despite our efforts, was valiantly attempting to shove objects into his mouth, like the menu, the place mat, and these baby jeans:
He was moving all over the place and when our coffees arrived…
…our primary objective was to keep them out of his grasp.