The India Coffee House; How India likes its coffee

The quick in and out espresso bar of Europe has yet to make its way to India, where people still like to spend hours over a cup of coffee. Chains of coffee shops have mushroomed all over the country. In fact, an urban neighborhood is likely to have more than a dozen of such swanky outlets. The oldest name in the business, however, is a far cry from the modern-day cappuccino-selling shops.


The India Coffee House chain, founded more than 70 years ago, has a presence in all major cities and many small towns. There are close to 400 such outlets, with Kerala notching up the highest number with more than 50. Orderlies with cummerbunds and pointed turbans can be found in many of the Coffee House branches. The coffee menu is usually restricted to hot coffee (black or with milk), cold coffee (without ice-cream), tea, milk and a handful of sherbets and milk shakes. The accompaniments are what contribute to the high footfall, despite the fact that some of the outlets are in need of a makeover. Plates of mutton samosas, biryani, cutlets, omelettes, paranthas, dosas and pakoras fly off the counter as quickly as the coffee served in modest white cups and saucers.


The most legendary India Coffee House branch is the one opposite Presidency College in Kolkata. This is where film-makers, politicians, poets, writers and statesmen spend hours over coffee, making it the hotbed of intellectualism. They say that many a revolution was born, many a script written, many a deal struck and many a love affair blossomed over a cup at the ‘Coffee House on College Street’.

Breakfast in the south of India,usually idlis, upma, idiappam and suchlike, is incomplete without the signature filter coffee, served in stainless tumblers. Be it the legendary MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room) chain in Bangalore or the popular Murugan’s Idli Shop in Chennai’s T. Nagar, the filter coffee served is a mix of dark roasted coffee beans and chicory. Filter coffee mixes as well as the coffee maker, a set of two tumblers,are good souvenirs from a holiday in the south.


The moment a train enters the south, you will see vendors selling tea are far outnumbered from those with coffee. The coffee available on railway platforms is usually served in a small paper cup. The vendor almost always sprinkles coffee powder on the top, giving you as authentic a taste you can ask for Rs. 10 or even less. In some cases, you will find a vendor selling ‘chaffee’ a mix of coffee and tea.

Here’s a pick of good places to go for coffee, conversation and more:

  • India Coffee House on Shimla’s Mall. Also try the mutton dosa.
  • Devraj Coffee Corner, the only German bakery in Rishikesh. Have coffee with the brown bread and yak cheese.
  • Brown Bread Bakery in Varanasi, which is a great place to catch up with fellow travellers.
  • Matteo, Bangalore’s hottest new cafe.
  • Auroville Bakery in Pondicherry, which is also much known for its cakes and croissants.
  • Lila Cafe on Baga beach in Goa, also famous for the pumpernickel bread and apple pie.

Try this delicious coffee based recipe for an alternative but very popular way to get your coffee fix!

Servings: 5

  • 8 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 6 tbsp brewed espresso

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it reached boiling point, reduce to low heat and stir occasionally for 20 minutes.

Crush the cardamom and add to the milk. Simmer for 60 minutes (or untill the time the milk reduces to two cups). Pour the milk into a bowl, add espresso and sugar, and stir. Leave it to cool down.

Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker until thick. Put  the mixture into five kulfi moulds and refrigerate.

Add slivered almonds and a few strands of saffron before serving.

coffee kulfi

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