The Last India Coffee House
Balding men in untucked white collared shirts with ink-stained pockets shuffle about around a line of parked ambassadors. Their crooked noses lead them past unkempt asoka trees into a large labyrinth of corridors, following wafts of roasting coffee beans they walk, their shoulders slouching slightly to the right under the weight of a stack of yellow soiled files. Here they sit on low creme coloured sofa and wait for their uplifting elixir, caffeine, leaving their pens, stamps, files and papers behind at their desks to converse about matters not quiet as riddled with red-tapism.
The coffee arrives, the atmosphere relaxes to the charms of the smouldering liquid. Men slowly slurp at their coffee as turbaned waiters in faded red and white coffee board uniforms drift from table to table, sometimes joining in on passing conversations, breaking to clear a cup or to serve another vegetable cutlet. A out of place couple, occupy themselves quietly in the corner sharing the coffee house’s two egg omelet lovingly over a single fork, the lover mistimes his move only to get some white butter on her cheeks, which he quickly and lovingly whiffs away with a movement of his handkerchief. The flock at the coffee house slowly changes each lingering on their extended coffee break over a hot, filter coffee, predictably to be followed by yet another one. Regular seem to occupy their favourite tables, draining cup after cup of coffee.
The story of India Coffee house is political as the political debates it’s spews. The India Coffee Houses were started by the Coffee Board in early 1940s and by the mid 1950s the Board closed down the Coffee Houses. The thrown-out workers then took over the branches, under the leadership of the communist leader A.K Gopalan and renamed the network as Indian Coffee House. The first Indian Coffee Workers Co-Operative Society was founded in Bangalore on 1957 which was accompanied by the famous Bangalore ICH on M.G road. Here lies the twist to the tale, one India Coffee House remained and is still run by the coffee board at its headquarters on Queens Road.
On first looks India Coffee House, Queens Road is a place for bureaucrats who might as well be a bureau but dig deeper and you find it is a bureau for excellent coffee. The finest dark cherry-toned robusta from the Chennakal estate, the birthplace of Indian coffee, finds itself in your cup probably passed down from the laboratories of the Indian Coffee board next door. It sits their in front of you with a whiff of sweet ferment, black, acrid in a white government standard porcelain cup for all but 6 rupees. India’s finest coffee at a price that would leave you buzzed and with an inclination to socialism.