India is all about chai, not coffee. A difficult fact to stomach when you’re used to hefty caffeine kicks on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, those cardamon-y cups of goodness are great; however, after chai’ing yourself up every morning you’ll inevitably get the itch for a coffee. Well-known international baristas are all over India’s larger cities, but on a recent trip to Delhi I decided to opt for more home-grown options. If you’re in Delhi and fancy drinking coffee like a Delhi'ite, check out some of the options below:
1. Triveni Terrace Café
Having gone through a revamp in early 2015 the café, decked with hanging baskets, sits adjacent to an outdoor auditorium that often holds mini concerts. If you’re not around to catch one, you’ll no doubt still be serenaded by music students practicing in the surrounding arts centre. The choice of french-press, Nescafe and cold coffee isn’t too extensive but it does the job, and apparently the beans are local. The terrace was rammed when I first went in, and I could’ve sat for a few hours people watching as I sipped my satisfyingly strong coffee. I also tried a few other bits from the menu, namely the lassi and beetroot halwa, which were both phenomenal.
The café came into its own in the 70s and 80s with local musicians and artists and it’s now somewhat of an establishment in Delhi.
Location: Triveni Kala Sangam, 205 Tansen Marg, Near Bengali Market.
Coffee prices: 60-90 Rupees
2. Café Coffee Day
This isn’t exactly a hip, trendy and local Delhi option. It’s basically India’s answer to Costa, but they do serve coffee grown on their own estates in India. Definitely ticked my “home-grown” box, and most importantly the coffee was good. Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos galore. I went into the Connaught Place branch in Delhi a few times and felt the atmosphere was a little lacking; however, the absolute winner was the coffee and samosa combo. I’d like to see a Western coffee store try and introduce that.
Founded in 1996, Bangalore, there are now over 1500 branches throughout India. You’ll be hard pressed to ignore them once you’ve been into one.
Location: All over Delhi. Check out the “store locator” on their website.
Coffee prices: 70-120 Rupees
3. Madras Coffee House
This place is aggressively shabby. It’s dingy, but offers a quaint throwback to a bygone coffee shop era. You’re served bitter syrupy rocket fuel that tastes very much of... coffee. You definitely won’t be picking up any hints of “shade-grown” or “blueberry infused” arabica here.
I was thrust a menu and not long after presented with a cup of crude oil. I pretty much danced out of the door after finishing up, although not before grabbing a handful of mukhwas (after-meal digestive). Not a bad touch.
Originally an ice-cream parlour, the Madras Coffee House has been around for about 80 years, and it’s just about clawing onto its old-school charm.
Location: P 5/90, Outer Circle, Connaught Place.
Coffee prices: 60-90 Rupees
4. Kunzum Travel Cafe
Basically a hangout for travellers to meet other travellers, and there’s coffee! The café operates a pay-what-you-like policy, and your coffee (definitely Indian) is limited to a french press, which you may or may not have to make yourself. This place is very relaxed! I went with a local friend and we were less enthralled by the coffee but more by the atmosphere. There were plenty of interesting individuals to chat to and the idea of paying by donation was a nice touch.
The café was set up by travel photographer Ajay Jain in 2009, with the aim of creating a welcoming zone for travellers and locals.
Location: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village.
Coffee prices: Whatever you like!
5. Indian Coffee House
Sitting on a rooftop terrace just off Connaught Place, the Indian Coffee House is exceptionally old-school. There are "hot coffees", "special coffees", and "tray coffees" which all pack a punch. Pairing your coffee with a dosa seems to be the done thing, and they make a surprisingly decent match.
This would definitely be my pick for an authentic Indian coffee. The waiters’ outfits are brilliant, and the vibe left me wanting to chat to all the surrounding students (might’ve just been the coffee though…).
Originating in Mumbai in 1936, the Indian Coffee House is a bit of an institution. It’s run by a series of worker cooperatives and there are approximately 400 branches across the country.