Over the last ten days I’ve covered southern Karnataka (Bangalore, Mysore, and some surrounding villages), northwest Tamil Nadu (Ooty and Pudumundu), and now southern Kerala (Trivandrum and Kovalam) and Tamil Nadu (Kannyakumari and Nagercoil). I’m currently in Nagercoil, a small town on the southern tip of the subcontinent.
Stopping through Bangalore last weekend I visited the famous India Coffee House, a workers’ co-operative that supports south India’s small coffee farmers.
Located on Mahatma Gandhi Road in downtown Bangalore, the place is truly an institution. The gentlemanly waiters wear turbans. The furniture and ceiling fans pre-date India’s 1947 independence. The 9-rupeee (about 20 cents) milk coffee tastes like an American mocha (locally grown and roasted Kodagu coffee stirred into steamed milk, with or without sugar added). The non-tourist clientele is a bunch of regulars: artists, musicians, journalists, grad students.
The above photo shows the busy first floor, but upstairs people sit for hours reading, chatting, and occasionally ordering a coffee to share. It is a must-stop for any traveler to India’s tech capital — you see Bangalore as it was before the software companies and shopping malls. Get away from the billboards on Brigade Road and walk around the corner to India Coffee House. Then go upstairs and meet Babu. He’s been there nearly every day for the last forty years, but that will end soon when another mall developer takes over the lease.
Avi Kramer is a freelance writer and editor. He has lived in Chile, China
and India and currently resides in Portland, Oregon.