Yes I realise the headline does not make for good reading. Alright, at least pivot please! Confused? Let me explain.
I popped into my neighbourhood Dunkin’ Donuts this week to pick up some donuts for the evening. I discovered a box of ‘DunkyDoos’, a six-pack of smaller sized donuts, at a much more repeat-worth price. I picked the flavours I wanted and asked the guy at the counter to box them up and walked over to pay. It might have been uneventful from here on if I’d not seen the guy placing the donuts on the lid of the box. I sparked chaos by pointing out that it might be better if the donuts were placed properly. 4 variously uniformed workers converged to set things right, amid some mumbled apologies. As I waited for the confusion to settle, I glanced up at the menu, and spotted ‘Bangalore Start-up Coffee’, in a list of new coffees.
Let me disclose right away that I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I don’t drink it often, and I can’t tell my Arabica from French Press (now that was all wrong wasn’t it?) I do love the generic aroma of coffee, and gravitate toward other coffee flavoured foods, such as ice-cream, all the time. And among coffee, I know 3 broad flavours – the instant coffee (aka Nescoffee), the cappuccino at the chain coffee shop, and South Indian filter coffee. The last named is my favourite kind of coffee to drink, and Delhi isn’t the easiest place to find a decent cup of filter coffee. True, there are a few places that serve a mean cup, Karnataka Food Centre in RK Puram for example, but in general good filter coffee in Delhi is found a minimum of 10 km apart.
The name sparked hope in my mind and I asked the cashier, who confirmed, to my delight, that Bangalore Start-up Coffee was indeed South Indian filter coffee. I immediately asked for one, to add to my DunkyDoos order (now settled snugly in the box the right way up). I walked out with my cup of Start-up coffee, tingling with anticipation and happy thoughts. As I waited for it to cool, I took a small sniff, and the lovely aroma of filter coffee wafted out.
That was it. It was all downhill from there on. From the first sip onwards, it was a fruitless search for filter coffee as I’ve known it. The funny thing was, it didn’t taste like any other coffee, or any coffee at all. All I got was a hot brown liquid, with a hint of sweetness and the occasional fragrance of the cardboard cup to go along with it. There is a fourth type of coffee flavour I’m familiar with, not mentioned above. It is the ‘wedding coffee’ – spat and coughed out by rusty ‘espresso’ machines at wedding banquets, especially up North. It is hot, sweet, milky, and has cocoa powder sprinkled on for flavour. Even if you haven’t come across this specimen, you can tell that it barely qualifies as coffee. After a few sips of the Start-up coffee, I began to think kindly of ‘wedding coffee’ (not going so far as to actually want it though).
Suffice to say, I poured the half of the coffee down the drain, to follow the money I’d spent on it. And instead of filter coffee on my palate, I had questions swirling in my head – such as, why does it continue to be so hard to get decent filter coffee in Delhi; who tasted this coffee at Dunkin Donuts before they approved it; was the cashier wrong in confirming that Bangalore start-up coffee was filter coffee, when it is designed to be sludge, to remind you that you are now in a start-up and don’t have money to buy a wedding coffee even; is this actually the coffee drunk at start-ups in Bangalore, and is that the reason the start-up space is in much trouble recently, and suchlike.
Dunkin Donuts has done some wonderful stuff since they’ve been here. Not least is to take a name that encourages people to dunk donuts in coffee, and establish a premium chain burger (and sandwiches etc) brand with it. That’s quite something – and I do enjoy the burgers at Dunkin. But this Bangalore start-up coffee? Not their proudest moment.