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2 Cities, 16 Cappuccinos, 1 Winning Cup

Two expert tasters do a coffee run to rate the best cappuccino. So where should your next fix come from? What's brewing on the Indian coffee scene? A few weeks ago, the answer was simple - Starbucks.

brunch Updated: Nov 04, 2012 00:04 IST

So what's brewing on the Indian coffee scene? A few weeks ago, the answer was simple - Starbucks. The entry of the American chain giant (there are three stores in Mumbai, and plans for more next year), brought forth a storm of discussion on whether their coffees were the real deal. That got us thinking: where can you find the best cuppa to satisfy your caffeine fix?

So we began a hunt for experts to sniff out the best cappuccino. Our Facebook page and Twitter feed soon got flooded with requests of, "Take me, I drink coffee" and didn't stop till the time we went to press. Of course, we're crazy about coffee. It's one of the few awesome things left to get addicted to, which are not banned/illegal/frowned upon - from homemade filter kaapis to the quietly brewing coffee houses of the Sixties and the shake-shake variety of cold coffee (made famous by the the Nescafé ad that you might remember from the Eighties and early Nineties).

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2012/11/cofee_new_brunch.jpgBut the real storm in the coffee cup (we're allowed a cliché sometimes!) started in the mid-Nineties, when an outlet called Café Coffee Day (CCD) nudged its way between the expensive five-star hotel coffees and the roadside cup. CCD was quickly followed (in no particular order) by Barista, Mocha, Costa Coffee, Gloria Jean's, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Bru World Café, and now, finally, Starbucks. Perks like free Internet, impromptu guitar sessions, choco-chip cookies, a reputation as a safe dating zone and a cool after-college hangout suddenly made it okay to pay Rs 80 (or even more) for a cup of coffee.

So we sent Sonia Mohindra, who has set up many coffee outlets in India, and Sahil Jatana, who tweets as @The_ CoffeeCoach, to taste cappuccinos across several chains in Delhi and Mumbai. Here's what they found.

Sonia Mohindra (Delhi)
Delhi-based beverage specialist Sonia Mohindra runs the hospitality and interior design firm Under One Roof Hotel Consultants. A graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management, Delhi, Mohindra likes coffees that are strong, heavy roasted and done with interesting blends. Seattle's Best is her favourite place in the world for a cappuccino.


This has been the most interesting 'tasting' assignment I've done in a while. Drinking coffee has become such an integral part of our routine that we take our coffee for granted. Although we sell and consume more coffee, the quality has deteriorated overall. On the other hand, the food offering in the coffee bar industry has improved


The fact that they are pioneers of the coffee business in India is clear in the consistency of the product. The cappuccino is well presented, the texture creamy and well-blended. The aroma and flavour could have been stronger as the
after-note on the palate is missing. The coffee was served lukewarm, which meant that halfway through the cup, one was left with a tepid brew. The strange fact was that they now no longer freshly grind their beans but use an Italian-style
medium roast non-instant coffee powder. The quality of the presentation is better than the coffee itself.
What it cost: Rs 90 (regular)
Overall rating: ***1/2

Gloria Jean's Coffees
An outstanding feature of this coffee was that it was served steaming hot in a pre-warmed mug in less than 2 minutes. The preparation had a strong colour, along with a good-morning-wake up-aroma. The first taste was bold with no bitterness and a rich creamy texture. The milk was well-foamed and consistent, despite ample stirring over seven to nine minutes. Their coffee beans were freshly ground for each cup, and they use a 100 % Arabica blend sourced from Bangalore.
What it cost: Rs 79 (small)
Overall rating: ****1/2

Café Coffee Day
The cappuccino at Café Coffee Day (CCD) is inconsistent and has far more potential than the attention it gets. The cup I got for this review was mildly aromatic, foamed with enough creaminess to pass the first few sips. Unfortunately, here too, I was served a lukewarm concoction which looked better than it tasted. CCD seems to be omnipresent, whether it is highways, campuses or community markets. However, their food offering seems to be worth more than their coffees.
What it cost: Rs 90 (regular)
Overall rating: ***

Smoke House Deli
The outlet at DLF Promenade Mall is my favourite non-chain boutique coffee place as the combination of good coffee with a laidback ambience and great service makes the cup warmer and stronger. Though they use the same blend as their sister concern Mocha, the treatment of coffee is much better. It is steaming hot, well-presented with consistent foam on top. The pleasant after-taste is a good way to finish a meal. They also offer some interesting boutique blends such as a Jamaican Blue Mountain and a Kenyan AA - an interesting variation that regular coffee bars have
ceased to offer.
What it cost: Rs 125 (regular)
Overall rating: ***1/2

This coffee sure surprised me in many ways. Theirs is an in-house blend of Arabica, Peaberry and Robusta beans, which lends it a distinctive aroma unlike other coffee bars. Unfortunately, they too served lukewarm coffee, which did no justice to the blend. The cappuccino arrived with a good creamy top layer. But it settled before two sips were downed. There was an interesting flavour
lurking in the background which wasn't highlighted due to the tepid temperature. However, one must compliment them on a mellow
What it cost: Rs 90 (regular)

Overall rating: ***1/2



Sahil Jatana (Mumbai)
To explore new ways of brewing, Mumbai-based connoisseur Sahil Jatana dug out an unused coffee machine at home. However, he was yet to come across the perfect coffee powder. So he decided to start taking coffee workshops for a fee. The plan, says Jatana, is to turn www.thecoffeecoach.in into an online store for all your coffee needs.

I have always wanted to do a taste test, so going to different cafés around town was a great opportunity. The overall experience of cappuccino tasting was pretty exciting. I was disappointed by a few cafés and some of them really sprung surprises. All in all, a fun exercise.

Costa Coffee
Costa has never been big on presentation; they don't do latte art and use stencils for decoration. The UK-based chain has 100 cafés in India. They are celebrating it with a stencilled '100' on your coffee as an art. Over the past year, I've noticed the quality of their brew has gone down; the flavours and taste are missing sometimes, like in the current case. Partially self-serviced. What it cost: Rs 118 (medium)
Overall rating: **

Café Coffee Day
The indigenous coffee chain started the trend of cafés in India way back in 1998. The price point is their biggest USP. They are the cheapest coffee chain in the country, though not the best. The quality of CCD coffees fluctuates every hour, depending on how much crowd there is. In this review, the taste and flavours were average but the presentation better than many. There is self-service for snacks at select outlets. The coffee, however, is served at your table.
What it cost: Rs 73 (regular)
Overall rating: ***

Bru World Café
A newer entrant, perhaps has one of the best cappuccinos. However, it is only present in Mumbai as of now. The service at the Andheri outlet is good. They do have variations in cappuccinos and a good range of international-origin coffees.
What it cost: Rs 99 (regular)
Overall rating: *****

Di Bella
An Australian chain making its foray into the Indian market, it already has 5 outlets in Mumbai. The highest novelty factor about the boutique café is presentation. The coffee mug has a warmer underneath that keeps your coffee warm for longer. The taste and the flavour were the best amongst all. Partially self-serviced.
What it cost: Rs 113 (large)
Overall rating: ***


When you enter this Starbucks outlet, you are transported to any outlet abroad, almost. But, then reality strikes, it is apna desi version with Murg Tikka Panini. Who would have thought it? The taste and flavours are much subdued than its cousins abroad. It's new to India and people are queuing up. I went to a Goregaon outlet at a time when there was no queue to enter, but there was no place to sit, so my coffee and quick bite were had standing. Continuing the tradition of Starbucks worldwide, the local barista, too, couldn't get my name right and I become 'Shahiu'! Presentation wasn't something Starbucks would be proud of: no latte art, and a mug without a saucer for a cappuccino.

What it cost: Rs 130 (tall)

Overall rating: **

Gloria Jean's Coffees
There is nothing great about this café. The coffee is average and so is the ambience at the Bandra outlet.
What it cost: Rs 112 (large)
Overall rating: ***

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
I walk in, order a cappuccino, and wait. And wait. And keep waiting. After 5 minutes, I go to the counter to check what happened to my cappuccino, and I am told that their espresso machine is not working and will take 20 minutes. I walk out.
Overall rating: -

I am asked to pay 146 bucks for a cappuccino! I am told it will be served at my table. When the coffee arrives, it's in a latte mug, I feel something is wrong. I ask for my bill and when I see it, it's a 'posh Irish coffee', how posh is that! And when I was placing my order, I was asked if I wanted regular or strong, and I said strong. Then I saw my bill and I'd been charged for an extra shot of espresso! By far the worst coffee I have had. The service is pathetic. No order confirmation, no handing me the bill after I've paid so that I can check before I leave the counter. A coffee lover's worst nightmare.
What it cost: Rs 146 (large)
Overall rating: *

From HT Brunch, November 4

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