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From chai to latté: Tricity’s brewing café culture

Coffee, as they say, has a certain buzz, and that buzz is at its loudest in a unique social environment- the cafe! While the trend evolved a couple of years ago in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, Chandigarh is not far behind as cafes in the tricity have only got bigger and better!

chandigarh Updated: Jan 29, 2015 13:54 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times

Coffee, as they say, has a certain buzz, and that buzz is at its loudest in a unique social environment- the cafe! While the trend evolved a couple of years ago in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, Chandigarh is not far behind as cafes in the tricity have only got bigger and better!

As HT spoke to various youngsters from the region, we discovered how the cafe culture has come of age in the tricity as queues in coffee shops never get shorter...they only grow longer. The quintessential cafe goes much beyond the traditional cappuccino with some cookies to go with it, to a more elaborate lifestyle for today’s youth. Coffee chains are offering a new snacking and leisure experience for a fast-growing segment of the population.

Coffee drinking is way more popular in the region than it ever was and consumption has doubled. The increase comes as a result of favourable demographics, rising income levels and overall high population density to name a few.

To cut the long story short, the emergence of a visible, commodified leisure culture in the form of cafes, targeted at and appropriated by young adults from the middle class, is a striking phenomenon in the transformation of urban life in smaller towns like Chandigarh, Panchkula and SAS Nagar as well. Documenting with meticulous detail the life of urbanites - from clothing to hanging out, friendship, dating, education, and marriage - this work captures new forms of socialising, consumption, self-improvement and relationship-management.

Cafes replace pubs and parks as hangout choice

Cafes are lifestyle for many. Saurabh Jain, 29, a local businessman says, “They are good venues to conduct office meetings, work on a laptop.”

Most coffee shops are brightly lit unlike the dim pubs that like to approximate night during daytime. “The marketing people probably link darkness to Old Monk and Black Label and radiance to lattes and cappuccino,” adds Saurabh.

Conversely, the music at pubs is louder as compared to lower volume at coffee kiosks, though the numbers could just be the same, David Guetta beats for one.

Jashan, 23, a MSc student of Panjab University (PU) feels it narrows down to the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. “There aren’t reports of girls being harassed or people beaten up at cafes unlike the frequent free for all at pubs,” she says while sipping into her espresso at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at Elante Mall.

Relaxed atmosphere

Jashan’s friend, Komal, also a student of PU, thinks the combos at some of the coffee chains such as Cafe Coffee Day are value for money- coffee with sandwich and a chocolate mousse shot- more the merrier for the same amount of cash.

“Barista also usually has some or the other offer running and besides, I like going to the Barista outlet in Sector 35 with my friends and playing on the guitar. We jam together so cafes today offer much more than just coffee and eateries. We can be ourselves, and yet enjoy privacy which is unlikely if one hangs out at Stu-C (the Student Centre canteen at Panjab University),” she adds.

Young couples’ delight?

Young couples, getting to know each other better, obviously abound at the local cafes. “Going to Girl in a Cafe in Sector 17, is much safer than public places such as parks where one can be hounded by cops, vigilantes, right wingers, touts, the moral police, cell phone and bag snatchers,” says 21-year-old Karishma (name changed), who shares how she met her current boyfriend at a cafe in SAS Nagar.

Still, coffee shops do not provide the cover of bushes and trees at a park or even a shrouded pub, should the need arise. However, undisturbed romance can be good at the cafes without the risk of being beaten up.

Book cafe culturetakes root in city

If a lot can happen over a cup of coffee, a lot more can happen now with the book cafe culture gaining popularity in the city. Shambhavi Rai, 21, a law graduate, shares how the concept of sipping a hot cup of coffee and reading your favourite author couldn’t have got better. Sitting at one of the city’s first book cafe, Books and Brew, in Sector 16, Chandigarh, she says, “I enjoy coming to this place...just the experience of being able to browse at leisure, leafing through books of one’s choice or simply unwinding with friends sipping rejuvenating beverages, iced or piping hot, is unique.”

Now, many cafe owners are incorporating a book section or library into their outlets to reap benefits.

“These places attract like-minded people. It is easy to strike a conversation with strangers over a hot cup of tea/coffee while reading a book. Back in school, I preferred studying all by myself, but somehow I enjoy working on presentations with my college-mates in cafes now. I think a bit of leisure with work actually helps,” says Chetanya Verma, 19, a student of SD College.

The fact that a Delhite himself, Vishal Bhasin, owner of Books and Brew outlets in Sector 16 and Sector 38, decided to do something other than a conventional cafe, confirms that somewhere local residents were open to a new experience.

“The idea emerged out of sheer passion for food and books. While I consider myself a foodie, my wife Aarti had a collection of about 500 books. So, while we had traveled extensively and seen places selling books and a cafe on the side, but we wanted to do the exact opposite in terms of opening a proper cafe and keeping books which visitors could browse through while sitting and chatting with their friends,” Bhasin said, adding the urge to do something different and rustic for the people here.

Nonetheless, the growing culture, has its detractors.“There is a trend of pseudo intellectuals brewing up who enter these spaces for gossips and chats,” says Ravleen Gupta, 23, a literature student.

Cafes: An attraction for tourists

Manu Mohindra from Under One Roof Pvt Consultants Ltd shared how Chandigarh and surrounding towns like Panchkula and SAS Nagar were slowly becoming a sought-after option for various firms to open franchises and new cafes. “People travelling uphill also like to stop by at Chandigarh so a lot of people don’t mind investing here,” he added.The firm recently opened a café in Panchkula, The Public Café, which besides serving the trademark coffee varieties and the French press, has an eclectic menu ranging from keema pao, chicken tikka pizza to pasta in arbita sauce and khaaro with mushroom. “The idea is to give good coffee and food but at a reasonable price as college-going teenagers visit such places often” said café’s manager RS Negi.

First Published: Jan 29, 2015 13:51 IST