The Search for a good coffee shop!
Coffee lovers are often discerning. And a good coffee lover can be a sticky customer. Add to it that a coffee lover can be of various kinds. Some like the South Indian filter coffee. Others prefer a good strong espresso or a ristretto made famous by the original hand-pressed (not anymore) Italian machines. Yes, that is what we were looking for; a good Italian coffee.
Honestly, it should not be a big deal. You need a good machine, a good barista who is friendly, understands coffee and can undergo the daily stress of facing the occasional irate customer for whom nothing is ever right and the right grade of good beans. But looking for good coffee did actually turn out to be a big deal!
It has been a good decade that one can find excellent espressos in India. The major franchisees are well entrenched in the Indian consumerist mindset, Costa, Lavazza, Starbucks and the nearly ubiquitous Indian brand, CCD. They all dish out decent espressos and they all have a acceptable baristas behind the counter (without the cultural backing but that is just a matter of time).
However, we were kind of tired of these franchisees with their near identical décor and furniture that was mostly uniform which is their corporate identity. We still persisted with them over the years only for their good espresso and their ristretto. And then… after a point of time they do not feel original anymore. You are looking for something more. That is when our search for a decent coffee took us to a place in Shahpur Jat in New Delhi, a place called “Ivy & Bean” run by an Indian based in Australia.
Two years into business, Ivy & Bean comes across as a pleasant coffee shop with European old style décor combined with what can call “progressive Indian”, there are books in there, a calm ambience and lots of plastic creeper plants very strategically placed to make the place look welcoming. The first impression is not shabby. But it is not of high class either. The menu card is design in nice. I noticed that they had a coffee machine. So that meant that I was not walking out. Because there are a lot of coffee shops here and a lot of them do not even have a coffee machine!
Ace photographer Bobby Roy loves his coffee. He was with me in our concerted effort of searching out good quality coffee shops. He ordered his usual favourite, a cappuccino and I ordered my espresso. They served us cookies along with our coffees. His cappuccino turned out, according to him, excellent. And my espresso turned out to be a very large black something that I could not initially identify with. I asked the barista to redo my espresso. He readily agreed and made me a stronger one a second time. It had many things wrong about it. Firstly, the cup was not right. I am okay with that. Secondly, most importantly, it was not really an espresso. It was good coffee. But it tasted more like a café allongé or a “lungo”. It was quite good a second time. But it was not a shot.
I was not complaining. Bobby Roy was enjoying. We were liking the affable barista who held short conversations with us. He was sincere, helpful and smiling. I did not criticise him for my café allongé. We were liking the ambience. We went on to order the “Not so red Velvet Cake” and the Caramel-Ice-cream pancake. The pancake was absolutely fantastic! It was almost like a whole meal. We came looking for good coffee and ended up enjoying desserts instead!
The ambience is good. The décor is good. A little difficult to find if you are following google maps. Ask the address instead. Desserts are very good. If you are looking for a good espresso, this is not the best place. Cappuccino is very good.
Our search for a good coffee shop continues.
Special thanks to photographer, film maker and traveller Bobby Roy. You can read his work here.