Sunday, June 04, 2006

Muffinisation

Barrista is a summation of all those little things - that streaked hair, those Italian coffee beans, that pretentious plop of swiss chocolate, that tall bitter cappuchino/mocha serving, that female in the ill-fitting top shouting - "That's so cool yaar. I tell you nooo, it's like..."

My friend broke my trail of disgust - "Arvind, you want this ?" My doubt was cleared by the Barrista employee - "Yes, it's Aam Panna. It's made from raw mangoes, chilled and served with...." The cynic within me smiled.

'Oh it's an Indian drink made from MANGO. This fruit is considered the king of all fruits in India. In villages, people drink this to quench their thirst. It reflects the culture, tradition and customs of...'

As I sipped the Barrista version of Aam Panna a few minutes later, I was later hit by an even bigger revelation - I was neither the Moccha Frappe nor the Aam Panna crowd. Is this some vague food identity crisis ?

Add a bit of cool air-conditioning, some false ceiling lights, that chic wooden furniture with glistening steel lining - and whoa ! You have enveloped food with a layer of exclusivity. And that flavour of upmarket culture entices the aspirations of Ritesh Verma, the 20 something BPO employee, the icon of rising India. And why shouldn't he splurge ? It's his hard earned money. He deserves some cool comfort.

The Indian urban cityscape is offering fewer options and greater number of clones. Aggarwal Sweet Corner is no longer what my generation wants. We prefer Coffee. I've visited quite a few of these joints - Mocha, Cafe Coffee Day, Barrista. And each offers more or less the same thing - Coffee Culture as publications would like to call it. Is this alien culture, or am I the alien in generation Y ?

Then again, it is probably my ignorance eating up my comfort level. What ignorance, you may ask. Well, here's my favourite example. Serve a guy/gal soup and plonk a tray of condiments for the dish. It is certain that he will try out a bit of every condiment (quite a few times without tasting the soup !). Majority of people drinking soups across India don't exactly know what soya sauce does to the taste. Or how many teaspoons will enhance the taste without ruining it. A bit of this, a bit of that and our man has created his custom soup. Phew ! Of course he knows his food quite well. Vinegar ? Yup, lets have some of that too !

Salt and Pepper on the other hand, are quite Indian and comprehendable. You'll seldom find someone adding spoonfuls of salt to customize the dish.

Maybe I am supposed to learn this the hard way. Visit the joints often - be a part of the muffinisation. Drink up that frappe, mocha and eventually decide which one suites my taste. Ah, the one with Italian roasted beans costs thrice the one with costa beans...But the taste has that Italian bitterness..hmm.. what crap !

Tikki, Chaat and Bhelpuri stalls/thelaas are spread across India, serving cheap food with questionable hygiene. Bansal/Aggarwal Sweets satisfy that broad middle class who want that assurance of cleanliness too. An odd Haldiram joint serves the same in rare localities that require even higher standards.

Even my favourite ice Cream is not a luxury item. Yes - you can purchase a serving for Rs250/- if you walk into a 3Star. But the same is available for one-fifth the price at quite a few shops ; And at one-tenth the price in all the ice-cream trolleys. And I, the so called king customer, can exercise my choice and pick the category that satisfies me.

And that's what really annoys me - two cubes of brownie with a spoonful of ice-cream costs Rs65/- at CCD. Where are my option two and three ? That's why I feel the Coffee Culture consists of a bunch of morons, sipping that glass of cold coffee concoction, munching that muffin, not really sure about what they are having, why they are having it, but smiling nevertheless. It's Mocha for heavens sake ! I LOVE MOCHA !

Aren't we plain sucking up to what previous generations ominously named as Western Culture ? Am I missing something here ?

8 comments:

  1. Hhhmm..this was a very good 1. whr is the king customer? more options, more confusion..Just anthr way to extract money for a cup of mocha or latte...(funny names) In Coorg u can get 100gms of coffee for 20 bucks !!! I see CCD at every walkable distance in b'lore but been to CCD only 1ce tht too whn some1 pays :)

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  2. nice observation and thoughts...with soup they try out a bit of every condiment, without knowing what difference one makes as compared to another...
    By the way...this is Prem Prakash here. Remember we met at Devendras room in Noida?

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  3. the coffee culture is definitely not indian - and yes, the regular visitors really don't know a capaccino from a latte. I guess its all a part of our westernisation. and having an aam panna at a mocha!!!! a hilarious thought!
    btw, loved the word muffinisation...

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  4. It isnt for the teaspoon of coffee we pay money.It is for the nice cups and saucers that we pay.And yeah I too love MOCHA though I dont know what kind of coffee it is all about.Saying that would be fashionable..right?

    And the days of South Indian Coffee or a Mallu Tea in the Imran kadai with a pack of Good Day biscuit is gone.Its the kewl half muffin and a Mocha culture.

    Nice post :)

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  5. I completely relate to your post man!!
    I get a feeling these days that I am ageing rather quickly.
    Seeing people what they like and what they not. Radio Mirchi, CCD and Barista's and "Its so cool nooooo"

    I would rather have a nice little cutting chai at a local thela with vivdh-bharati playing in the background. And becuase I am born and brought up in Maharashtra, I would prefer a wada-pav with it.. :)

    I am really glad to read your post.
    And about the oye-hoe-dilli post.. its too good. Even I hate generalization and all.. but I dont know why every dilli guy I meet arouse exactly similar feelings within me. :)
    Lets say you dont quite agree with what the dilli-hunk is saying and tell him so. You are sure to get a reply starting something like .."oye sun meri baat.. tujhe nahi pataa yeh log kaise hote hai.. "
    so on and so forth..
    These guys have an opinion on everything and they know everything..
    :))

    Anyway nice work man!!
    Keep writing..

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  6. Where is the King Customer here? Where are my option two and three ?
    Well put. None of the options I get in these places are differntiable in terms of variety or in terms of price.
    But then one has to endure a few of these cooool parties and get-togethers.
    You are writing well.

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  7. good thinking and go on to write more.............

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  8. Iyer.. The fact that its the 'experience' you pay for and not the coffee must have been well beaten into the head of our marketing stud courtesy esteemed profs like Dash :) So your cribbing about the money doesn't hold any longer..

    Simply speaking... had we bought a cup of coffee or even aam panna that day, it would have been for the hour we spent there because we couldn't find any better place to while away our time.

    So while i still find it hard to believe that my friends could pay 45 bucks for fresh mausambi juice in a food court, i have to remember where it is being sold.. What else is the retail boom all about!!

    The only thing i agree with is the phoney culture and not quite the western culture that most people seem to be turning to.. its unexplainably disgusting for sure.

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