South Indian filter coffee, or kaapi, is the ubiquitous drink of choice in Bangalore, and grabbing a cuppa at the no-frills neighbourhood café, or darshini, is an enduring local habit. Here, with practised flair, kaapi sellers reach their ladles into vats of boiling milk and deftly pour the liquid into glasses filled with coffee concentrate.
But as caffeine fiends are discovering, there’s much more to coffee. Just ask Ayush Bathwal, who left his tech job in San Diego to co-found one of the city’s first specialty coffee shops, Third Wave Coffee Roasters. “I drank a lot of coffee in America, but it was really hard to find a decent cappuccino in Bangalore,” he says.
At Third Wave, located in the upscale Koramangala neighbourhood, coffee is equal parts art and science. Beans are sourced from plantations in and around Chikmagalur, passed through custom-made grinders from Europe and brewed using modern methods like the cold drip.
Also in Koramangala, The Flying Squirrel sources its coffee from co-founder Tej Thammaiah’s farm in Coorg, a hilly plantation town in Karnataka. Beans are often intercropped to produce berry or vanilla undertones. Its most intriguing menu item is the nitro coffee – a global trend that has now arrived in Bangalore. “This is essentially a cold brew that’s put in kegs and infused with pressurised nitrogen,” says the café’s other co-founder, Ashish D’Abreo. The resulting beverage has a foamy head and resembles a stout beer.
These newfangled creations herald a cosmopolitan new coffee culture in Bangalore, one that is worlds apart from the milky, frothy kaapi I’m enjoying at Brahmin’s Coffee Bar. But if the Saturday morning crowds at this 50-year-old darshini are anything to go by, this town clearly has room for both.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.