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Elitist or not, many young Indians want somewhere quiet and comfortable that they can chat, date … and use a clean toilet
Starbucks has just opened its first store in India, in central Mumbai. Days after the opening, Mumbaikars, mostly the young, were still queuing for up to an hour to grab their frappucinos, while madly updating their Facebook statuses. Social commenters are bemused by the lemming-like flood. “Best coffee? No way. It’s all about feeling foreign and upper class,” sneered one sceptic. “Two decades after liberalisation, you’d imagine India’s young ‘uns would be jaded enough to shrug off the entrance of yet another global chain” mused popular website Mumbai Boss. “When can you say you went to the opening of the first ever Starbucks?” tweeted one unabashed groupie.
Me, I am somewhere in the middle. Starbucks is not our coffee messiah and deserves no genuflections. True, India is mainly a tea-drinking nation. However, southern India has always had a vibrant coffee culture. For many Indian taste buds, including mine, nothing beats strong frothy “filter” coffee from Coorg, India’s premier coffee producing area. As one commenter on the Guardian website rightly pointed out, you can get excellent coffee on every street corner for less than a few rupees.
However, coffee snobs are missing the point entirely. The Indian yuppie does not want to stand on a street corner, however good the coffee. Most streets here are awash with sewage, garbage and gaping manholes, so why would he or she? Sure, there are also plenty of darshinis and dhabas (basic cafes and teahouses) across India, where you can get excellent coffee or chai for a few rupees, and be in and out in less than 10 minutes. But the potential Starbucks customer doesn’t want that. That’s what their daddy drank.
What he or she wants is a clean, quiet, comfortable, air-conditioned space, to work, meet friends or linger for hours, no questions asked. Such hangouts are scarce in India, and with the urban chaos outside, boy, do we need them. India’s women, desperately short of safe public spaces, want to sit by themselves without being leered at, as they might be in dhabas. India has an estimated 200 million people between 18 and 25. The young, who usually live with extended families in cramped houses, want to chat, date and escape their prying parents. The growing number of entrepreneurs who work from home are looking for venues to network and meet clients. And everyone – absolutely everyone – will be looking for that scarcest of commodities in India: a clean toilet. It’s not about the coffee. It’s about the coffee house.
Starbucks’ biggest competition is the local chain Cafe Coffee Day, which has 1,350 cafes across the country. I remember when it set up shop in India 16 years ago. There was no coffee culture then; if you wanted to chat over coffee you had to do it in a posh hotel. “No one will ever pay 50 rupees (about 57p) for a bad cup of coffee,” scoffed many sceptics. Well, they could and they did, even as prices soared to 150 rupees or more. Suddenly, for many young Indians, hanging out over coffee became cool.
Can Starbucks replicate this? Hard to say for sure, but it’s off to a good start by sourcing its coffee locally, in a tie-up with Indian giant Tata Coffee. Much will depend on whether it can set up stores in the right locations, like CCD has done in airports and railway stations. Starbucks has huge brand recall in India. Many of us grew up watching movies like Sleepless in Seattle and shows like Frasier, secretly wishing we too could be rich and thin and sip skinny lattes all day.
Is Starbucks elitist? Yes, certainly. Most of India can’t afford even 85 rupees for a basic cup of brewed coffee, much less the 200-rupee caramel frappucino. Starbucks can’t compete with the darshinis. But then they don’t have to. Darshinis and dhabas will flourish, just as they have always done, and so will posh coffee chains. In a nation of one billion, there’s room for everyone, so why can’t Indians choose for themselves?
I plan to brew my first filter coffee of the day at home, as I always have. But I might pop into Starbucks for a second cup with friends or clients. I expect to have plenty of company.
via Life and style: Indian food and drink | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/30/india-yuppies-starbucks-coffee
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The Delhi-born actor is returning to the small screen with a 10-part series on the Good Food channel
The new generation of “rude” television chefs is not to the taste of Madhur Jaffrey, who is returning to the small screen three decades after her groundbreaking BBC series Indian Cookery.
Jaffrey, the Delhi-born actor and presenter who has written more than 30 cookbooks, said she was unimpressed by the antics of some of the new breed of celebrity chefs. “I couldn’t be that rude to people, if only because I wouldn’t like it done to me,” she told the new issue of Radio Times.
The world of TV cuisine has changed in the 17 years since Jaffrey presented her last BBC cookery show, The Flavours of India. Back then Gordon Ramsay, tutored by another tough-talking TV chef, Marco Pierre White, had yet to open his first restaurant. So familiar is Ramsay’s post-watershed style that one of his shows was called The F Word.
The milder-mannered Jamie Oliver, meanwhile, was two years away from making his first on-screen appearance in a documentary about the River Cafe.
Jaffrey indicated that her on-screen spice would be restricted to her ingredients, not her language. “That said, I do swear from time to time,” she told the magazine. “But only in a very quiet voice.”
Jaffrey’s new 10-part series, Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation, will begin on the Good Food channel on Sunday night.
Jaffrey, 79, moved to London in her 20s to study at Rada. She has appeared in a string of Merchant Ivory films as well as doing a stint in BBC1’s EastEnders in 2003.
In her new series she will tour the country to explore its love affair with Indian and other south Asian food. “So many Indian restaurants in this country are run by Bangladeshis, yet so few of them actually cook Bengali food,” she said.
“It’s only here in Britain that bhajia wear this thick overcoat of batter. Like a lot of Indians, I make mine with a very light film, so thin that you can see the vegetable underneath; I’d use cauliflower, too, rather than onion.”
She added: “Over the years [the vindaloo] has become known in Britain as the super-hot curry for macho men, yet in India, it’s nothing of the sort.
“What makes it a vindaloo is the combination of vinegar and garlic, which not only produces a sour, garlicky taste, but acts as a preservative … it’s the kind of dish you might serve up for children, perhaps with a few less chillies.”
via Life and style: Indian food and drink | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/30/madhur-jaffrey-indian-cookery-television
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