I am now a tea lover. And for a Bengali, that’s quite a culture shock for many people. But honestly, I love coffee and the good part is, now few cafes in Kolkata have become serious about serving good coffee. Or that’s what I used to think. And why do I like going to a cafe? The answer is simple, nobody seems to be in a hurry there. Life is lyad there- lazy as the eternal Bong inside me loves. So Cafe Kathmandu is a not-so-new addition to the cafe scene in Kolkata and this story is about it. But first let’s understand a brief history of ….. no, not time, coffee …
One mad adventurer from Ethiopia
There are myths and folklore on what can be the origin of coffee. Many stories are there, but what we can understand in common that there was this adventurer from Ethiopia, who noticed a strange phenomenon in wild animals. Upon consuming berries/fruits from a certain plane, they tend to become super active. Now one way or the other, he chanced upon roasting them and consumed them himself, and voila, there was coffee. Sufi monks, in fact, thought of coffee as a great philosophical drink. Years passed by and by the fourteenth century, the coffee house started to emerge as the hub of intellectuals. The main cities hosting them were Kairo and Istanbul, to name a few. By the seventeenth century, coffee traveled to Europe and soon coffee started to replace the breakfast beverages like beer and wine. By the eighteenth century, coffee reached America.
But where is coffee in India then?
And somewhere in between the gentleman named Baba Budan went on for Haj and brought 7 coffee beans from the port of Mocha, Yemen. And voila, coffee was introduced to India. Nobody in Arab checked the Baba and he got successful in smuggling them here. The beans were planted in Chikmagalur and coffee plantation started. In fact, there is a place named Baba Budan Forest there. It’s said the first coffee shop in Kolkata was opened around the Battle of Plassey, in 1757. But much later, in around 1942, the first coffee house was set up in Mumbai, which soon set up its branches in Kerala and Kolkata.
But so many types of coffee …..
Enough history and frankly it’s not these stories that I was getting confused with. Cappuccino, Mocha, Latte, Filter coffee …… blah blah … With so many varieties, I am getting confused with them actually. which is what? During my childhood, at some marriage function, apart from good looking women, I used to get amused by those espresso coffee makers. The steam, the sound, juggling of coffee- man, it was a sight to believe. But it was much later that I came to know that espresso is a black coffee and not that marriage function stuff with milk, sugar, and loads of froth. so, if we need to know about the different varieties of popular coffee, this illustration from Indian Spot here might be useful.
A bit about coffee beans…
So we can safely say that there are two primary varieties of coffee beans in the world- Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is harder to grow and is the more expensive one. Whereas, Robusta is the pocket-friendly variant with a more bitter after-taste. The cheap coffee that we get in the market is mostly made from Robusta beans. So the next time someone acts as the coffee expert, politely ask him/ her about the beans. suggestively, a blend of Robusta and Arabica gives a better result. Where Robusta provides a strong body and color, Arabica provided creamy smoothness. However, to each one, his own. And do tend to play around with combinations to get your perfect blend. Other varieties of coffee beans are definitely there, but these are the two prime ones. It’s beautifully illustrated here in these graphics from Printwand.
Cafe Kathmandu …
And finally, after all these stories, we come to Cafe Kathmandu. See, it’s your friendly neighborhood cafe. Large windows, two AC rooms, and plenty of parking space- all things needed for a cafe. Nobody’s in a hurry and the focus is mostly on serving good coffee. But here’s a twist. the patron of this cafe, Varsha Singh Sondhi, is from Nepal and she’s quite proud of her origin. And the coffee beans are sourced from Nepal only.
Coffee farming in Nepal started late- say around 2002. The high altitude of the Himalayas and the soil produce some great Arabica. And from 2002, Nepal started some serious specialty coffee farming exporting mainly to Europe and Nepal. and it would also be interesting to mention that the varieties grown here are, Bourbon and Typica. Now I am not really a coffee expert to this level and you may like to refer to this link here.
Coffee and the free cookie
The menu card is quite reasonably priced and my typical choice is Americano. Somehow I was always a Capuccino lover, but this habit of dark coffee (without even sugar) is induced into me by one special friend. Now, there’s something I seriously love about Cafe Kathmandu. And that, they serve two pcs of the small cookie with coffee. We Bengalis are known to love anything, which comes complimentary, and who doesn’t like a nice freshly baked cookie?
About the food
Now here is where the strange combinations start. We, in Kolkata, are accustomed to a typical set of a menu in a cafe- omelet, cheesecake, etc. But here they serve momos (and not pork, but Chicken momo- mind it) with Coffee. Momos are good, no doubt. And they’re not the small cute momos we are used to. Momos at Cafe Kathmandu are quite large and served with a fiery orange chutney. thin coating and a good stuffing, the taste is quite good. But I’d personally love to have 10 medium/ small pieces, rather than 5-6 large (quite large ones). The bakery is rather fantastic. the simple lemon drizzle cake is too good and value for money … and so is the chocolate muffin. I am not somebody with a sweet tooth, but even I like them.
Overall, Cafe Kathmandu is a good cafe for some quality time. And if you manage to get a window seat, nothing like it. Do try it out and let me know about your experience, in the comments section.
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