The Last India Coffee House

India Coffee House - Queens Road, Bangalore

Balding men in untucked white collared shirts with ink-stained pockets shuffle about around a line of parked ambassadors. Their crooked noses lead them past unkempt asoka trees into a large labyrinth of corridors, following wafts of roasting coffee beans they walk, their shoulders slouching slightly to the right under the weight of a stack of yellow soiled files. Here they sit on low creme coloured sofa and wait for their uplifting elixir, caffeine, leaving their pens, stamps, files and papers behind at their desks to converse about matters not quiet as riddled with red-tapism.

The coffee arrives, the atmosphere relaxes to the charms of the smouldering liquid. Men slowly slurp at their coffee as turbaned waiters in faded red and white coffee board uniforms drift from table to table, sometimes joining in on passing conversations, breaking to clear a cup or to serve another vegetable cutlet. A out of place couple, occupy themselves quietly in the corner sharing the coffee house's two egg omelet lovingly over a single fork, the lover mistimes his move only to get some white butter on her cheeks, which he quickly and lovingly whiffs away with a movement of his handkerchief. The flock at the coffee house slowly changes each lingering on their extended coffee break over a hot, filter coffee, predictably to be followed by yet another one. Regular seem to occupy their favourite tables, draining cup after cup of coffee.

India Coffee House - Queens Road, Bangalore

The story of India Coffee house is political as the political debates it's spews. The India Coffee Houses were started by the Coffee Board in early 1940s and by the mid 1950s the Board closed down the Coffee Houses. The thrown-out workers then took over the branches, under the leadership of the communist leader A.K Gopalan and renamed the network as Indian Coffee House. The first Indian Coffee Workers Co-Operative Society was founded in Bangalore on 1957 which was accompanied by the famous Bangalore ICH on M.G road. Here lies the twist to the tale, one India Coffee House remained and is still run by the coffee board at its headquarters on Queens Road.

On first looks India Coffee House, Queens Road is a place for bureaucrats who might as well be a bureau but dig deeper and you find it is a bureau for excellent coffee. The finest dark cherry-toned robusta from the Chennakal estate, the birthplace of Indian coffee, finds itself in your cup probably passed down from the laboratories of the Indian Coffee board next door. It sits their in front of you with a whiff of sweet ferment, black, acrid in a white government standard porcelain cup for all but 6 rupees. India's finest coffee at a price that would leave you buzzed and with an inclination to socialism.

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El said...

hmm..liked the accompanying text a lot more than the pictures this time and had no idea that they were shut down and reopened..

I remember the Bangalore one.. And somehow when I hear India coffee House I think of Hazaaron Khawishein Aisai..(bz of that scene when she meets him there and tells him about the divorce etc etc)

moonstruck said...

Apparently, the waiters forge their birth certificates to stick around despite crossing retirement age. Heh.

rossoneri said...


Chandni said...

Visit the Indian Coffee Home near CP. An insanely obsolete looking yellowing lovely haunt where you find patrons discussing cricket and politics, lovers whispering, jhola youngsters discussing communism..its a delectable cocktail of a place if you ask me. And oh-so-cheap. I recommend the sambhar vada (Rs. 12) and the coffee (Rs. 6).


Arunima said...

I love the coffee house at M.G road. The old photographs in the wall, the waiters are a stark difference to the buzz that is happening on M.G road but it still retains its old world charm.

taureandude_23 said...

hey Akshay
talking of the India Coffee House, well i have been in one in Kolkata. The ambience there is pure old world charm. Bengali babus in long flowing beards and jholas discussing Leftist issues was a very common sight. 90pc of the junta comprised of students from Presidency college, discussing politics, studies, culture amidst food coffee and lots n lots of smoke.
The waiters with their distinct turbans really take one back to a different era.
liked reading on the history of the India Coffee House.
take care

Perkins said...

Sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you while I was in Mumbai. You met my friends Bruce and Francesca. I was hoping to ask you some questions about mumbai so I can finish my final project. I would love to send you information about what I am doing and any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


Balu said...

wow, I did not know this history.. very nice read.. I'm food junkie as well and I keep blogging about Chai and Coffee in and around Bangalore...

I've been one Coffee house at Pondichery, and the others at MG and one near Indian Express circle where I see lots of lawyers flocking it...

nice blog going and wonderful pics :-)

Jalap. said...

Randomly arrived on this blog. I liked some pictures. And I agree with the ICH at CP mention. Its part of the old ring of places that keep charm still. Kwality, Gaylords (now shut, I think? - It still is open in Bombay), Olga etc. And obviously ICH. Though unlike someone pointed, those communism discussing - jhola wearing youngsters can get one your nerves. It feels great to be an average human being at times.

Padmavijayan said...

Reading your post, I got to know all the colors in English language!! One color per sentence, nice.. ;-)

ruSh.Me said...

LOl...I guess they started ICH for the relief of lawyers only... The ICh in my hometown Indore is also situated in the premises of The High Court... I love the ambiance, the Aloo Cutlet with a river of sauce.., the dosa, the medu vada (sambar on the side!), and the filter coffee!!!


waise, in which cities can I find another ICH... didn't find any in Pune!!