Machine coffee brews up a storm at Kolkata’s Coffee House

KOLKATA: This summer, sip your coffee and enjoy it, too, as the machine makes its way into legendary College Street Coffee House. With the introduction of "special cold coffee" from April 1, the chimes of change are loud and clear at Kolkata's iconic adda zone, formally called the Indian Coffee House. The heritage cafe, churning out varieties of the handmade brew since its inception decades ago, is giving in to market needs, at last.
"To cater to the demands of youngsters, we are working on quite a few additions to our existing coffee menu. We start with the machine-made 'special cold coffee' from April 1," said Sarfaraz Ahmed, secretary of the cooperative that has been running the place since 1958. "The 'special cold coffee', for Rs 55 and Rs 65, should be a major hit for people across ages, especially during the summer months," said Ahmed.

The existing menu includes, black coffee, the staple drink for regulars. It's priced at Rs 20. Christened "Infusion", extracted by percolation brewing in a traditional south Indian filter, it may be losing its popularity, hinted the waiters. Hence, the attempt to try out newer stuff. "Infusion was all we could afford back then. We sat for hours but didn't dare look at the hot milk coffee, let alone its ice-cold version," laughed author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
If you want milk coffee, they stir boiled (not frothed) milk to the brewed 'Infusion' and sell it for Rs 25. The same stuff mixed with ice is served in the cold coffee avatar. It's Coffee House's most expensive coffee (Rs 45). "The 'special cold coffee' will be different. Shots from the espresso machine will be taken and mixed with a blender to create the frothy, iced coffee," Ahmed explained. "It can be topped with ice-cream," he added.

Ahmed's phone has the immortal number, "coffee house-er shei add ta aaj aar nei", as its caller tune. Manna Dey's ode to the legendary haunt sitting at the corner of Bankim Chatterjee Street and College Street is still relevant; the winding flight of stairs leading to the duplex hall, once frequented by generations of poets, writers and who's who - the likes of Satyajit Ray, Sunil Gangopadhay, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Allen Ginsberg and Gunter Grass - seems to be losing its appeal every day. In the process, losing to competition.
"We would relate to this place so much as students (of Presidency College). The buzz of chatter, the turbaned waiters and the aroma of freshly ground coffee keep pulling me to this place off and on. But the soul seems to be missing," mused litterateur-bureaucrat Yashodhara Ray Chaudhuri.

Artist-writer Samindra Bhowmik said, " Other than improving the quality of the fare served, it needs to draw the city's elite like before. Events can be organized with creative people, performers from various fields to draw quality crowds who would once again enliven the air with meaningful caffeine-fuelled conversations."

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