Tuesday, April 08, 2008

City Secret - Indian Coffee Depot, Tolstoy Lane

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City Secret: India Coffee Depot

An excellent coffee store that no-one knows.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Most likely Leo Tolstoy never got to taste South Indian filter coffee in his lifetime but a certain stretch of Tolstoy Lane, at Connaught Place, thousands of miles away from Russia, is forever suffused with the scent of freshly ground coffee beans.

No Anna Karenina or Natasha Rostov is to be seen hopping here but the Indian Coffee Depot's patrons are equally illustrious, if not that immortal. Packets (only one type of special blend coffee is available) here are routinely delivered to hallowed addresses like Rashtrapati Bhawan and Prime Minister House. The embassy people (particularly American, Spanish and, yes, the Russians) too are faithful customers. So are the firangi backpackers.

But where are the ‘commoners’? Don't they know that the roast and ground coffee here comes for just Rs. 190 per kg? Remember, 1 kg of coffee powder at CafĂ© Coffee Day is for Rs. 450.

Opened by the British in 1943, along with a coffee house in Janpath, to popularize coffee culture in Delhi, the intention was to create a market for coffee plantations down south. 13 years later, the coffee house shut down but the Coffee Depot, run by the Coffee Board of India, stayed put.

Today in the age of Baristas and Costa Cafes, Cappuccinos and Mochas, this corner store is completely out of view. Only a caffeine-sensitive nose could guide you inside the tiny premises where a lady is forever grinding and packing the coffee, roasted and blended in Bangalore, into polythene packets.

Though there are 4 more such outlets in Delhi—Sansad Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, South Block, and North Block—this is the only one accessible to aam public. Brew the best out of it.

Where 16, Tolstoy Lane, Connaught Place Ph 2332-1611

City Secret: India Coffee Depot


John said...

Good work. I am linking this post on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Would be awesome to visit the coffee place! A refreshing cup of coffee and a book to read is in itself a thrill !

But Mayank, thank you for introducing interesting places...hopefully, we can be cognizant of such places that may often seem obscure. But, that's why we value "The Delhiwalla" for his zest for life in Delhi!


Suma said...

Look forward to try this place out on my next trip to Delhi. Thank you for sharing this gem of a place :))

Tanzila said...

and to think taht i was born here in this city and still never had a clue about a place like this.. i am going there pronto and buying that coffee...

Tanzila said...

linked back to you :)

thalassa_mikra said...

Mayank, everyone who works in the CP area knows this place. The coffee smell that wafts from this place is unmistakable. When I used to work in Gole Market, I always bought my coffee here. It has a steady stream of customers throughout the day.

And the Barista customer and the Coffee Depot customer are in mutually exclusive groups. A Barista or Cafe Coffee Day patron wouldn't know good coffee if it hit them on the head, since they seem to be perfectly happy with the vile concoctions churned out by these places.

But then, the default coffee in India used to be granulated Nescafe (ewwww), so I guess anything else is an improvement.

Roopa said...

Mayank, location details have changed - the correct phone number is now: 23361611 and right behind Rivoli Cinema Hall. The person incharge is one Mr. K.C. Mukherji - who is most friendly to coffee drinkers