A leaving present from my colleagues at FoodLovers Britain was a pack of coffee from what I believe to be the best coffee shop in London - Monmouth Coffee . This had priority packing status when I left the UK, and it was safely transported to New Delhi for our morning fixes in our new home. The coffee - Fazenda Barreiro from Brazil and ground for our cafetiere - is so fruity and fragrant it tastes like the tropical climate we are living in.
We have been savouring the intense taste and perfect crema, as India is not known for its high quality coffee. The travel books all talk of "stand your spoon up in it" milky Nescafe, but actually this is not the case.
India has a long history as a coffee drinking nation, and today is the sixth biggest coffee producer. Back when the Mughals ruled Delhi between 1526 and 1857 men loved to debate, discuss politics and listen to poetry in the coffee houses of Chandi Chowk, in what is now Old Delhi. Brought to India from Persia, the coffee houses were extremely popular largely due to the Hindu abstention from alcohol - much like the Delhi of today.
Coffee shops in Delhi today are at every market and dominated by two chains; Barista serving Lavazza coffee in a fast food style environment and Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) which has a more relaxed feel. Although CCD is a huge chain with 733 outlets nationwide, their coffee is really very good, and not remotely like Starbucks to whom I initially compared them.
Part of the Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company who grow, cure and export India's finest beans from Chickmaglur in the state of Karnataka, they work with 11,000 small coffee farmers, to create a smooth and rich coffee. In the cafes, the list of drinks they serve is endless with lots of iced versions to beat the heat. But, their chocolate or mocha versions – even for a coffee purist such as myself - are really very good, albeit more of a desert than a drink. They use a shot of real espresso coffee (not the ready-made mixes like Starbucks) and rich, strong dark chocolate. We often pop along to our local friendly Cafe Coffee Day of an evening for a Cafe Frappe caffeine hit as we would visit the pub back home.
As the stock of Monmouth coffee dwindles, one of the conditions for family coming to visit us is "bring good coffee ( or decent wine )". But even as we enjoy our last sip of Monmouth coffee, in the mean time we can sample the drinks in Delhi’s exploding coffee shop culture made from locally sourced coffee beans.