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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
India's coffee bar revolution
Indian coffee chain Barista
Coffee is the new drink for Indians

A quiet cafe revolution is sweeping urban India with the proliferation of Italian-style corner coffee bars.


Tea drinking nations like Britain and Japan have been converted to coffee drinking, and Indian consumers are seeking similar lifestyles

Ravi Deol
Barista coffee bar
That is bad news for tea - still the favourite brew for a majority of Indians - which has been losing out to coffee in recent years.

India is one of the world's largest exporters of tea and also one of its biggest consumers.

But it is coffee drinking which is increasingly becoming a statement of young and upwardly mobile Indians.

And coffee bars, an unheard of concept till a couple of years ago, are suddenly big business.

Coffee culture

Such is the demand for coffee bars, that the Barista chain - which opened its first cafe only last year in Delhi - is now opening a new outlet every 10 days.

Taking its inspiration from Italian corner coffee bars and the US coffee chain Starbucks, Barista and other Indian chains are also trying to educate customers about the virtues and finer points to coffee drinking.

Indian tea
India's tea has fallen from fashion
"Consumers are converging, they're thinking alike, they're aspiring for similar products," said Ravi Deol, Barista's chief executive.

"Tea drinking nations like Britain and Japan have been converted to coffee drinking, and Indian consumers are seeking similar lifestyles."

Corner bars like these are offering more than just coffee and snacks to their customers.

For many of their regular patrons, a visit to these bars is also a part of the western lifestyle they so much want to identify with.

Youth appeal

Now tea is being forced to fend-off the competition and tone up its own marketing muscle.

Cha Bar - Delhi's newest hangout for the young and happening - is making an effort to look fashionable and chic to the younger generation.

Indian tea companies are also worried as tea sales in the domestic market have begun to stagnate.

Some of them have even begun to introduce western distribution concepts like vending machines to popularise the traditional Indian drink.

Over the past few years, 50,000 vending machines have been introduced and this number is likely to double in the next few years.

But as tea and coffee battle it out in swank big city restaurants and bars, the most significant volume of tea is drunk by villagers villagers in small shacks along the roadside.

As long as these roadside stalls continue to do thriving business, tea will have a safe future in India.

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 ON THIS STORY
Sanjeev Srivastava
"Coffee bars, an unheard of concept until a couple of years ago, are suddenly big business"
See also:

18 Sep 02 | Business
28 Mar 02 | Business
14 Feb 02 | South Asia
28 Aug 01 | South Asia
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