Pick your beans — Café Borgia from Barista, Crunchin’ Java from Aqua Java, Iced Black Forest from Coffee Pai or Kenyan Safari from Café Coffee Day. The last-mentioned, a division of Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Co. Ltd, is the newest flavour in the brew bazaar, as the coffee war gathers steam in Calcutta.
“We are here to provide a complete coffee experience at an affordable price,” says Naresh Malhotra, director, Café Coffee Day. The chain, with a “strong presence” in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune and Chandigarh, is kicking off its Calcutta operations with a 25-seater music café inside the MusicWorld store on Park Street next month and plans to open “at least seven” big outlets by the year-end, spanning Southern Avenue to Salt Lake.
“The cafes, occupying around 1,000 sq ft each, will seat 50 to 60… We hope to open 20 such cafes in Calcutta by next Diwali,” declares Malhotra, on a reconnoitre of proposed business sites. The coffee chain, which is also into exports, retailing and vending machines, hopes to become a “dominant player” in Calcutta, through its “competitive” pricing policy and lively ambience. “We are 40-50 per cent cheaper than Barista and in Calcutta, our coffee will start from around Rs 10. Each Café Coffee Day outlet should do business of around Rs 20,000 per day on an average.”
Barista, which has three stops at the moment and recently introduced a whole new range of flavours in town, is confident its Cappucino and Vanila Frappe can hold its own against all comers. “We hope to open three more outlets soon and introduce in-store events, in keeping with Calcutta’s passion for arts and music,” says Sandeep Vyas, executive vice-president, Barista.
Saket Agarwal of Aqua Java, who had given Calcutta 83 flavours of coffee to choose from, feels the new entrant will further expand the market and cultivate taste for the brew. “I think the next five years will be vital and will identify the coffee chain leader in the city. We have always laid store by regional tastes and recently introduced the Flavours of Asia range, which suits our palate better than the European flavours,” he adds. Aqua Java, which has eight outlets now, is opening its ninth in Salt Lake. “It’s a food court brand called Masala Planet, which will have an Aqua Java kiosk.” A tie-up with the Oberoi Group will see coffee chain outlets at the airport and inside the Grand too, while another kiosk is coming up inside Landmark.
Naveen Pai of Coffee Pai, which has become a favourite hangout on Camac Street for coffee-freaks “from seven to 70”, acknowledges he can’t afford to rest on his oars any more. “We can match Café Coffee Day in pricing and range of food, since we serve a whole spread, from parathas to pastas. Nevertheless, they are an organised chain and will bring along cutting-edge professionalism. Others must grow and reinvent to keep pace.” Pai, on his part, is planning three more cafes, besides more express counters to stay in the beverage race.
With Café Coffee Day even looking at in-store discos and 24-hour coffee shops in town, coffee combat in Calcutta is piping hot.