By Mehru Jaffer, IANS,
Vienna : At the age of 75, all that Frank Biribauer, a retired Austrian actor, wants is a small cup of espresso coffee served to him with a smile. The combination of good coffee and friendly faces is a good enough reason for Biribauer to return to Café Coffee Day regularly ever since India’s largest coffee conglomerate opened its first outlet in the heart of the coffee capital, Vienna, in 2005.
Besides, coffee is cheaper here and the décor delightful. On walking through the glass doors of the café, Birbauer looks for a table for two beside a window that overlooks the street. Here he sits alone with a cup of Kleiner Espresso (small espresso) and a copy of the Die Presse, his favourite newspaper.
“I love India and I feel close to the country here. Very friendly people…,” he adds. Biribauer has not visited a traditional Viennese café in a long time where the service is often stiff and the brew not much better.
This is a huge compliment for Café Coffee Day in a city that mastered the art of everything to do with coffee more than 300 years ago. The legend goes that Turkish armies defeated in the 1683 Battle of Vienna fled for their lives, leaving all their belongings, including sacks of greenish brown beans.
Except for Georg Franz Kolschitzky, a Polish spy who had watched Turks treat the beans into delicious drinks, none in Vienna knew what to do with them. Dismissing it as horse feed, Kolschitzky claimed all the beans for himself. He roasted and ground the beans into powder and sold the brew at Blue Bottle, Vienna’s first coffee house, since 1686.
The Viennese eventually invented the art of filter coffee and today 47 percent of Austrian households continue to drink their coffee that way. On an average, Austrians consume up to three cups of coffee every day which is about 1,000 kg per year, whether it is at home, at work or in one of the city’s 2,000 coffee houses.
The coffee house culture in Vienna is the oldest in this part of the world but also somewhat exhausted. It is not rare to find bored waiters in crumpled dinner jackets staining the day of a guest with their grumpy attitude.
Even as it was busy promoting cafe culture at home, Café Coffee Day never forgot how much the Austrians love their coffee. After opening its first café in Bangalore in 1996 and 552 outlets in 90 cities within India, Café Coffee Day decided to conquer the world and came to Vienna in 2005.
“Consumer research conducted in Vienna revealed a craving for more charming table service, freshly made food and coffee made the European way,” Rapunzel D’mello, a company spokesperson, told IANS.
There are three outlets in Vienna today. The first one round the corner from Vienna’s majestic Opera House is a favourite haunt of tourists and those who live in the city’s posh first district.
The second outlet is near the university and packed with students who cannot get enough of chicken chettinad and chicken makhani along with coffee that comes all the way from the fields of Chikmagalur in Karnataka.
The third outlet opened last February and five more are expected by the end of this financial year.
“This is great news,” gushes Birgit Pestal, a 28-year-old Viennese journalist. She was introduced to the café by the city’s Bollywood fan club in 2005. She loves the furniture, music, wireless internet connection, the samosas and particularly the taste of the milk in her mélange.
Melange is the king of coffee here and the most popular. It is consumed throughout the day. Similar to the Italian cappuccino, the perfect melange must be an exact mixture of steamed coffee and frothy milk.
It is correct, says Pestal, that the mélange is a very Viennese cup of coffee but nobody is able to whip it up in the city these days like Café Coffee Day does.
(Mehru Jaffer can be contacted at [email protected])