Café Coffee Day, Where A Lot Happened Over Coffee

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Café Coffee Day, Where A Lot Happened Over Coffee

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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f you’ve been on Twitter recently, you might have noticed that people are reminiscing over where they had their very first dates, sharing puppy love stories of furtive hand holding and awkward kisses. There were a few common refrains that exemplified what dating in our salad days was like: School canteens, ice cream parlours, chaat stalls. But the clear winner for first date spots was the widely beloved Café Coffee Day — or, as it’s more commonly known, CCD. One user talks about a tryst in a CCD outlet after her school annual day, another mentions that it’s all he could afford with his pocket money, and a third says on her first date CCD was playing “Maine Pyaar Kiya” and she couldn’t stop laughing. CCD, it seems, is for lovers. 

Founded in 1996 in Bangalore, the chain has also become synonymous with crowd-pleasing snacks and pastries, and what we now recognise in this hipster Blue Tokai era as pretty okay cups of coffee. Before Flipkart and Ola became giants, and before you had an Indian startup going unicorn every week, there was VG Siddhartha’s CCD growing into a brand that would define the country’s perception of the cafe. So it’s tragic to see the man behind a brand that meant so much to us noughties teens, which gave us so much to look forward to, so much to aspire for, encounter such despair and hopelessness in the end. 

Like most adults, I’ve left behind the CCD of my ill-spent youth, graduating to fancier, more expensive coffee shops with foreign names and better brew. Now, we have Starbucks for our beverage needs, and the once-exotic espresso machine can be found in any restaurant. But back when most of us didn’t know the difference between a filter kaapi and a latte, and certainly couldn’t appreciate the bitter tang of a cold brew, CCD was the place to be. 

An everyday hangout place where you could always find a good use for whatever little pocket money you had saved, spending hours hogging a table, nursing a single cappuccino. Where else could you find a cheap and cheerful sit-down place that took you away from the banality of roadside vendors and monsooned streets? To be in a proper cafe on the plush chairs that made you feel like you were at Central Perk from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and to see the signature foam heart in your white cup was a sophisticated, grown-up thrill for a lot of 14-year-olds — almost as much as drinking a glassful of melted chocolate topped with whipped cream, another quintessential CCD vibe.

The friendly red sign marked one of the few places that was unanimously declared harmless and sin-proof, where everyone was allowed to go even if they had unreasonably strict parents. How much, after all, could go wrong at a wholesome desi cafe? If only they knew. A fly on the wall could tell you sordid tales of dates that had the casual, yet mature connotation of “going out for a coffee”, girls who rushed to the loo to change out of their school uniforms and put on kajal, and tantrumy adolescent breakups that involved shattered plates and tears. Even now, CCD continues to be the stage of choice for a compendium of teenage drama, and a rite of passage for youth.

To be in a proper cafe on the plush chairs that made you feel like you were at Central Perk from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and to see the signature foam heart in your white cup was a sophisticated, grown-up thrill for a lot of 14-year-olds — almost as much as drinking a glassful of melted chocolate topped with whipped cream, another quintessential CCD vibe.

Café Coffee Day is as much a part of growing up in India as the brown-paper covers on our notebooks. While it’s hard to argue that any of us would return for the gourmet food or the great coffee, there are few places that hold a greater nostalgia value, regardless of what the stock market may say. It transcends the geographical distance of Kolkata and Bangalore, or Surat and Munnar, and yet, we all have a specific CCD that is closest to our hearts, as unique as the iconic vada pav wala near Mumbai’s Mithibai College or the bhature chole in Delhi’s Kamla Nagar. 

For me, it was the one on Carter Road, next to the khau galli where my school friends and I would stuff our faces with junk food delights, competing to see who could scarf down the most momos and doughnuts. As our stomachs filled and the evening turned to night, we would look for a place to relax. Inevitably, the answer would come in the form of CCD, where we could sprawl comfortably in the patio chairs with no fear of being kicked out, idly chucking sugar packets at each other as the sea roared across the street.

I haven’t been to CCD in years. Like everything else, it has its time and place. Because whether it was your introduction to the concept of “coffee culture”, your go-to chill spot after school, your favourite place to bunk college, or where you, like so many others, remember the tentative bloom of romance, CCD is a millennial institution, where a lot happened over coffee.   

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