Feeling Brew? Go for Some Coffee in the Hills

Feeling Brew? Go for Some Coffee in the Hills
A freshly brewed cup in the hills, Photo Credit: Amit kg / Shutterstock.com

On the morrow of International Coffee Day, we take a look at how the drink fares in the hills up north

Prannay Pathak
October 02 , 2020
14 Min Read

There's something ineffable about rainy evenings in the hills. If you’re a traveller here, it isn’t really possible to stay tucked inside once the sun has begun his downward descent. Having taken a little stroll along the many Malls of our many hill stations, your hands thrust in your bomber’s pockets for want of warmth, you eagerly step into a café. Luckily, the round table in the nook at the back hasn’t been taken. You motion the friend towards the counter and proceed to grab the little island.

“Coffee, sir?” the owner, who is also the server, confirms, and swiftly places the familiar ceramic cups of hot, creamy, homestyle coffee on the table. This humble moment is propitious enough to make the two of you awkward. Much like J. Alfred Prufrock, I am ready to measure out more of my life—in the hills—with coffee cups (too much of a millennial to rely on spoons).

Read: 10 Cafes Across India for the Passionate Coffee Drinker

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Steaming hot 'glass' of coffee, good music, and the nip it in the air - that's what good coffee breaks are made of !! Plus a long trek to the coffee shop ! #coffee #coffeebreak #strongcoffee #breakfastideas #breakfastinbed #breakfastclub #trek #treatyoself #throwbackthursday #music #trip #coffeebar #fitnessmotivation #fitnessgirl #fitandfab #fabfitfun #runningmotivation #coffeerun #coffeeinthehills #inthehills #hills #chai #garam #foodpost #exercisemotivation #climbing

A post shared by Spicy Dilli (@spicydilli) on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:54am PDT

During daytime, when the unsophisticatedly plentiful mountain sunshine thaws my insides, I prefer soft serve after soft serve, but I mix it up with coffee even then. And one knows that when in Shimla, there are avenues aplenty to savour coffee. Be it the tray coffee at the Indian Coffee House at the end of the Mall or the slightly fancier Colombian brew served at Trishool Bakers in Middle Bazaar. It’s largely basic, but hasn’t lost the characteristically mellow aftertaste, pretty much in the way of kaapi. I’m eternally thankful for my partner patiently adding the right amount of milk to the black, knowing as she does, the peculiarities of my hardened palate.

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After a brief stroll around the Mall we stopped by the one of the oldest and legendary cafe in Shimla, The Indian Coffee House, which is a great place for having an engaging conversation over affordably good coffee and an eclectic range of delicious food. The place boasts of a lingering crowd of enthusiasts, both young and old, who come here to bask in the old world charm of the settings. We too were excited to experience a slice of the heritage through its food and ambience. So we ordered a coffee along with jam toast and sambar vada-the two very popular items on their menu. The strong and creamy coffee and the humble jam toast were truly nice while the sambar vada was decent too. But more than the food it was the sense of nostalgia and the legacy that enhanced the culinary experience at this place. #himachalfoodseriesbydfw #himchalpradesh #himachalfoodseries #himachalpradeshtourism #walkwithdelhifoodwalks #walkwithanubhav #paratikulcha #shimla #shimlastreets #indiancoffeehouseshimla #indiancoffeehouse #jamtoast

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Situated at the point where the road from Summer Hill splits into the Mall and Lower Bazaar like the blades of a pair of scissors, the Indian Coffee House is an affordable establishment that offers quite a few options for coffee. The gentle aroma lingers till after you've taken a walk down the Mall, the high point of which is a café called Wake and Bake that overlooks the regal Gaiety Theatre. And if one is too smitten with the view, the hazelnut cold coffee is enough to drag you back to the reality of tooth sensitivity.

When it comes to coffee in the hills, our beloved caffeine drink doesn’t have much variety in the northern parts. As a friend of mine, telling me about her favourite cuppa served at a Dharamshala café, remarked, “Anything you ask for here—cappuccino or latte—they serve you this: traditional hot coffee. But it’s delicious. Piping hot, with a view to die for in the background.” The same goes for the fragrant roadside version one gets out of vending machines, usually at small bakeries and confectioners. This ubiquitous version is sweeter and somehow feels less acidic, but is perky all the same, and doesn’t demand the kind of appetite or commitment that milky coffee usually does.

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Some moments are priceless ♥ï¸Â . . Walk beyond the chaardukan area to almost the end of civilisation and you will find this British styled bakery tucked in a corner. Be ready to be dazzled by a wide range of cupcakes, breads and cookies that Landor Bakehouse offers. . . Landor is something you can’t offord to mis, and it’s totally a must visit. The interiors are so well done with a mesmerising view which totally gives an old school feel. We tried dark chocolate brownie, walnut pie and carrot cake and Ofcrs coffee, the carrot cake was my personal favourite . . ♥ï¸Â Follow me âž¡ï¸Â @chaudharynitin016 âž¡ï¸Â @chaudharynitin016 âž¡ï¸Â @chaudharynitin016 To get updated 👨‍🍳 . . #foodblogger #dehradunfoodblogger #foodblogging #foodbloggingindia #foodieme #foodlover #foodporn #foodiegram #foodielifestyle #foodiesofinstagram #foodblog #foodphotography #dehradunfoodbloggers #dehradun #dehradundiaries #dehraduncityoflovenfun💜 #foodies #cafelove #mussooriediaries #mussoorie

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Coffee in the northern parts might not get artisanal and heirloom-y like down south where the Robustas and the Arabicas rule the ‘roast’, but it does promise experiences beyond just the sweet and piping hot. The espresso at Landour Bakehouse in Sisters’ Bazaar is one of the finest one will sample in these parts—just the right kind of sweet—and can be enjoyed at one of the tables by a window affording views of the gorgeous deodars. This serene café/eatery with an increasingly recognizable front, thanks to Instagram, is known better for its teas and hot chocolate, but I keep imagining curious strangers often come looking for an affogato from far-off places.

Read: Cherry on the Hilltop: The Landour Food Trail 

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And of course still the best coffee in town! #cafe #coffeeshop #coffee #mcleodganj #dharamshala #moonpeak #summer #himachal #himachalpradesh #food #foodie #drinks #drink #lockdown #takeaway #takeaways #trekking #himalaya #india #espresso #cappuccino #cappuccinoart #cappuccinotime #barista #freshbrew #fresh #freshcoffee

A post shared by Moonpeak Espresso & Thali (@moon.peak) on May 29, 2020 at 3:06am PDT

The Tibetan settlement of McLeod Ganj offers plenty of opportunities for espresso fans. Walk over to the Temple Road and step inside Moonpeak Espresso, a one-of-its-kind gallery-style eatery offering unbelievably good brews—if the titular espresso promises a subtle zing to your palate, the uncomplicated macchiatos and cappuccinos aren’t too far behind. The whole point of sipping black coffee in the hills up north is how they prove a foil to the easy-on-the-eye visuals, so that they may stimulate one to think better. As for myself, I often employ the potent Americano to wash down a heavy meal (rolls, pastries and the like). The brew you get at the cutesy Coffee Talk, also on Temple Road, is quite full-bodied and strong.

Read: 23 Cafes in the Mountains that will Light up Your Insta Feed

Convinced for years by an acquaintance from Chennai who I know solely through Twitter, I find it difficult to shake off the belief that to think I can have decent filter coffee in these parts, could be a little naïve. But earlier this year, en route to Dharamsala via Palampur with the latter’s rolling tea estates on the way, I stopped for snacks at this newly established cabin-in-the-woods-style café called Cliffy’s (but only just off the road). Given that they specialise in south Indian with a modern, café spin, I did the unthinkable. Froth in place? Check. Nice, tantalising rings of dark brown on the top? Check. Aroma overpowering enough to risk scalding the tongue? Check.

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Probably the best Irish I've ever treated my senses to.

A post shared by Prannay Pathak (@gregorsamosa) on Jul 14, 2019 at 1:41am PDT

My personal favourite happens to be Irish coffee—in fact, such is my reverence for it that I make sure not to have it more than twice a year. One of the two such instances in 2018 was when I casually entered a tiny hippie establishment in the middle of Kasauli’s Heritage Market. Served in a thick glass mug, with the cream floating nicely on top, the Irish here stays loyal to the deep, rich flavour of the recipe. The black coffee beneath the moderately-sweet cream top was almost a stimulating tonic that washed down the unhealthy snacks we tucked into before at the market.

Read: 5 Must-Try Coffees from Around the World

Talking of imports, Manali’s quaint, well-concealed Kilta Café, with its Turkish/Greek and Brazilian coffee, can give the fanciest of establishments a run for their money. You see, coffee isn’t just in the cups here—the aroma of freshly roasted beans hangs thick in the air. Even as you sip on your creamy mocha, your nostrils will get their fair share of its best parts. Unlike the everyday northern Indian hill café, Kilta has won approval from the snootiest of coficionados, thanks to its exquisite handcrafted brews. The cramped coffee shop, located in the Aleo area in Manali, is run by an amicable American in turn married to coffee. Kilta, their labour of love, also serves some fine machine-brewed coffee (breve and bonbon), and everything is dirt cheap.

I am taking a look around – meanwhile, you grab a spot, my friend. The fun is just about to begin.

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