Kashmir’s cafe culture has evolved in an expectedly sophisticated manner in recent years, with several theme-based cafes springing up all around the Valley in a swift manner of time. Even though scores of such places have opened up today, but, the coffee lovers from Generation X, and the Millennials still get nostalgic about Coffea Arabica to this time, whenever they pass through Maulana Azad road, on the way to DalGate.
For the eye, Coffea Arabica was quite a buzzing and cozy place near BMC Bank (Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank). The ambiance of that place was quite something. The interiors were decorated with hand carved wooden work, laced with heartwood, giving it a golden glow. The flight of stairs would lead you to the second floor, holding a couple of tables, the Glass roof letting the light beautify the interior in all the five seasons that Kashmir has to offer.
“Coffea Arabica was quite the hot spot around the 90’s, and the early 2000’s. It was the only Coffee bar in Srinagar at that time. Hosting coffee lovers, political leaders and youngsters all under one roof. I myself would have a cappuccino, on every alternative day there. It was at Coffea Arabica, I acquired the taste for coffee, even though the place no longer exists, but the need for having a cup of coffee and the memory of that place still exist.” Says Faiz, a local businessman.
The location of the place would make it impossible to miss and was quite convenient for the college students, travellers, and businessmen to and from all of Lal Chowk.
“Coffea Arabica was a hangout spot for me and my friends. We would meet there every weekend. Like many others did, it was there that I had my first cup of coffee, little did I know that the sweet energizing drink would become a part of my life. The ambiance of the place was quite calming, the food and especially, the coffee sold at Coffea Arabica was of a highly decent quality. As a coffee enthusiast I must say that the taste of the coffee served there would, on any day, not only rival but in some cases, beat the taste of the coffee served at the coffee shops today” says Sayed, a coffee enthusiast.
The pocket friendly cafe also reflected upon the famous Kashmiri hospitality and played a huge part in an outgoing Kashmiri native’s life.
“I was in my early twenties, when I would visit this cafe, a really fine establishment with equally warm staff. It was part of my routine to enjoy food there: I had my first taste of Awadhi cuisine there. They were the first in my opinion to experiment with the Kashmiri taste buds. Slowly transforming a Chai loving state into coffee lovers” said Nazir Ahmad, while remembering the time he had at that cafe.
From youngsters to the professionals of that time, Coffea Arabica had established itself as a hotspot for people from all walks of life.
“I first visited this cafe with my late Mamu, who used to work at BMC bank: I remember him ordering a latte for me as he browsed through his files. Though I have acquired a taste for Americano now ‘sweet as sugar, strong as love and dark as death’. Coffea Arabica still remains the place where I had my first encounter with coffee.” Says Raashid, an Engineer.
Nostalgia in the shape of food may be a particularly lovely experience, especially in a place like Kashmir, where food is the lifeblood. The story of Coffea Arabica came to an unfortunate end two years after the flood hit the valley in 2016.
By Muneeb Naqeeb
SOURCE: By Muneeb Naqeeb