City Secret – Indian Coffee Depot, Tolstoy Lane

City Secret: India Coffee Depot

An excellent coffee store that no-one knows.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Most likely Leo Tolstoy never got to taste South Indian filter coffee in his lifetime but a certain stretch of Tolstoy Lane, at Connaught Place, thousands of miles away from Russia, is forever suffused with the scent of freshly ground coffee beans.

No Anna Karenina or Natasha Rostov is to be seen hopping here but the Indian Coffee Depot’s patrons are equally illustrious, if not that immortal. Packets (only one type of special blend coffee is available) here are routinely delivered to hallowed addresses like Rashtrapati Bhawan and Prime Minister House. The embassy people (particularly American, Spanish and, yes, the Russians) too are faithful customers. So are the firangi backpackers.

But where are the ‘commoners’? Don’t they know that the roast and ground coffee here comes for just Rs. 190 per kg? Remember, 1 kg of coffee powder at Café Coffee Day is for Rs. 450.

Opened by the British in 1943, along with a coffee house in Janpath, to popularize coffee culture in Delhi, the intention was to create a market for coffee plantations down south. 13 years later, the coffee house shut down but the Coffee Depot, run by the Coffee Board of India, stayed put.

Today in the age of Baristas and Costa Cafes, Cappuccinos and Mochas, this corner store is completely out of view. Only a caffeine-sensitive nose could guide you inside the tiny premises where a lady is forever grinding and packing the coffee, roasted and blended in Bangalore, into polythene packets.

Though there are 4 more such outlets in Delhi—Sansad Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, South Block, and North Block—this is the only one accessible to aam public. Brew the best out of it.

Where 16, Tolstoy Lane, Connaught Place Ph 2332-1611

City Secret: India Coffee Depot