City Food – Butter Coffee, Chitli Qabar Chowk
The winter drink.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Are you still a butter coffee newbie? You can have one right here in Old Delhi.
The quiet, unassuming Mohammed Moinuddin, in his 40s, has been serving butter coffee to loyal local fans for a decade. His roadside stall is on the congested Chitli Qabar Chowk, a few minutes’ walk from Jama Masjid. The stall opens every winter evening at 5pm and closes at 2am (Mr Moinuddin serves cold drinks in summer).
One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to make butter coffee. It’s simply a mug of coffee blended with butter, and it claims to give warm comfort on cold nights.
The men-only crowd starts gathering around the stall by 9pm. From then on, the coffee vendor doesn’t get a spare moment even to spit.
The only big piece of equipment in Mr Moinuddin’s café is what he calls an espresso machine and which we usually spot at wedding banquets. But this one actually produces nothing except froth with great sound and fury. The rest of the café’s paraphernalia consists of a pan of hot milk (already mixed with coffee powder), a tin of cocoa powder and slabs of yellow Amul butter.
All that Mr Moinuddin does is drop the butter slabs into a jug of coffee milk, which he then steams up with the “espresso machine”.
The resulting brew, served in thick paper glasses, tastes buttery, milky and sugary. And since the butter of choice is Amul, the coffee is also salty.
The customers love it. They sit on cold drink crates exchanging notes on cricket and Bollywood over glasses of butter coffee. One regular says the drink is not only very tasty, “it heats up the body”.
Butter coffee is apparently also available at a stall in the Ballimaran neighbourhood. In Chitli Qabar, however, the only rival to Mr Moinuddin’s butter coffee is Mohammed Naeem’s ginger-flavoured chai, sold on a cart parked directly opposite. If the numbers are anything to go by, the butter coffee scores over the tea, at least on freezing winter nights.
Cold season’s warmth