Cut, coffee, paste

Updated: Feb 9 2014, 07:35am hrs
RECENTLY, WHILE ordering a large cold coffee before a very-early-morning flight, I had an epiphany. Perhaps, it was after the first few sips of my rather intense caffeine-doused wake-up call, but, at this point, its too hard to recollect. Also, irrelevant. The god-sent message that shone down on me from heavens above was this: wine needs to go the coffee route.

Think about it. If I were the CEO of coffee and was told of a country in the somewhat far east, known as the birthplace of teamy biggest competitorwould I really think it to be a good strategy to go and set up shop there Why would I risk going into a country that was historically linked to a beverage that was quite unlike mine and then, to try and compete with something that enjoyed patronage like a family tradition Would it make any sense to put my money behind a market that was potentially an utter failure for my product

And yet, today, we Indians walk into the Lavazzas and the Starbucks, the Costas and even the homegrown

Cafe Coffee Days, and order cappuccinos and espressos with as much ease as we have almost genetically had with Assams

and Darjeelings.

Wine should sit up

and take notice. It is not impossible to penetrate any market. Here are a few things coffee has done that wine needs to do:

Accessibility: You are never more than 50m from a cup of coffee. Wine needs to be similarly accessible. To have to walk into hotels or to spend hours looking for a shop that in spite of being called English wine and beer shop, may stock some brands, wine needs to be available at grocery stores and even at small neighbourhood bars.

Choice: There was a time when coffee came hot or cold, black or with milk. Today, coffee comes in more options than an average Louboutin season and in spite of the complication it creates, it also generates curiosity. Curiosity is good. The same way, wine needs to make sure that even as efforts are made to demystify it, there is a certain quotient of complication left behind to have people aspire to a higher level of knowledge.

Price: Coffee started off being cheap and, today, it spans a range of prices from the vending machine petty-change versions to the kinds that can only be settled with prior approvals from your credit card company. I am not exaggerating. While wine is only too (in)famous for being expensive, we need more reliable options at the affordable end to truly fuel consumption. Indian wines are the closest we come to filling that gap and brands like KRSMA, Chandon, Charosa and Fratelli are doing a great job in that space.

Associations: Coffee would have never made it so widely in India had it not been for creating mental associations (conversations and coffee, for example) that encourage one to order a long one. Wine needs to find similar associations, and snobbery is not a good one to canvass for.

Play: Coffee, for all its seriousness, allows baristas to have fun with it: blending, mixing, flavouring, (foam)-styling and what not. Wine, in comparison, is fairly conservative. It might need to open up to new ways to incite interest and infuse individuality. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for his or her specific preferences and wine needs to accommodate it more.

That said, while wine has a lot to learn by imitating coffee, I draw the line at ordering a tall glass of Chardonnay at the airport any time in the near future.

Actually, why not Its 7 pm somewhere in the world, right

Magandeep Singh

The writer is a sommelier