India is known as one of the largest tea-producing and tea-drinking countries in the world, with thousands of tea estates throughout the country’s varied geographies. The high, rolling hills of south India have a rich coffee tradition that dates back centuries, and is known today for its exceptional, distinctive arabica beans.
While coffeehouses may be relatively new to the country, Indians have long enjoyed a cup of coffee at dhabas – small, casual cafes at rest areas along highways that serve short cups of coffee with milk. Here, travelers can sit on benches made with woven ropes and exchange stories and advice with fellow travelers.
Starbucks opened its first store in India in October 2012 and currently operates more than 50 stores across the country in Mumbai, Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), Pune, Bangalore and Chennai through its joint venture Tata Starbucks Limited. Starbucks store designs reflect India’s coffee traditions, heritage and local culture, with artifacts, materials and design elements created by local craftspeople and artists.
“Each store is thought of as a unique footprint celebrating communities, culture and rituals, texture, color and craft,” said Kenna Giuzio, senior designer for Starbucks. “We strive to create a familiar, extended living room that’s a gathering place for family and friends across all generations to come together over coffee.”
Guizio and the India design team us on a tour of some of the country’s newest stores.
A three-hour drive inland from the high rises of Mumbai on India’s west coast is the up-and-coming city of Pune. The city is known for its universities, meditation centers, and ashrams as well as its modern restaurants and nightlife. Starbucks opened its first store in the city in September 2013 near the leafy Koregaon Park, not far from the train station. The two-story store has the feel of a cozy bungalow, with copper railings and antique pieces woven throughout the store design to pay tribute to the city’s copper heritage. The exterior of the store reflects the shadows of the gulmohar trees surrounding it, along with a traditional Indian swing that can be seen throughout Pune.
In south India, where Starbucks coffee is grown, coffee estates dot much of the landscape. And Bangalore, the region’s largest city, has traditionally been the country’s coffee capital. Today the fabric of the city is changing, with its technology based industry. Bangalore, historically known as the country’s coffee capital, is now also called the “Silicon Valley of India” for its thriving information technology sector.
Bangalore’s 100 Ft. Road store, in the neighborhood of Indiranagar, features a warm, neutral palette that serves as a backdrop to the natural colors of coffee – the red fertile soil of the landscape, the green of shade trees and the rich patterns of local fabrics. Existing walls were left exposed, ornamented with painted coffee tree botanicals and local brick. Jali patterns, used locally for sun shading and breezeway structures, were re-imagined and layered lacelike throughout the interior and at the storefront allowing light to filter through. Jars and other metal coffee vessels, used to display Indian grown beans, were sourced from antique stores in the neighborhood.
“Local craft and culture together tell a unique story and keep a city’s heritage alive in an otherwise ever changing technology forward world,” Giuzio said. “It was important to us, with this opportunity, to design a coffee house environment worthy of the surrounding coffee heritage, respectful of this culture, yet forward thinking and unexpected in the application of our design.”
A six-hour train ride east to the Bay of Bengal is Chennai, the gateway to south India. The city, formally known as Madras, was founded here in 1639 as one of the first outposts of British East India Company. Today’s Chennai features a varied mix of architecture, from ancient temples to colonial St. George Fort, and the modern skyscrapers downtown. Starbucks opened its 50th store in India here in July 2014 at Phoenix Marketcity.
The design features wood-stamped concrete walls, metal light fixtures and wood planking inspired by the local arts and architecture of the region. A spice-inspired color scheme is used throughout with red walls, wood flooring accents, leather upholstery and colorful local textiles. The store also features a specially commissioned map of the world’s coffee-growing regions created in Chennai’s traditional Kalamkari style of painting.
Did you know?
Starbucks stores in India offer a wide range of food, which may include local favorites such as Murg Kathi Wrap and Tandoori Paneer Roll.
Customers in India can enjoy their favorite handcrafted espresso beverage with locally sourced Indian Espresso Roast.
Starbucks plans to open its first store in Hyderabad later in 2014.
For your travels
When in India, pick up a pound of Starbucks® India Estates Blend coffee, specially sourced, roasted, packaged and sold in India. The blend creates a fine balance between herbal and chocolate notes, perfect for sharing with friends and neighbors.
Our next stop
We’ll travel east to experience 40 centuries of culture and history across this vast and growing country.