By Sonya Rehman
From ‘Coffee, Tea & Company’, ‘Gloria Jeans’, ‘Masooms’, ‘Jammin’ Java’, ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’, ‘Espresso’ – and a host of other coffee houses (be they international or local), Lahore seems to be standing knee-deep in an assortment of coffee beans – flown in from around the world.
And given the current escalation of coffee houses in the recent few years in the city, there still seems to be room for more!
Perhaps that’s why Lahore is known to be the second metropolis (after Karachi) which never sleeps! At every nook, corner, road, street and boulevard, a coffee house manages to peep its head out and lure you in (by way of the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee) when you least expect it.
And once lured in, there’s no turning back – or even calling it a night for that matter!
Whether it’s a steaming cup of strong, black coffee from Jammin’ Java, a frothy vanilla cappuccino from Coffee, Tea & Company, a sensationally sweet ‘Toffeecino’ (my favourite) from Masooms, or a large, chilled glass of the smoothest cold coffee from Gloria Jeans, in Lahore you’re always bound to find every variety of coffee concoctions under the Punjabi sun.
Interestingly, the prices for a hot (or cold) cuppa often range from Rs.100 to a little below Rs. 200. And the best part about these coffee houses are the fresh sandwiches, large cookies, slices of gooey cake, vegetable and chicken rolls etc that are also served.
Therefore it’s not unusual to have a nice slice of malt cake (surely the best – available at Masooms) alongside a chilled frappe. Seriously, who cares about the calories!
Gone are the days when one – in the mood for coffee – finds it necessary to go to a five-star hotel where just one cup of brewed beans is served for over Rs. 200.
Although, even Gloria Jeans and the local coffee houses have fancier coffee options that fall in a similar price range. But a large-sized mug of coffee every once in a while can’t hurt right?
But coming back to Lahore’s five-star hotels (mainly the ‘Pearl Continental’ and ‘Avari’), it’s not really about the price tag – it’s the distance, as both hotels are located on The Mall.
Regarding the mentioned coffee houses, they’re somehow easier to get to, considering that many of them are located on MM Alam Road – many of which are in close proximity with each other.
Nevertheless, the burgeoning of these very coffee houses and their addictive little bag of magic beans, they’ve also managed to bring with them a certain ‘coffee culture’ which was nearly non-existent five to seven years ago.
And that’s what is perhaps most interesting for a city such as Lahore in particular. These days, it’s not unusual to spot a young, twenty/thirty-something man or woman – perched up on a stool (at a coffee house), reading a book or magazine (whilst drinking a mug of coffee) – oblivious to his/her surroundings. It’s pretty amazing.
Culturally, Karachi is far more ‘open’ and ‘accepting’ that way, but in Lahore? You’re immediately judged for sitting alone, by yourself in a restaurant or café. Quite ridiculous if you ask me. But thank heavens it has changed.
The judgmental and thoroughly claustrophobic cloud seems to have lifted – and believe it or not, but I’m certain the preponderance of coffee houses and cafes in Lahore has had a huge role to play in lifting the cloud!
Things have become so much more open and wholesome – that seeing a group of young people at a coffee house, having a laugh and socializing, is really heartwarming.
Just like the sweetest cup of cappuccino you’ve ever tasted!