Finally, the summer holidays are over. And we are back to Dubai. Though I’m missing everyone in Kolkata and with every picture downloading into my Mac and memories are screaming out from each pore of mine – yet, I’m glad to be back. Glad to be snuggling into my own bed and into my own pillow. The last two months have been emotionally surcharged – parents and relatives, old friends and a whole lot of food and catching up. I am re-orienting myself to Dubai once again, the city I call home. And longing to get back to the blogosphere – my virtual home away from my real home. Another bout of catching up with all the posts of my fellow bloggers that I missed out reading all this while.
I have also been worried with the new readers who might have hopped into my blog after it’s been featured in the BBC GoodFood ME Magazine. If they have been bombarded with posts on Kolkata it is because of my 2 long months of summer hibernation there. I agree, a bit of Kolkata-centric posts. But hey, this blog is not only on Kolkata. It’s a Culinary Travel Blog inspired by memories, places, people, Kolkata, Dubai and the big world beyond that… A very warm welcome to you!
Our kitchen is in a lazy mode. Running around for new school uniforms and school shoes and hammering into our friends who we had missed for the last 2 months – that ‘We exist and we’re back!’ Casually unwinding.
This is not a post about Starbucks vs Costa, or Tim Hortons vs Costa or Barista vs Costa. It is just about the snuggling up space in the black leather sofas offered by Costa to our family at various locations where the Z-Sisters can accidentally pour their Babyccinos and we can intentionally pull down our hair. And a place which turns into a mayhem when we leave!
A recap of Dubai Summers from a previous post
Each summer has the same story. The months of July and August are spent in Kolkata – when the Z-SISTERS are off from school for two long months. The Z-SISTERS and I - the three of us, make Kolkata our summer base. I call this period my ‘Summer Hibernation’. Amidst make-shift arrangements in the homes of two set of grand-parents – both maternal and paternal, the Z-SISTERS adjust themselves like match-sticks thrown into a new match-box containing a different set of match-sticks. So far they have been adjusting admirably and light up with equal fervor.
What about me? Well, I still continue my work from here – sometimes typing on my Macbook from the verandas, sometimes lying on the drawing room sofa, sometimes using the dining table as my desk post-lunch while I continuously nibble on some hand-made and most importantly Mom-made savoury or snack. Though I am working, my mood is very different – as if I’m working in the middle of a long noisy holiday.
And I’ll continue to do this (hibernate for long during summers!) as long as the Z-SISTERS don’t complain about going back to Kolkata every summer or as long as the parents and a few dear friends are around. And I know that a time will come when probably the Z-SISTERS won’t like to be uprooted from their friends and the life they are used to for so long – but I’ll write about that story when the time comes…
And I know that my story probably resonates the the story of most expatriate Dubai-ites!
Café Culture and Lounging
Gone are those days when friends would just come home for small chit-chats and for casual tea. We ourselves are crushed for time. And if it has to be relaxation it better be outside – let it be somebody else’s headache. So that has given rise to a culture which I call the Café Culture and an entire generation feeding in it. Thank you Cafés! You provide us with our cup of comfort and a sofa to relax our souls. You are branded and yet humble enough to withstand our nonsense and bear with us and tolerate us at various hours of the day. Your humble sofa and your smoky hot heavy cup of coffee or the tea clears my head and ruffles my intelligence enough to make me want to read everything about the world. And think logically. And this where I end up reading each and every page of the newspaper – from Business pages to the real-estate without grimacing and understanding every single printed word!
The Café Culture is slowly entering the cosmopolitan social horizon all over the world. As our homes are becoming crampier and our fingers becoming versatile in sms-ing and tweeting, we are letting the smiling Baristas to stir in our coffee or the tea. And as long as they are doing that with pleasure what do we have to lose? So the new mantra in culture willingly sweeps all across – from London to Kolkata where an Adda or an informal discussion amongst friends can only happen over a bhaar (clay cup) of tea. This bhaar of tea has now changed its form to a formal cup of coffee or a tea either in Cafés or on current issues. But the Bengali Adda must go on…
Costa Coffee vs Starbucks
Our family is a patron of Costa Coffee because of one reason. And that reason has no connection with coffee or tea in any manner. And that is their black leather sofa! We find Costa Coffee relatively less crowded than Starbucks and Tim Hortons or other chains. The formal office-going jet-set executives are missing here. This could be location specific but still if I picked up any Costa randomly, the atmosphere seems to be much more relaxing. At this point let me make it clear that my post is not sponsored by Costa. I am writing this because we have wrecked their various outlets and have massacred many of their tables. No, that also doesn’t mean that it was us who scribbled Andrea loves Jonathan on the tables or those ridiculous poems dedicated to Cynthia from the guy named Nick!
Costa’s mission is to ‘save the world from mediocre coffee’ with their special Mocha Italia blend which was created by brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa. They started selling to businesses in the UK in 1971, first selling their coffee to a handful of local caterers. and then to some delicatessens. In 1978, they opened their first coffee shop on Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. Today, Costa is the largest and fastest growing coffee shop chain in the UK with 1000 stores in UK itself. Even today, just metres from this very spot, the Costa Roastery continues to produce the same unique blend of coffee they worked so hard to create. Costa claims to slow-roast their coffee beans in exactly the same way, and even in the same roasters, as was done traditionally by Sergio. I have always wondered what make these people different. In 40 years 2 brothers build a brand and then make a multi-national out of it. I simply envy them. I have so many brilliant ideas to market – can anybody help me? I could start with the traditional Bhaar of tea – environmental friendly yet brilliantly authentic!
In 1999, Costa opened the first International store at The Aviation Club in Dubai, UAE. Today there are more than 85 stores operating in the Emirates. Traditional Coffee lovers might hate me for propagating a coffee chain as if a gourmand is suddenly faced with some non-cerebral junk food. As if these high street chains might suddenly endanger the never-dwindling species of traditional coffee drinkers. But who said this was about the Coffee? This is all about the little cozy pad where we can unwind. As any Bengali would describe this as ‘Pati Addar Jayega’ or a simple place to chat! For more serious coffee-lovers who are offended by this post I am re-directing you to the perfect cup of coffee from My Custard Pie!
What about Starbucks? Well, I have to admit that the aroma in Starbucks is much more stronger than anywhere else – intoxicating and overwhelming. But I have always felt that the coffee-drinker here is in an eternal hurry and engrossed in serious discussion on perhaps how to save the world and the coffee beans! The battle of the brands will always exist. But Costa promises to ‘Make it better’ and has already proved that their claim in advertising campaigns that ’7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa’ is true, even winning it’s case against Starbucks when the latter lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. Much has been written about this battle – much like Coke and Pepsi, but both are too big to be perplexed by any minor upsurge or any small marketing thesis written by a college graduate or any food blogger.
I love my cup of Coffee from both – but it is the black leather sofa at Costa’s that pulls me down!
The following locations of Costa that we frequent the most as each one of them takes us for mini breaks amidst our hectic daily grind…
Costa Coffee in Meadows
[Inside Spinneys, Meadows 4 Village; Tel: 04 3607829; Timing - Sundays to Saturdays 7am - 10pm]
Overlooking the Lake, the Costa in the Meadows takes me to my own world of imagination – it’s like a home with walls swathed in warm melon and lime greens and also contains a mini library. Sip your coffee or the fresh ice-cold Raspberry tea while reading the best-seller. Let the lake view and the over-filled Magnolia blossoms act as a breather as you pause after a mentally exhausting paragraph. Just like we are regular Friday visitors here, there are a few others who have joined my ‘Costa’ list in Facebook friend lists! Like an Egyptian family who always hangs around after their Friday prayers in the nearby mosque or a few fitness enthusiasts who burn down their calories in the nearby Fitness First centre, only to regain them as they sip into their sugary Ice-blended Mochas.
Almost every Friday we are pulled into Costa here, even if it is for a little while. If we refuse, Li’l Z will make sure we head there – the smiling staff there has already bought her loyalty with the lollipops they offer. That’s besides the fact that she rolls on the sofa, tears numerous sugar sachets, takes out books from the shelves…
Li’l Z doesn’t need a Costa loyalty card. A lollipop from the staff does the trick. I love my Peach Iced Tea (Dhs 13/-, Dhs 15/- and Dhs 17/- for S, M and L) while hubby sips on hot Earl Grey Tea (priced at Dhs 13/- for a M cup) and Big Z loves to feel important sipping her Babyccinos (priced at Dhs 4/-, Dhs 6/-) while she pretends it is her Cappuccino!
What do we eat? Actually we mess up more than we eat – the crumbles lying on the floor and the sofa and Li’l Z crawling all around the floor as she picks up all the crumbles. The Chocolate Twist and the Cheese Twist are our favourites (Dhs 13/- ) while we lounge lazily here with our newspapers and paperbacks. And oh, also the Chocolate Cake (does the price matter? Do have a look at the picture below and decide for yourself!) and the Indulgent Chocolate Donut (Dhs 10/-).
Costa Coffee in JBR
[Sadaf 6, JBR Plaza level; Tel: 04 4342326; Timing - Sundays to Saturdays 7am - 10pm]
While Costa at Meadows reminds one of a lazy tropical summer afternoon, the one at JBR is an extended beach. Beach-goers preparing to tan themselves for the day and joggers by the beach parade into the coffee shop day in and day out. At any point of the day it seems that life has only one thing – a sandy beach and a blue sea. Of-course, the sunset thrown in for the wow effect. Even reading the newspapers and surfing the net here looks like you might be handling the entire Wall Streets on your own!
Drinking the Chai Latte is our favourite here. It’s a blend of black tea with aromatic spices – cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom & black pepper with honey made with steamed milk. This can be really strong and spicy but absolutely fantastic on a chilly, breezy winter morning, specially when you are sitting outdoors gazing at the cloudy sky above the bluish-grey rough waters of the Persian Gulf.
And on calmer days when the waves rise and fall in tandem with your heartbeat, you have another drink to choose. Specially as the sun comes around as it sets on the beach and you can see the sea-gulls engulfing the horizon.
Costa Coffee, Souk Madinat Jumeirah
[First Floor near the Abra Station; Tel: 04 3668888; Timing - Sundays to Saturdays 8am - 10pm]
Ahh… overlooking the Burj-Al-Arab and the meandering canals that flow around the Souk Madinat, this is a total bliss, specially post-afternoon or during sunset when the warm sun-rays stream in through branches of the palm trees and the wooden parapets of the terraces running along the canals. A wonderful aromatic wait while you wait for your Abra or the boat.
You may fancy the Triple Chocolate Brownie or the Chocolate Tiffin (Dhs 11/-) or the refreshing Iced Coffees – Iced Cappuccinos, Iced Lattes, Iced Café Mochas and Iced Americano Espressos created using Costa’s famous Mocha Italia blend (Dhs 16/- Dhs 20/- for M and Dhs 18/- Dhs 22/- for L sizes)
Costa Coffee at Dubai International Airport
Yes, we are obsessed. We may love our cup of coffee but Starbucks satisfy our coffee thirst as much as Costa does. The only difference is that we have always managed to find a Costa which has provided us a warm, luxurious black leather sofa which houses my prancing family. They may pride themselves on their Italian roots regarding their coffees but their sofas boasts neither the pride nor the snootiness of Italian leather. They warmly dig below as we pounce on them for more comfort. So the last cup of coffee before we board our flights as we leave Dubai, whether on a short or an ubér-long break is at Costa Coffee at the Dubai International Airport! We are dead serious. And if you don’t believe us here’s the Chicken Noodle Salad (Dhs 24/-) that Big Z hankers for every-time we switch ourselves off into non-sweet mode!
Finding a place or a pad to hang around where you don’t have to look like the way you want to look on Facebook profile is difficult to get. Specially in a city like Dubai where houses don’t exactly have door-steps to hang around with your bum chums as you see them off. Our opinions have arisen from the experiences that we have add. And it’s nice to unwind once in a while in a place where time slows down a bit. And that’s why this post about a lounging pad where the cup of Espresso or the Cappuccino or the Macchiato is not the protagonist but the black leather sofa is. For chilling us down before we start keeping pace with the hectic on-coming week.
There’s another place in Dubai where we feel the same and that is in the meandering art alleys of Bastakiya – the Basta Art Café. Slowly our house would fill up with various guests as the winter sets in and I’ll be off driving them around traversing the heart of the city ‘Like a tourist in my own city’!
Until then let me enjoy my own home and my own space for a while, getting re-connected to you all. Requesting you all to enjoy the photographs but not use them.
Unblogging it all… Ishita
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