I like Barista. I just hate their coffee. It's bitter, yes even the cafe au lait (which has 1/2 tsp more of the white stuff than the non-lait), and even after demanding and dunking more sachets (lots more!) of that other white stuff.
So coffee bars are an American concept and they like it black, with no sugar if you please. Why torture brown skinned natives who didn't elect George Bush and live 3000 miles from Graceland?
Still, people are flocking to Barista and I'll tell you why. Because the coffee is just incidental. It's the place to meet. "See you outside Asiatic at 7?" That kind of thing is history.
The younger lot - students - seem to prefer Cafe Coffee Day, popularly known as CCD. Even though Barista has slashed prices. It's still perceived as being more expensive.
In Bombay, Barista has better locations (right next to Sterling and Regal cinema), for example. And although CCD has some neat outlets (like Carter Rd), many are really cramped and dinky ones.
There is of course Mocha which I am happy to see expanding its reach. There's a really cool outlet opened in Ahmedabad, a stone's throw from IIM.
It's actually one of the most interesting of all Mochas as it's housed in a bungalow - which means lots more space to loll around! And there's a tree growing inside the place which adds a lot of character.
Of course, Mocha cannot expand as rapidly as a CCD which has just opened its 200th outlet because mass-replication would kill the whole concept.
For one, they serve edible food - unlike the cardboard with sugar sprinkled on top taht passes off for a doughnut at Barista.
And, each Mocha outlet is replicated in spirit - but not down to every last doorknob, as is the case with CCD/ Barista. I even like the fact that every chair in the joint isn't alike :)
There are other coffee shop chains - Qwikys, Java City and so on. I don't know enough about them to comment - they're more regional in nature. Given that anything which isn't making an impact in Mumbai can't really be national :)
On the other hand, there is a feeble attempt by the Tea Board to popularise tea bars. The only really popular one we had - th Cha Bar at Oxford Bokstore - was unceremoniously shut down by the BMC some time ago.
Coffee, however bad the brew may taste, has a cooler ring to it.
No thanks to 8 years of endorsement by Rachel & co in Friends.
Now, if they could just concentrate on getting the stuff they serve there to taste better!