Filter kapi in cool kiosks? That’s the USP of new-age entrepreneurs who’ve jumped on to the beverage bandwagon. Anusha Parthasarathy tracks down some success stories

After the recent outbreak of cappuccinos, expressos and lattes, Chennai’s beloved filter coffee is back with a bang in trendy, on-the-go kiosks. It is no longer confined to a few hotels or the halcyon memories of those who sat sipping them on thinnais, but comes in take away cups with Indian snacks to accompany.

Madras Coffee House was started two years ago when two friends wanted to drink coffee and didn’t know where to go. “Kumaravelan and I love filter coffee and found that it was too expensive in hotels. We don’t frequent tea shops and wanted something priced in between, offering good quality, hygienic coffee,” says Prasanna Venkatesh.

And so, Madras Coffee House opened its first kiosk at Chennai One IT Park in Perungudi, offering authentic filter coffee. “This was in June 2010,” says Prasanna, “and now we have eight stand-alone outlets and another eight in tie-up with a popular sweet shop.” The outlets are at Express Avenue, T. Nagar, Avadi with more coming up at Valluvar Kottam and Central Station.

Filter coffee on-the-go

Kaapi Cheenu in Alwarpet has a similar story. “When I was doing my MBA in Ahmedabad, I ran the student-run retail store there. After a while, I was fed up with tea and got my own percolator to make coffee. Soon, people began asking me for it and it became a huge hit on the campus. When I passed out I wanted to start something similar here. The kiosk model appealed to me because you usually never get filter coffee on-the-go,” says Manu Srinivas aka Cheenu.

Targeting colleges and corporates is Kaapi Kudil, a venture of Concepto Delicacies. K. Gurunathan, director, says “When you think of this city, the first thing that comes to your mind is filter coffee. But it’s a dying tradition and you don’t get to taste this coffee anywhere except in a few hotels. We’re trying to bring those homemade flavours and use no chicory in our coffee. We have three outlets so far and are targeting 20 by June next year. We’re also looking at a highway restaurant model in the future. ”

Idli Vilas on R.K. Salai had a tea and coffee kiosk even before it opened as a restaurant. “We just let the kiosks stay since they were doing well,” says R. Marimuthu, the manager. “People told us it was convenient since those just stopping by for coffee needn’t step in and wait for the order.”

Manu, on the other hand, has just one outlet and hopes to expand soon. Kaapi Cheenu’s kiosk, resembles an old Kumbakonam house with its thoon (pillar), thinnai (pyol) and tiled roof.

Idli Vilas’ kiosks open in the wee hours of the morning and serve till late at night. “We start getting customers from as early as 6.30 a.m. Joggers, walkers and others come for their morning dose,” says Marimuthu. “The coffee station closes at 11 p.m. We get about 600 customers a day at our kiosks.”

And it’s not just coffee on the menu. “We serve some tea, cookies, puffs and samosas as well,” says Prasanna. Cheenu’s kiosk offers four kinds of vadai, rosemilk and some beverages. “Our coffee is also customised,” says Manu.

Kaapi Kudil also offers panagarkandu pal, sukku coffee and vazhaipoo vadai,” says Gurunathan.