Yesterday we returned from our recent travels in Northern India. Whereas many Asian cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, etc., have culturally enlightened us in the past, none of them have enamored us the way Delhi has. Unfortunately, our infatuation with India has nothing to do with the local coffee, but more on the general topic of coffee in India in a future post. For now, we’ll kick things off with a review of the Barista Crème in New Delhi’s Khan Market (aka the “Khan Market Crème”).

It’s been noted that the Khan Market is the “costliest retail location in the country” — and 24th globally. But to us, it honestly looked like a Sunnyvale strip mall in great disrepair. But as with a lot of India, its big rupee rents are invested in nicer interiors and the area’s inexpensive labor supply rather than exterior paint jobs. The Barista Crème here, like many other storefronts, affords a private security detail in front to keep out the riff raff. (Unfortunately that does not extend to the market’s “free” parking lot, where Westerners are frequently hassled by squatters angling for payouts.)

Khan Market - India's 'luxury' retail capital Fruit vendor in Khan Market - he must charge $23 a mango

Across the street of the Khan Market we have, uh, 'specialty' businesses The Khan Market Barista Crème and its security detail

Barista Coffee is an Indian chain of coffee shops recently acquired by Italy’s Lavazza. Specifically, Barista Crème represents their luxury brand — featuring single origin and estate coffees in a “premium lounge” format. And inside, the interiors are quite nice: a lot of dark wood, comfortable furnishings, and a TV and music lounge upstairs.

Using a two-group La Cimbali M22 Plus on two different floors (floors 1 & 2 of the building — i.e., floors 2 & 3 in U.S. terms), the pour has a (disappointingly) very thin layer of medium-to-light brown crema served in preheated Barista Coffee fine porcelain logo cups. It has an astringent smoky tobacco and deep herbal notes (as the French would call it: “tight”). So fancy, even 1-liter bottles of water are complimentary. All for a mere Rs. 65 ($1.65).

Read the review of Barista Crème – Khan Market.

Inside the Khan Market Barista Crème The Khan Market Barista Crème does make Starbucks look like a dump

The Khan Market Barista Crème's La Cimbali The Khan Market Barista Crème espresso

UPDATE: June 10, 2009
Lavazza has completed their “brand integration” with the Barista chain, as all Barista Espresso and Barista Crème outlets across India will be known as Barista Lavazza and Barista Crème Lavazza respectively: Barista completes brand integration with Lavazza.