BANGALORE: Hatti Kaapi, a chain that serves coffee and south Indian 'tiffin', recently opened its sixth commercial branch in Jayanagar 4th Block, with high footfalls.
While the chain's managing director U S Mahendar, who hails from Hassan, claims that he did not intend to compete with any other eateries that serve coffee, it's hard not to notice that the newly opened branch is right opposite Maiyas, also popular for its coffee. In fact, the coffee counters of the two eateries face each other.
Nevertheless, Mahendar rubbishes the idea of posing a threat to Sadanand Maiya's five-year-old business. "He's a legend, and I have great respect for him," he says.
Another board member T S Lakshmana Swamy, the octogenarian whose brainchild Hatti Kaapi is and who had worked in MTR with Maiya for almost a couple of decades, adds, "The concept is completely different. Here, people who don't have the luxury of too much time can also get a quick bite and coffee."
But he swears by quality too, adding that black coffee without chicory can be made on demand for customers who are willing to wait 'for about six minutes while seeds are roasted and ground and the coffee brewed, all in front of their eyes'.
"People stand with their coffees and chat for long on the footpath there (Maiyas). This makes it look like it's always crowded," Mahendar adds.
Hatti Kaapi rates are more affordable, the service faster, and it also serves tiffin to the food-loving South Indian, he further says. The menu on the wall tells you that there's even a coffee-idli combo for `30. Tea and coffee sell at `10 each when compared to the `18 cups at the Maiyas coffee counter.
Across the road, general manger of Maiyas Raghupati Bhatt too tells us that the restaurant, or its coffee counter for that matter, does not view either the Costas and Coffee Days, that have mushroomed in the locality, or Hatti Kaapi and the older darshinis as rivals.
Of the second category, he says that people who prefer less expensive options go there. "Our customers are people who want quality. We have a quality testing lab here, where we test the coffee beans and even the milk on a daily basis," he says, adding that their operations are programmed so that one batch of the decoction lasts only about 15 minutes.
"We also know that new places are coming up. They're like sparks: they make us sit up and review our quality," he further adds. Though both eateries refuse to admit to any competition, V Ramesh, a builder, and his friend Kumar, part of the construction industry, who earlier used to frequent the Maiyas coffee counter say that they find the quality of coffee at Hatti Kaapi superior.
"The coffee there was great when they (Maiyas) started, but they haven't maintained the same quality. The Hatti Kaapi coffee is more flavourfull," Ramesh offers.
Some of their friends still go to Maiyas, the two say. Kumar adds, "Some of their food is great, and so is the coffee they serve in the dine-in. So when we want to eat, we always go there. But waiting in queue for a table seems too much for just a coffee."
However, Maiyas still has its set of loyal customers. Whenever housewife Lakshmi, a resident of Jayanagar 9th Block, comes shopping to 4th Block, she stops here for a coffee. "I've never tasted any coffee like it," she says.
Land developer Ravish, whose work keeps him travelling in the city, says he tries to get in as many cups as he can into his schedule. "Sometimes, a friend and I come and have five or six half-coffees," he shares.
A couple of techies who don't wish to be named and who look forward to their rare visits to Jayanagar for coffee say that the beverage in both places is great.
However, Amreen Fathima, a school teacher, says nothing beats home coffee for her. "It's always the best."