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Since it remains a slightly unconventional choice still – considering the sheer number of people who prefer their coffees milky, sweet, creamy or infused with flavours of myriad variety – the iced black coffee is a rather unexplored refresher, embedded inconspicuously across several menus in the city.
As underestimated as it is, a tall glass of this bitter, pleasurable brain-freeze-inducing drink forms an unexpectedly delicious foil to most meals. Not only does it give you your unadulterated caffeine fix, the cold zing is a fresh wake-me-up to get you into energy mode, not to mention what a delicious way it is to cut down on your sugar intake – which, as we all know, has a host of benefits.
And then you could always psych yourself into having an extra bite of that delicious dessert, since you have been a more than adequate goody two-shoes in the beverage department.
Lesser known is the fact that this version of coffee can be brewed in two ways: one is the hot-brew, which sees the coffee brewed directly onto ice to retain its natural acidity and delicate flavour, and the other is the cold brew, which is much more prolonged but results in a ‘softer’ glassful, retaining the original flavours of the roasted beans better. Others, however, just brew coffee the usual way and douse it in ice – blasphemous for coffee fanatics, but for those who do not know better, still pretty darn tasty.
However they choose to do it, a few city eateries do manage to get their iced black coffees just right.
At the tiny, Aundh-based Smiley House, for instance, easily the best version of this beverage in the city is served replete with a nutty, bitter flavour like no other – the establishment clearly uses an exotic Vietnamese dark roast. Pair this (possibly) with a plate of the eatery’s crispy, fried spring rolls stuffed with fresh veggies and pork, and you have a winner on hand.
A short walk away in the same area, Skips Café – primarily a breakfast and lunch-on-the-go kind of place – does an enjoyably frothy version of the same, with the distinctively flavoured foam filling up at least a third of the tall glass. It is ideal with one of their breakfast platters, especially to nurse an evil hangover.
On the other hand, the Prabhat Road bistro, Le Plaisir Patisserie & Bistro, ices their Americanos with a vengeance, but this helps impart a mild, eminently drinkable flavour to the Chikmagalur-sourced beans, which are medium-roasted and blended by the establishment itself. A glass of these with their fresh-baked, butter-soaked garlic bread is a favourite with several regulars.
Over at The Flour Works in Kalyani Nagar, the medium roast Mysore nugget is brewed Americano-style and poured over ice, but proves to be quite a strong beverage – be ready for a distinct caffeine buzz with this one, or maybe even indulge just a little and opt for their Vietnamese-style version with a generous dose of condensed milk, which is deliciously sinful. And yes, a platter of their seared steak salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes and feta might just be a good foil to the coffee’s punch.
At Terttulia, the cool black is well iced as well, and fits in perfectly with the Mediterranean vibe of the establishment. It is also perfect with a platter of their soft-crispy waffles (doused in maple syrup, whipped cream and fruit compote) or perhaps a savoury variation of this with ham and emmental.
Over at Where Else Café in Viman Nagar, you need to specify that you do not want the sugar in your iced Americano – although admittedly, they do a well-balanced version of the sweet version. The resultant chiller is an opportune beverage for the relaxed ambience of this pet-friendly café, perhaps over a plate of lamb mince and cheese-topped fries.
The iced black at Pagdandi, meanwhile, makes a socio-political statement. Sourced strictly from an eco-friendly, organic source (Black Baza), the beans are cultivated with minimal impact on the environment; the café’s special blend is a darker roast, ensuring a strong flavour they say is better suited to the Indian palate. Curling up with a good book and brew was never better.
Elusive or not, this variation of the coffee sure has its takers, and hearteningly – with some seriously excellent options to choose from around town – may even find a place in more caffeine-appreciating hearts.