Coffee might not be native to India, but if there’s any region of the country that can claim to have made coffee its own, it is the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and in particular, its capital city of Chennai. The city’s most popular brew is the filter or “degree” coffee, which has been consumed here for centuries. However, apart from traditional brews, in recent years the city has also seen a burgeoning of several new and amazing coffee shops and cafés specializing in both newer and vintage brews. Here are the best places to go to in Chennai for the best coffee in town.
House #22 Cafe
Cafe, Contemporary, European, $$$
This quaint and new café in St. Thomas Mount is just as well known for its coffee as it is for its amazing ambiance and colonial-era charm. While the café menu isn’t exactly dominated by coffee, it still has a number of great brews that come highly recommended by locals. Some of the best brews to try at this café are the hazelnut coffee/cappuccino and the Alexander espresso.
The beauty of Cafe Mercara Express isn’t that it has a wide range of brews, but that the ones it does have on its menu are made to near perfection. Located inside the ITC Grand Chola Hotel, one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the country, coffee-drinking experience at this café is further accentuated by the vintage décor that takes you back to the times of colonial indulgence. Among the best brews here are freshly brewed south India, decaf, and espresso.
The Brew Room in Mylapore’s Savera Hotel is Chennai’s first coffee microbrewery that specializes in international coffee brews. Ranging from Italian ristrettos and Spanish cortados to the finest Turkish brews, this café has dozens of exotic brews from across the world and is a must-visit for any coffee connoisseur.
This hole-in-the-wall coffee shop has several stalls around the city and serves only one type of coffee—the Chennai special filter coffee. However, what it lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in quality and taste. Known for its authentic flavor, the filter coffee at this stall is served piping hot in a traditional steel tumbler-davara (a combo of stainless steel cup and tumbler glass), which is a custom unique to South India.
Located in the heart of Chennai in Nungambakkam‘s Khader Nawaz Khan Road, this outlet of Cafe Coffee Day, India’s largest coffee shop/café chain, boasts of a unique menu and is far superior to normal CCD outlets. The Square specializes in international coffee brews and single-origin coffees and is also known for its relaxed and spacious seating arrangements.
There are very few lists concerning cafés in Chennai that do not include the Amethyst. Only recently listed as one of India’s 40 best cafés by Conde Nast Traveler, the Wild Garden Cafe boasts of an extensive coffee menu that includes both traditional and modern brews, such as the affogato, piccolo cappuccino, and even the filter coffee. What makes its brews even better is the café’s amazing ambiance, with tables spread out in a manicured garden.
Mathsya Hotel is the granddaddy of all Udipi hotels in Chennai and can largely be credited with popularizing restaurant-served filter coffee in the city. True to Udipi cuisine, the filter coffee served here is the authentic Mysore variant and boasts of a unique flavor that has been popular for several generations of Chennaiites. And let’s not forget the fact that a piping hot serving of coffee costs just under Rs. 40 bucks!