Indian Coffee House – the McDonald’s of Kerala

Kerala is predominantly a tea drinking state. Munnar, one of the most popular tourist destinations within the state has quite a few tea plantations which adds to its allure. Yet, one brand which stands out in the state is Indian Coffee House, with a heavy amount of brand loyalty among most. It is run as a cooperative model.

  1. McDonald’s of Kerala: McDonald’s in Kerala is limited to just 4 major cities. Indian coffee House is present with about 51 branches in almost all districts.
  2. Workers’ costume : Dressed in a style reminiscent of the Air India mascot, the workers sport turbans and all white (unlike the mascot)gal2
  3. It is more than just coffee : Even tea, and breakfast and lunch .. oh yes and dinner but with a set menu (remember McDonald’s standardization). Their biriyanis are extremely popular and so are the local delicacies which are served as snacks for tea (pazhampuri, cutlet ) – all subject to availability. The crowd at the restaurant especially during lunchtime serves as a testament to the quality. However, be warned during peak hours there is a possibility of people queuing behind your seat/ table.
  4. AKG photo: A.K. Gopalan, a communist leader from Kerala and a member of the Indian Parliament for nearly two decades played an important role in its founding. The laid off employees of the coffee houses of the Coffee Board were organized into a cooperative which currently forms the largest restaurant chain in Kerala – The Indian Coffee House. Hence, every ICH outlet has a photo of the founding member near the billing counter.
  5.  “Unique” Masala Dosa : A typical masala Dosa has a yellow masala – the yellow due to the turmeric added. Though, in ICH the masala is red, reminding strongly of the Communist colours. The red due to the presence of beetroot. Rest assured the taste is similar to the usual masala dosa

(Picture Source – The internet)

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Dances of Kerala

Kerala is home to many arts – classical and folk, each with its distinctive flavor. Each dance immerses the viewer in a unique experience.

A trip to Kerala cannot be officially complete without watching a Kathakali performance. Kathakali was traditionally the bastion of only men, who donned female costumes as well. With colourful face makeup, elaborate costumes and headgear, kathakali artists intrigue and enthrall the viewer. The sounds of the drums and cymbals along with the accompanying vocals and the dancer himself makes time stand still and transport the viewer into the actual scene from the mythology/epic from where the story is told. It adds to the mysticism around kathakali.

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The swaying of coconut trees with the gentle breeze influenced the movements of another classical art form in “the land of coconuts” – the graceful Mohiniyattam. The only Indian classical dance form performed exclusively by ladies. Literally meaning dance of the enchantress, the seductive glances, the swaying movements of the torso, the expressiveness of the face adds to the allure and grace of the dance, enchanting the audience in the process and living up to its name. Temples in Kerala host kathakali and mohiniyattam performances, usually after twilight, for the benefit of devotees.

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Theyyam is part ritual and part spiritual dance from Northern Kerala. Performed predominantly by people hailing from the lower caste, once in Theyyam attire, the artist transforms himself and is considered equivalent to God by the locals. Sounds of chenda (drum)  in the background, the clanging of theyyam’s anklets, the headgear and face makeup add to the ethereal feel. Theyyam is usually performed in temples and ancestral homes(tharavadus) in north Malabar. If you are a culture buff like me, be prepared to lose yourself in these dances of Kerala – where journeys end and stories begin.

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Vishu Trivia

Vishu is a traditional festival celebrated in Kerala, India every year mid April. And it is a festival dear to my heart not only because it symbolizes the new year for us, and hence new clothes, my birthday follows a couple of days later, which means prolonged festivities.

The highlight of Vishu is The Vishu Kanni, an assortment of items which promise a good and fruitful year- and yes literally a “fruit”ful year – What you see is what you get. It also falls during the jackfruit season and the start of the mango season. An example given below :

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The flowers associated with this festival is the Konnapoo from the tree cassia fistula. It always flowers during Spring around the time of this festival.

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It is the national flower of Kerala and Thailand. Moreover, the tree, called the golden shower tree (we can see why) is the national tree of Thailand. Its yellow flowers symbolize the Thai royalty.
In Ayurveda, the tree is called Aragvadha, meaning disease killer.
As part of Malayali folklore, the flowers please Lord Krishna, and hence is offered during Vishu Kanni.
The flower has also found its way on stamps across countries (20 Rs. stamp in India, 48p in Canada)