Pak Tea House, Lahore, Pakistan (c.1960s). The brave and famous Pakistani historian Khursheed Kamal Aziz (K. K. Aziz), the author of Murder of History in Pakistan, wrote in his lesser known but notable memoir The Coffee House of Lahore— “…it is no exaggeration in the claim that the Lahore Coffee House was in its day a unique centre of intellectual interaction and activity which produced or influenced a long and distinguished line of writers, poets, artists, lawyers, political activities, journalists and widely read generalist.”Khursheed Kamal Aziz, The Coffee House of Lahore: A Memoir 1942—57. In his memoir, K. K. Aziz narrates a portrait of the city through detailed description of the profile of the characters that visited the Coffee House of Lahore during his time in Lahore. The names include the versatile personalities of mid-twentieth century Pakistan — Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ustad Daman, Ahmad Faraz, Intizar Husain and so forth. K. K. Aziz, The Coffee House of Lahore, Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore (2008). Both Karachi and Lahore inherited a vibrant coffee shop culture that thrived in the early decades of post-partition, a legacy of the Indian Coffee House chains that had spread to every major city of British India. After 1947, in Karachi the India Coffee House changed its name to Zelin Coffee House and more than three branches of Zelin Coffee House existed and prominent personalities like Qurutulain Hyder, Omar Kureishi, Rasa Chugtai and M.H. Askari visited these coffee shops. The most notable location was opposite Metropole, at the Edward House on Club Road. In Lahore, K.K. Aziz shares the location of India Coffee House in Lahore, “first opened its doors at the site of the later Pak Tea House. Then it shifted to the Mall near Delhi House and Alfred Building and stayed till the end”. Edward House, Café Grand, Karachi, Pakistan (c.1928). The cafés and restaurant of this time in both cities nurtured a progressive and liberal culture for the city’s artists, literary icons and intellectuals. The role of these eateries and its importance in popular culture at the time is visible through K.K. Aziz’s words on the role of the Lahore Coffee House at this time in Pakistan— “…for over 30 years, the single most important and influential mental powerhouse which molded the lives and minds of a whole generation, and its legacy affected the careers of the succeeding generation”.Khursheed Kamal Aziz, The Coffee House of Lahore, (1942-1957). Coffee available in these shops was undeniably from hilly regions of Karnataka in Southern India – the region where half a century ago Bababudangiri’s legacy established the Indian subcontinent’s first coffee plantations. Coffee brewing method was largely Indian filter coffee style, a coffee drink made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the infusion obtained by percolation of finely ground coffee powder. If we look at the advertisements from this time of the coffee shops, we can see ground coffee and coffee filters were sold to public at the Zelin Coffee Houses in Karachi under possibly Pakistan first coffee brand ‘Zelin’s Coffee’. These coffee shops also offered free demonstration on grinding and brewing for public. Zelin’s Coffee, Pakistan’s first coffee brand. Many of the coffee houses in Karachi went through change in ownership and approach after partition. Moreover, some new ones also opened. Pioneer Coffee House, situated at Victoria Road, was founded by an Ismaili named Sharif Merchant. Pioneer was located at what later became the Sadder electronic market. Mr Merchant had started his career with the India Coffee Board in the late 30s as a coffee-taster. After partition, he was appointed the manager of the Karachi branch of the India Coffee House that was located on the first floor of a building at the corner of Victoria Road and Preedy Street and eventually became one of Zelin’s Coffee House branches. Pioneer Coffee House gained fame for its wide variety of delicious local ethnic dishes including Thali and Biryani. Like Pioneer, a number of other coffee houses opened during this time: Eastern Coffee House, Alpha Coffee House and Central Coffee House. Victoria Road, Karachi, Pakistan (c.1965). The history of these coffee houses maybe patchy but it is important to note the significance of a ‘coffee house’ culture at time that very well may have been unique and distinct from our current ‘café’ culture. This ‘coffee house’ culture was not the aristocratic culture of cafes or restaurants at hotels like the Bristol or Metropole in Karachi or Faletti’s in Lahore – these were places where coffee was served with local affordable ethnic food like Thali, Biryani, Katori or Daal. Coffee was an undeniable part of the popular urban culture in mid-twentieth century Pakistan and centrality in mainstream urban culture is visible in the memoirs of the K.K. Aziz. Unfortunately, much of that ‘coffee house’ culture gradually died with political and social change of the late 60s and early 70s. The 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars likely played a decisive role in cutting off coffee supplies from southern India and pushed away multi-cultural and progressive entrepreneurial urban communities. Authoritarian culture and Islamization eventually suppressed progressive culture celebrated by the patrons of coffee houses of Karachi and Lahore. All these elements brought a gradual decline in many of the popular cafes, hotels, eateries and entertainment in urban Pakistan. Edward House, Karachi, Pakistan, 2014. In the history of food and beverage culture in Pakistan, coffee may not have been destined to be as marginal and elitist. It is also clear our food culture was very much capable of integrating coffee with local cuisine. As we move on to speak about the present café and coffee drinking culture – it is important to move away from the view of our cultures as static and palates as stagnant. Much is changing in coffee today in Pakistan and may continue to do so. When did the current resurgence of café and modern coffee culture begin? What has been its influencers and drivers? Where is the coffee culture in Pakistan headed? Follow us and find out more about what is happening in coffee in Pakistan today in the third part of our series ‘Origins of Coffee in Pakistan’.