A tea lover’s account of ‘An Extreme Love Of Coffee’…

20 Nov,2019

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

I am writing the book review with a cup of hot steaming Sunrise Coffee. I can blame the book, ‘An Extreme Love Of Coffee’ for my change of brew.

I am a typical North Indian whose love of tea is known across family and friends. Yet, after landing at Nagpur and having finished the novel on the flight, involuntarily, I made myself a cup of coffee. Not the type Harish Bhat romances in his debut novel and the third book ‘An Extreme Love Of Coffee’. Think, it will do for this review.

I never relished coffee. I never acquired the love of its taste and aroma. May be I never had an authentic filter coffee. But, then, Harish being a batchmate from IIM Ahmedabad, I had to pick the book and read. I don’t regret it.

I wish I could have the aromatic magic beans of coffee perfectly roasted that gave Rahul (the protagonist in the book) and his girlfriend Neha, the experience. Harish Bhat must be knowing the secret to have penned a unique novel like ‘An Extreme Love Of Coffee’, unless he was having something more basic but not yet legal in India.

It is not a typical novel. There is an adventure, romance, threats, a ghost thrown in for good measure and series of puzzle that must be solved to get to the treasure; treasure hunt.

It did not promise to be the kind of book I would love. Yet, I finished it in two sittings.

Oh, the book is full of effusive praise of coffee, enough for you to start planning a coffee tour to Coimbatore, Bangalore, Mangalore and Coorg. I am still under the spell of coffee beans.

The varieties Harish introduces are enough for a tea drinker like me to get overwhelmed. Here is a suggestion: the Coffee Board of India could make ‘An Extreme Love Of Coffee’ standard accessory in rooms at the coffee plantations.

In a nutshell, Rahul and Neha’s love of coffee sends them into a chase. They are tracking the treasure of the coffee-loving-monk. They have clues which naturally had everything to do with coffee.

The sword-flashing Japanese Yamamoto brothers believe the treasure belongs to their family and they will do anything to get it. Do Rahul and Neha, while sharing their descriptive coffee experience, find the treasure? Do they get the promised treasure? Do they accept the treasure? Read this fast-paced, enough intriguing debut novel of Harish Bhat.

In sum, it is an exciting book. However, it leaves a few things unanswered. At a few places, the reader must try not to question what is happening. Trust the author to take the story forward. Reimpose the same trust in chapters where the pace is sluggish, and you are left wondering if you are in a course for coffee lovers.

At the very start, Rahul the young, ambitious copywriter at Minimum Maximum Mumbai (3M) advertising agency writes one of the best scripts sitting at a Starbucks. He is rewarded with an all-expenses-paid holiday for a month. At the coffee plantation, he tastes the magic coffee beans and has an experience that could best be described as a hallucination. In his words, a dream. He is at a coffee plantation in India, and the experience is in Tokyo. Based on his dream, he writes a brilliant script for soon to be launched spring mattress.

You never know, if Rahul was dreaming and hallucinating. Or was it a reality? It is one of the few exciting and engaging section of the book. Surprise, his girlfriend also has the same dream! And she too consumed magic bean coffee. Were dreams inserted in their mind? Suddenly the adventure kicks in.

There are too many coincidences and loose ends for my liking, but that’s the way I believe Harish Bhat wanted it to be. A blind rollercoaster ride for the reader.

Rahul and Neha keep getting lucky a the start, middle and at the end of every episode. They solve a somewhat tricky puzzle set many years back with surprising ease. Harish Bhat manages to keep you engaged at a voyeuristic distance for you to be part of puzzle-solving and travel with the characters.

I enjoyed reading his earlier books: Tata Log- stories from the modern history of Tata. And Curious Marketer, which spoke on why curiosity is vital for marketers and everyone else. In his debut novel “An Extreme Love for Coffee’Coffee’ published by Penguin Random House, curiosity plays a definitive role. In a way, the story re-emphasises curiosity, passion and enthusiasm as a necessary ingredient for devotion to a subject. I am not sure if that is the way he sees this trilogy.

Frankly, there is too much coffee in the book. I think it would have been a brilliant move if the book had the aroma of coffee or the magic coffee beans delivered with it or at least a section telling you where and how to get them. Something like the Elephant Poo coffee beans idea. (Read the book to know what it is).

I have no magic coffee beans in the hotel at Nagpur, so I moved to the Chaayos masala tea sachet that I carry with me. Tea is also a magic brew, with its variations, taste and aroma that once can be discovered all over the country. Unfortunately ( or maybe fortunately), it does not have a coffee lover like Harish Bhat.

 

Harish Bhat, keep drinking coffee, and maybe you will find time to share some of your experience for the 1987 IIM Ahmedabad Batch Gettogether at Hyderabad coming Jan.

 

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