Backpacker’s Inn for Vegetarian Travelers – The New Indian Express

Express News Service

It is called Happiness Café and it is located in the center of the leafy Koramangala city in Bengaluru. The sunny ambiance of this two-month-old restaurant blends well with the scent of the fare. One guest digs into freshly baked Puddu cake – a creamy pudding made with cashews, coconut, dates, walnuts, almonds, and jaggery. At another table, a young couple devoured Greek pockets – toast topped with fresh mango jam with coconut iced coffee.

It could be any fancy new café in town, but there is a difference. Happiness Café is a vegan café housed in a vegan backpacker hostel, supposed to be India’s first (and perhaps only) vacation spot. The inn itself is three years old, and the addition of the café two months ago makes it clear that vegetarianism is a growing trend in Garden City.

Hostel founders Lakshman Badami, 30, and Vanessa Zwick, 26, believe their sweet encounter at a Bengaluru music festival in 2016 was karmic. Both are architects who share a love of travel. In 2018, they launched a small sustainability-based travel company before setting up the vegan hostel. During one of their trips, they heard some vegetarian foreign travelers complaining that there were no good homes that catered to their food choices. The result was the ridiculously named ‘Be Animal’. Isn’t that an odd name for a vegan establishment? “The name is meant to remind us all that we are part of the ecosystem and depend on the same things that sustain the life of every other animal on the planet such as sunlight, clean air, good food and clean water,” Zwick explains. The hostel can accommodate 30 guests.

For 550 rupees per night and small meals for 120 rupees, it is an affordable option for many backpackers. But how can you get a vegan hostel? “Even our coffee is from a brand called Climate Wave Coffee, whose founders visit coffee farms across the country to select beans produced using the most sustainable methods,” says Badami.

From separating organic waste and recycling wastewater to sourcing beloved and salvaged furniture, their responsibility to the ecosystem is evident in all of their work. The couple, who got married a year ago, say the cafe’s gourmet group has 10 vegan brands in Bengaluru sponsored by them. Sunday brunch at Be Animal is a vegetarian paradise with a great variety of food options. Guests dig their Puddu cake with dark chocolate and salted caramel – a specialty made with organic cashews, fresh coconut, rich cocoa powder, almonds, and pecans. A favorite of chocolate lovers. Their innovative drinks like Lemongrass Cooler (lemongrass and ginger with a dash of lemon juice) and Vietnamese black filter coffee are popular on Instagram. The latter is hand-roasted, hand-crafted coffee sourced from sustainable coffee beans from permaculture farms.

Every week there is a new menu. Guests arrive by noon. Soon, food arrives at their tables as the host couple detail ingredients, process, and technique. Each brunch is limited to 25 customers and priced at Rs 490. “We’ve hosted 55 brunches so far. There are about eight dishes. The brunch ends with guests introducing themselves and their attitude to vegetarianism and a great opportunity to meet new people and eat some great food,” explains Zwick.

It provides room customers with a better understanding of why people are becoming vegetarians. Lunch is also an opportunity for people to interact and make new friends. And like any other inn, it’s followed by guided meditation sessions, a flea market visit, Thai yoga, board game nights, and dumb charades. The couple expect that sustainable and affordable housing will be among the tourism industry’s biggest challenges in the next decade. What are their future plans? “Create a low-cost, high-unit building system for home construction,” they say.

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