How many coffee bars do you know of where you are invited to sit around, read books kept on the shelves, even sleep off if you want to and not be obliged to even order anything? Can’t think of any, other than Desert Rain in Leh town serving the best coffee in the whole of the Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas.
Set up by the Moravian Church in Leh, according to the café’s manager Gogi Singh, Desert Rain was designed as a place for students to hang out and read books – and order some coffee and snacks but only if they wished to. The idea was mooted by an American lady who also donated the coffee machine – serving coffee freshly brewed using Arabica beans. It was the only place in the whole of Ladakh where I managed to get coffee other than made by mixing instant Nescafe powder in water and milk. For the coffee lover, this was Nirvana.
The offerings are as creatively worded as they are tempting. You have a choice of Snow Cap Cappuccino, Lama-yuru tea, Shangri-La Apple tea, Lasi Shake and other hot and cold beverages. Eats include pancakes, eggs to order and sandwiches. All extremely reasonably priced: a double shot espresso comes for Rs. 30 (US$ 0.75) and a large mug of Americano for Rs. 35. By any standards, the fare was something you would want to order again and again. I did. (Check out the images of the menu at the end of this post)
Gogi told me to be free to come over anytime and spend time here as I liked, including reading books from their well stocked shelves. They even screen movies on Saturday evenings. If you want to bump into acquaintances, hang around here long enough and chances are you will like I did with a friend I had not met in 15 years. The relaxed atmosphere makes it conducive to even strike up conversations with strangers. Free wi-fi is expected soon.
You have comfortable sofas and chairs to relax on, and low rise platform covered with carpets if you want to spread your legs or even lie down. They have even installed heating units, and may be the only place you can get yourself a coffee when the harsh Ladakhi winters – going down to 30 degrees Celsius below zero – set in.
Desert Rain is located in a building owned by the church itself, the rest of it given on lease to generate resources for the church according to Inaobi Singh, another person who manages the café along with Gogi. Both of them come from Manipur; their last names suggest they are Hindus or Punjabis, but Inaobi said their respective families converted to Christianity about 9-10 years ago.
The café is located on the first floor in the main bazaar of Leh town. You may call 01982-256426 for directions. They are closed on Sundays though; after all, church runs the café.
Click on any of the images below to see them in bigger size.