After three and a half months of mediocre instant coffee I leapt at the thought of sipping a proper cappucino when my boyfriend suggested I take a break from this weeks slog of freelance projects, and head down the street to the Open Hand Cafe near Varanasi's Assi Ghat. Having seen the name crop up a number of times around India in ye old Lonely Planet, I'm delighted I finally made a visit to one.
Open Hand's concept is that of a boutique coffee house where you can peruse the shelves for fairtrade, artisanal handicrafts whilst waiting for your mocha and banana nut muffin. In a country where bartering a fair price for goods that are often of debatable quality, Open Hand is essentially a tourist haven. Thoughtfully furnished and decorated with an array of beautiful hand spun silk shawls, cushion covers and bedspreads, its cosy 'contemporary ethnic' feel makes a welcome retreat from the crazy, traffic clogged streets of Varanasi...
Catered toward expats and foreign tourists, the business's socially conscious approach focuses on profitability, empowerment of people, and environmental sustainability. Aiming to 'empower underprivileged people in India by operating ethically, providing fair wages and training, and contributing to social causes' its hospitable and non pushy staff are an obvious reflection of its success. You could spend a whole afternoon sipping latte's and browsing the web on the free, hi speed wi-fi, breaking here and there to make just one more purchase from the endless selection of jewellery, artwork, screen printed greetings cards, embroidered towels, bed spreads, hand painted home decorations...the list goes on!