Till Cafe Coffee Day came along, espresso for many Indians was a milky, overly sweet something that passed off for coffee sprinkled with drinking chocolate and served at weddings. And spending quiet hours away from home, college or office -- alone, with friend or potential partner, romantic or otherwise -- pretty much impossible if you couldn't afford a restaurant, didn't want a roadside 'dhaba' or a corner in a park.
On Wednesday, as the body of VG Siddhartha, the founder of the Cafe Coffee Day empire, washed up on the banks of a river in Karnataka, it was a walk down nostalgia lane for many people for whom CCD cafes signified heated discussions, brewing romances and frothy friendship tales.
A lot can happen over coffee, read the tagline of the country's largest coffee chain. And so it did over the decades since the mid-1990s when Siddhartha opened CCD's first outlet in Bengaluru's upscale Brigade Road.
The chain of 1,750 cafes in more than 200 cities, including in Prague and Vienna, made coffee connoisseurs of many an urban India, teaching them that an espresso was really a shot of coffee, and helping add latte, Americano, cappuccino and frappe to their everyday lexicon.
Soon, people were arguing the merits of coffee brewed from Robusta or Arabica beans in cosy coffee parlours that allowed people to while away the hours without fuss or too much money.
For many, the cafes, represented mostly by Cafe Coffee Day but also by other brands like Barista and Costa Coffee, ushered in a lifestyle change, helping them move from the humble roadside chai.
"For me, the aroma of coffee means CCD. It was the place that gave me my first coffee experience. Also, this is the place where for three long years I spent every Christmas afternoon with my best friend," said Indrani Paul, a frequent visitor of the Indian home-grown coffee giant.
Ayanti Ghosh, 25, remembers it as a place where she celebrated her 18th birthday in Kolkata. A Cafe Coffee Day outlet represented something aspirational, she said, adding that she wanted to live close to a CCD when she was growing up.
Many social media users took to Twitter to recall the CCD connect to their lives.
"I met my wife at #CafeCoffeeDay. That is just one story. There are millions of such beautiful stories across the nation. I don't agree that #VGSiddhartha failed as an entrepreneur," said a Twitter user.
In a farewell letter purportedly sent to the board of directors and employees of his company Coffee Day Enterprises, Siddhartha wrote, "I have failed as an entrepreneur. This is my sincere submission, I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me."
Siddhartha, 59, who had gone missing on Monday night, also alleged harassment from lenders and tax authorities.
His many customers who grew up on coffee and conversations at his cafes mourned his death and disagreed that he had failed.
Some said it was the place they first thought of their 'big idea'.
"Truth to be told, while in college, we bunch of 4 nobodies wrote our first business plan on a Napkin at #CafeCoffeeDay for raising the first round of funding for @innoz #VGSiddhartha @CafeCoffeeDay #Entrepreneurship Thank you sir #RIPSiddhartha," posted Deepak Ravindran.
Twitter user, Ram Kamal, said Cafe Coffee Day is where they dreamt big. "Dreams with eyes open, high on caffeine. Thank you VS Siddhartha. @CafeCofeeDay," he said.
Another user said Cafe Coffee Day gave him the first experience of a cafe with so many first dates and so many evenings spent whiling away the hours.
"...in fact went on my first date with my wife to #CCD A terrific brand with so many memories You guys did great #RIPSiddhartha," wrote another user.
Indian cricketer Ashwin Ramachandran was among those who turned nostalgic as he turned the clock back recollecting his rendezvous with CCD.
"My first memories of going out with friends and having a cup of coffee happened only with the inception of cafe coffee day. Sad news #RIPSiddhartha #cafecofeeday," he tweeted.
Siddhartha's body was found by local fishermen and patrolling policemen on the banks of the Nethravathi river near Mangaluru on Wednesday, two days after he went missing.
A company source reportedly said CCD outlets across the country would remain closed on Wednesday in memory of Siddhartha. But it was business as usual in several outlets in the national capital's Connaught Place here.
The staff gave away the uncertainty, however. Employees at least three outlets said they received no instruction following the news of their founder's death on Wednesday morning.