The taste of coffee is very personal and unique to each individual, it depends entirely on which family you were born to and what your tastes are like. In India coffee is synonymous with South India with most North Indians being inducted to coffee drinking only after spending a few years in cities like Bangalore or Chennai. It is said that the best way to disrupt the daily life of a South Indian family is to hide the coffee filter. South India prefers the chicory blend coffee which is part of the legacy that the French brought to this land below the Vindhyas.
I was born in a part of South India where the reach of coffee was not as strong and is populated mostly by tea drinkers who could say. ‘chetta oru chaya’ with flourish. But the anomaly here was my mother whose tastes were slightly more sophisticated than the rest. She is a coffee addict in a land of tea drinkers. The ritual of filter and chicory coffee is hence very familiar to me though we kids were given only milk which I despised for the entirety of my childhood. Occasionally my mother would add a tiny bit of coffee to the milk and make the white liquid palatable. Coffee like alcohol was for the adults only.
The problem with being the only coffee drinker in the midst of chaya drinking folks was that my mother’s favourite brew in the right proportions of decoction, milk and sugar was hard to come by especially when visiting relatives. Coffee excites interest as an exotic drink much like the story of the introduction of coffee to the Indian sub-continent. Coffee was sneaked into the country by a sufi saint Baba Budan in the form of seven seeds strapped to his chest on his return journey from Yemen to the hills of Chikmanglur.
Those seven seeds lead to India becoming one of the major exporters of coffee in Asia. Tata coffee is one of the exporters of coffee beans to Starbucks, hence if you order a tall cappuccino at Starbucks in the United States, chances are that you might be drinking coffee made from beans produced at Plantation Trails in Coorg. We had the opportunity wake up to freshly roasted coffee at one the Tata Coffee bungalows and we realized how a few beans from this plantation has the power of setting the tone of someone’s day from half way across the world.
Coffee is prepared in different ways all over the world. Cappuccino is one part coffee and two part milk, an expresso is black coffee and crema and an Affogato is coffee plus vanilla ice cream. Irish coffee I am told involves a dash of alcohol and coffee that you get high up on the Swizz Alps is black coffee with rum which I have had the opportunity to indulge in. Every different continent that we have visited, the one thing that I yearn for most is ‘my familiar cup of coffee’. Though each country has a unique preparation and taste, the cup I want to wake up with can only be found at home.
The most expensive coffee in the world is Kopi Luwak which comes from Indonesia. Luwak is a small cat like animal called a civet which is found in the forests of Indonesia. The civet eats the coffee berries and eventually poops out the coffee beans. The civet eats only the best coffee berries and the beans undergo some processing in the gut of the civet which makes it an expensive and elusive coffee. On our last trip to Bali we made sure that we brought home a small sample of this expensive coffee as a gift for my mother. Though she decided that the Indian chicory blend of coffee with two spoons of sugar and a dash of milk was the best concoction ever and I agree.
This is a performance by one of my favorite actors, performed at one of my new found favorite places in Mumbai- An Ode to The Death of Filter Coffee