Thursday, 11 December 2014

Coffee or Kaapi

Hot & frothy filter Kaapi

Coffee in India: Here in Delhi coffee is taken only on a few occasions in home & usual breakfast drink is tea with milk & sugar. In various functions it is Espresso which is popular. Not so in South. During our recent road journey of Karnataka, Tamilnadu & Kerala coffee was an invariable part of breakfast or even dinner. During the day also instead of tea break it was a Kaapi break. And we liked it too. That led to a little bit of search about coffee with interesting results:

Coffee was known to Ethopians & Yemenis in 13th century. In India coffee plants entered in 1670 in mystical manner. A Sufi saint Baba Budan brought seven coffee beans hidden in his waist band from Yemen while coming back from pilgrimage via port of Mocha. At that time it was not legal to do so as Arabs prohibited the seeds to be taken out elsewhere. He planted these seeds in his hermitage in Chandra Giri, Chikmaglur, Karnataka. For some time the plants remained an item of curiosity & in backyards of homes. Commercial planting came after 1700. British presence also boosted the demand. Chandra Giri has since been named as Baba Budan Giri.

Coffee is derived from baked seeds of a shrub genus coffea. It is slightly acidic & has a stimulating effect due to caffeine. Most of the Indian coffee is grown in hilly areas of southern states though attempt is being made to grow it in North Eastern states also. Both varieties of coffee Arabica & Robusta are grown here. About 80% of Indian production is exported mainly to Europe.

Indian Coffee House: Coffee was made popular in India by Coffee Houses. First Coffee House came up in Mumbai in 1936. There were 50 Coffee Houses in India prior to independence. In 1950 Coffee Board decided to close down all of them which was resisted by the workers led by CPI leader A K Gopalan. Workers formed Indian Coffee Workers Co-operatives to which all outlets were handed over. These were renamed as Indian Coffee Houses. New Delhi unit was opened in Dec 1957 and is still in business.

Filter Coffee: This style of 'drip brew' is a popular coffee drink in southern states of India. The process involves medium roasting of seeds of Arabica, Robusta or Peaberry coffee beans & then grinding them into fine powder. Boiling water is poured on this powder resulting in a dark brown concoction. To this dark liquid is added boiling & frothy milk. Add sugar as per taste & the drink is ready to be sipped in tumbler or dabarah.

Coffee Quotes: There are hundreds of them of which these two are interesting:

'I have measured out my life in coffee spoons' - T S Eliot.
'As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move...similies arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally & writing ceases to be a struggle.'' - Honore de Balzac.                        

It requires a bit of practice to sip hot coffee from traditional tumbler or dabarah 

Filter coffee at Indian Coffee House, Mohan Singh Place, New Delhi. It is a good hangout or Adda for artists, writers, white collar workers, politicians etc 
They say that on a railway station if you hear a vendor calling Chai-Chai-yaa you are in north India & in case the vendor is calling Kaapi-Kaapi-yaa you have reached south India 

On highway to Madurai. Come let's have coffee!

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