Being an unabashed ‘Madarasi,’ I make no bones about my addiction to coffee. Without a stimulating cuppa in the morning, I will remain listless and lethargic.
When I went to the United States to be with my son, knowing my love for coffee he thought it fit to induct me into savouring the pleasures of an assortment of coffees available in that country. He brought home Venezuelan Gourmet coffee, Colombian Supreme, French Vanilla, Javamania and so on.
With great expectations I began trying them one by one in that order. It was very light and had a peculiar flavour, which I can characterise, at best, as distasteful and at worst, as obnoxious. If this be the fate of ‘gourmet coffee’ I wondered how the others would be. However, without losing heart I tried the other varieties, only to find that each gave an odd smell. I wondered why they virtually kill the true coffee aroma by polluting it with other flavours. Moreover, most of them are very light. Good coffee should be thick and strong.
There was also ‘decaffienated’ coffee, which, I felt, was “castrated” coffee. The ‘iced coffee’ is not to be mistaken for the nice cold coffee we get in India. The former is nothing but black coffee with a lot of ice in it, tasting stingingly bitter. Once when I ventured to try it, I could not stand the bitterness and had to throw it out.
A friend of our family who was in America for over 30 years suggested I try Colombian coffee with “Turkish grind.” This was certainly much better and more satisfying.
I came to know that there are other types of grind, like coarse, fine, espresso and so on, which one can do in the “mills” set up in departmental stores. I gather that with these types of grind, the decoction percolates speedily, instead of coming in measured drips, thus diluting the brew. However, for one who cannot take all this bother, the “instant coffee” called “Taster’s Choice” gave a good brew, with a good amount of aroma and strength.
Learning about my endless search for a perfect cup of coffee, my brother suggested Ethiopian coffee. My first reaction was one of total disbelief: Ethiopia conjures up in my mind the spectre of poverty and skeletal children. How could this country produce good coffee?
But lo — it was a pleasant surprise when the coffee turned out to be really good. I learnt that this country produces very high quality coffee which commands a premium in world markets. (One only hopes the farmers who produce it get at least a part of that amount).
Incidentally, Starbucks, which has promoted the commercial coffee culture in America, seemed to have been oblivious to Ethiopian coffee until recently. It was only in September 2013 that Starbucks introduced this variety in its outlets. “Starbucks honours the birthplace of coffee with Ethiopia, a single-origin coffee unlike anything in Starbucks’ 42-year history. Ethiopia is masterfully roasted for an exquisite taste experience,” proclaims the company.
Coffee, too, is going green with “organic” coffee being available both in India and abroad, though it is pricey.
Having explored several varieties, I must confess my partiality for filter coffee with the standard mix of 50 per cent Peaberry and 50 per cent Plantation, well roasted and ground the Indian way. The Peaberry gives the aroma while Plantation imparts thickness to the decoction. No percolator or espresso machine, in my view, can ever compete with the good old filter to produce the connoisseur’s coffee.
It was a great delight, on my return, to have the typical south Indian coffee, in the ‘davara and tumbler’ “which I sipped and sipped with little thought. What wealth the taste to me had brought” (with due apologies to the great poet).