The Statista site states that India is the sixth largest producer of coffee in the world, after Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Honduras. India produced about 4,00,000 tonnes of coffee in 2022-23.
Dr. K.T. Achaya, in his book, Indian Food, writes that coffee reached India from the Middle East in the 14th-15th century, named ‘cohha’, which later became coffee. Blogs tell us that the colonial British commercialised Indian coffee from Mysore to Europe.
I had written in my earlier article dated December 8, 2019 that coffee is a health drink. Meta-analysis suggests that coffee contains several vitamins and antioxidants. It is, thus, a health drink that protects our stomach cells from oxidative damage, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and several age-related diseases. But one should not overdo it: no more than five cups of coffee a day.
The South Indian coffee is an admixture of coffee and chicory powders. It is this addition of chicory that makes South India coffee special.
What is chicory? It is an herb native to Europe and Asia. Its root contains inulin, a starchy substance, which is good for health, and is found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, including wheat, onions, bananas, leeks, artichokes, and asparagus.
Chicory root has a mild laxative effect and decreases swelling.
Chicory is also a rich source of beta-carotene, which protects cells from oxidative damage, better than coffee. Also, chicory does not contain caffeine which induces restlessness and insomnia, which coffee does. This is why it is a good practice for the South Indian coffee to have an admixture of coffee and chicory powders: the ratio being 70:30, or as per personal taste.
Where are all the coffee plantations across India? The plantations are mostly in the hilly regions of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as in the hilly regions of Andhra Pradesh (Araku Valley), Odisha, and in the hills of Manipur, Mizoram, and the other ‘seven sisters’ of Northeast India. Chicory is grown mainly in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Interestingly, most people in these two States drink tea and not coffee. Happily enough, tea also has less caffeine per cup.
Coffee with milk
In many parts of the world, people drink plain coffee, with no milk in it. The Italians have a variety of coffee brewing styles. The espresso, where high-temperature water is forced through ground coffee beans at a pressure of 10 bars, is one popular example. South Indian filter coffee is usually served with hot milk added to it. Indeed, adding milk to coffee enhances the taste and flavour.
In fact, a paper from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in the January 2023 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry points out that coffee with milk may have an anti-inflammatory effect. The combination of proteins and antioxidants in milk helps in the action of immunity-producing cells.
The researchers have initiated a large-scale human trial aimed at studying the health effects of milk-added coffee. Many Indian coffee lovers will be happy to be enrolled in this trial.