The smell of freshly-brewed beans wafts in the air as I make my way to a store in Coorg. Even though I tilt towards tea when it comes to my choice of beverages, it is hard to ignore the rich scent of coffee. While there are dime a dozen coffee houses that have sprung up in the country, serving cappuccinos and espressos with a bloated price tag, fierce loyalists and coffee connoisseurs swear by the &lsquoreal&rsquo coffee culture that has South India in its grip.
It never ceases to amaze me how coffee, which originated in Ethiopia, found its grip in South India. According to popular belief, coffee beans made their way to India with a Sufi named Baba Budan, who snuck them into the subcontinent in the 16th Century. He planted these beans in Chikmagalur's Chandragiri hills when he came to settle there. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century that coffee filtered into everyday use among the masses when its cultivation was promoted during the colonial era, with the cherished drink finding its way with the European elite and eventually the common people.
Although coffee was a relatively expensive drink, by the 20th century, it came to dominate most southern states. Under the British, coffee plantations became ubiquitous, the first being in Chikmagalur. Indian Arabica coffee&mdashor Mysore coffee had become immensely popular during the time.
A Twist To Traditional Coffee
Indian filter coffee or kappi is a milk-based coffee here chicory, the roasted and ground root of a plant, was added supposedly for its medicinal properties. The addition of sweetness to counter its strong flavours led to an increase in coffee&rsquos popularity. Sugar and jaggery are the primary ingredients for making kappi sweet. Chicory, the roasted and ground root of a plant, is believed to have been incorporated in coffee for its medicinal properties.
Kappi A South Indian Tradition
In South India, high-quality coffee was called &ldquodegree coffee&rdquo pure milk was called degree milk and the coffee that was decocted for the first time before mixing with milk was called &ldquofirst degree coffee,&rdquo followed by &ldquosecond&rdquo and &ldquothird degree coffee&rdquo depending on the number of times it had been decocted. To make a good cuppa, Filter coffee is brewed using a filter tumbler that consists of two halves, resembling cylindrical cups - in one the fresh grounds are loaded and compressed, and the second half collects the fresh brew. A dabarah (tumbler set) is used to consume this delectable concoction.
With the onslaught of coffee houses peddling the latest varieties, making this traditional brew at home remains a penchant for coffee aficionados. Nonetheless, filter kaapi retains its age old cultural charm, with its influence bridging the geographical divide of north and south with the Indian Coffee House during the mid-20th century.