Filter Coffee and Butter Toast!

buttered toast and a cup of piping hot filter coffee is all that I require to kick start my day. Having grown up in a typical Tambrahm home, I am habituated to this cuppa coffee every morning. The frothy mixture of hot milk, coffee decoction, and sugar, may seem pretty simple to make. But trust me, when you actually get down to making it, you realize there’s much more to it.

We South Indians do fuss about our filter coffee, and could go to great lengths to ensure that the first cup of coffee in the morning is near perfection. Traditionally served in what is known as a “Davara and Tumbler”, filter coffee could be considered as one of the best stimulants to get you going. I must have started having filter coffee during my teens, when I migrated from drinking Bournvita to “Kaapi” (the phonetic rendering down south). There were many Kaapi lovers in my family, who were extremely particular about the way it had to be. 

An interesting fact is that the first coffees were brought into Karnataka and Kerala by Baba Budan, a Sufi Saint from Yemen. He brought with him exactly seven beans and planted them around, as no one would buy them from him. The fertile region produced an aromatic yield and, there was no looking back after that, as the simple yield grew into a tradition.

My octogenarian grand mom would prepare her own cup every morning. Boiling the milk at low flame, stirring it slowly, she would wait till the thick froth would rise up. She would add that first thick decoction to the milk and just the right amount of sugar. Settling down with the piping hot coffee, she would pour it into the accompanying davara, shake it up a bit, lift the tumbler a bit high and pour it straight into her mouth, down her throat. It’s a typical Bramanical practice, and you would find many from the previous generation having their coffee in this fashion, without the rim of the tumbler touching the lip. It’s the notion of purity where the saliva is considered to ritually pollute.

I never bothered to get into the nuances of brewing filter coffee the right way. For years after I moved out of home, I found it easier to pick up the bottle of instant coffee and be done with it. It was far quicker, instead of the traditional filter, which would brew the coffee drip by drip, generally overnight.

A couple of months back, I discovered a lovely little coffee filter gifted by mom when I got married, lying ignored in an old trunk. Out it came and the drip brewing began. There is no looking back now. A well-made filter coffee is yet again a part of my early mornings.

In recent times, filter coffee seems to have become a sort of new cool. With the likes of coffee lounges, Starbucks, and other coffee chains, having crept into our lives, their menus feature the filter coffee too. I recently took my mom to a Starbucks in Chennai, and her excitement knew no bounds when she spotted filter coffee on the menu. As she slowly, moved her fingers to the cost mentioned, her expression changed to a more shocked reaction. “Why would anyone pay five times more for a filter coffee, than what it is available for at Madras Coffee House?” It was after considerable coaxing that mom finally agreed to settle down and enjoy the coffee at Starbucks, only to be critical about the way it had been brewed. Surely, it wasn’t authentic filter coffee as per her. I wasn’t sure if it was the cost or the brewing, but the dissatisfaction strewn on her face was evident.

I realized one thing that day. There’s good coffee and there’s filter coffee. Where one stimulates your mood and energy levels, the other elevates you to an altogether greater high.

*Featured Image: Flickr

20 comments

  1. I am not a coffee drinker, but I do know I’m never happy with my tea anywhere else other than home. Its simply not brewed the right way nor does it taste right. Having said that, I’m regular at these cafes purely because they are great places to hang out with friends. So, there you go…:D

  2. I love both tea and coffee where I am very finicky about both, the way it is steered, brands that I use and the taste swirling in the tongue. Your mom seems to be a tea expert and good thing no one can fool them when it comes to a goo cup,. I just had toast butter with hot tea, after such a longish time.

  3. My favourite combination too. Though I must admit I havenot mastered the South Indian Filter coffee. Alas I resort to Nescafe ( please don’t judge) especially since my electric coffee machine conked out several years ago and my husband was advised to give up coffee. But I could smell the coffee in your post and also taste the butter on your toast!

  4. The Telugu husband is a Filter Coffee Snob. He likes his filter coffee just so, and taught me make it when we got married. So I know what you mean:)
    It is always Tea for me please!:)
    Loved reading this, Ramya:)

  5. I have the same ritual with my first cup of tea. Nobody makes it like I do 🙂 I love the taste of strong vanilla coffee and have it at least once a day. Your mother was right to object to the cost of the coffee, mother knows best 🙂 A lovely read.

  6. I am a tea drinker at home and I like to have it perfect to my taste buds. Ever since I moved to Bangalore 3 years ago, I have begun to like filter coffee so much that I would prefer a filter coffee over the mochas and cappuccinos, when I am out of home. I tried preparing it at home but couldn’t succeed to bring it to my taste.

  7. Kaapi, kanna, it is kaapi and not cuppa coffee…if you want to be westernized then you can have caaffy the panacea of all illness.At the moment I am sipping my post lunch one..”.Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat. “~Author Unknown

  8. I am a pucca North Indian brought up in Mumbai but for some reason, we always drank coffee in the mornings in my family. It was instant coffee though. Since I came to live in Bangalore, I have truly warmed up to filter coffee. Now, I have to have my coffee freshly brewed every morning, served in my favourite coffee mug. It has to be just right so I know exactly what you mean. 🙂 Loved this treat.

  9. Aha! Just coming to your aromatic post straight from Lata Sunil’s post on mouth-watering vada pav! Right now, it is not the time for either kaapi or vada pav but I want them both, desperately. You hit the right emotions on the TamBrams coffee affliction bordering on obsession. Of late I am using the electric Preethi coffee maker called DripCafe and it is as good or better than our regular filter. Yes, I am in need of one cuppa right now 🙂

  10. I am a tea addict but 2 years ago when I went to Kuwait for 40 days, I had no option but to have coffee because the masala tea the way I like it was not available. And I fell in love with coffee. So I am a new coffee lover and more into cappuccino and coffee latte. I have had filter coffee at cafes/restaurants during the various South India visits but I would love to taste that …” and there’s filter coffee.” 🙂

  11. I sometimes feel the stock dropped me up north by mistake! I FEEL what you have written! I believe I may be a true-southern soul 🙂 I love filter coffee, sarees and flowers in my hair – and the traditions that are still alive in the south. I always, always pick up coffee during my trips to south India – even the market brands are tastier and more aromatic than instant! I love the coffee houses where you can get your own coffee mix made 🙂 I have both an electric and the old style steel jug filter … somewhere in the rush of life, i have stopped using them, and resorted to instant – but Bru Instant which is still closer to the filter coffee 🙂
    PS: Lovely post 🙂

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