By S V L Narayan
Every morning I drink one large mug of coffee. I make it exactly as I like it – extra strong and I savour it over the six daily newspapers I read. Page-to-page.
I was brought up watching my grandfather filtering coffee using a muslin cloth. He had one old black cast iron coffee grinder which was used every day to grind freshly roasted coffee seeds. At my parents’ home in Delhi we used a conventional stainless steel coffee filter. The coffee powder would be from Madras Stores, the saviour of all south Indians in the north. We then graduated to a coffee pot filter with spout launched by Coffee Board. However in Assam we faced a major problem as the only coffee powder available was tinned Polson’s French Coffee.
Much later, at Mysore I was told that the ideal coffee powder should be a blend of Peaberry and Plantation A. This to me was all Greek till I worked on a brochure for Coffee Board where I learnt all about Bababudan, Arabica and Robusta, stem borer, advantages of high range coffee, and Coorg coffee versus Chikmagalur coffee. One thing I definitely know, though it may sound blasphemous to some. I hate chicory in my coffee.
Thanks to my long stint in the IT industry which entailed international travel , my discovery of coffee strains encompassed the world. Though Brazil was the largest producer, the coffee aficionado swore by Colombian coffee. In fact, to me it came closest to Indian taste buds. I then explored coffee from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Though the taste was uniformly good I couldn’t feel the ‘body’. A colleague suggested Kenyan coffee. Yes, it had a certain life but no patch on the strong Ethiopian one.
By now I had almost become a coffee fanatic. I read up everything one needed to know about coffee. From Starbucks I bought an electric coffee seed grinder. At Harrods in London I managed to get a hand grinder. I acquired an electric coffee maker, an espresso machine, a French Press and even a traditional Italian coffee percolator. By now my coffee seed stock included Sulawesi, a pretty strong one. My relatives and friends thought I was one of those mad scientists one reads about. They humoured me by bringing me gifts of coffee powder from various places. I had a Breakfast Blend, an Evening Blend and a Continental Blend. Dark Roast. Medium Roast. My wife complained that the whole house smelt of coffee (and she, poor misguided soul, is a tea drinker!)
There are times my reputation is a strain on me as friends drop in unannounced and expect me to serve them some exotic brew. But, whenever I want to get away from it all I walk across to Adiga’s where a coffee is a coffee!
(S V L Narayan lives in Bangalore and you can find his earlier blogs here )