I was quite early to the airport last week. Reached very early as if I was going to fly international. I end up proving my stupidity time and again. Anyways, so obviously, to kill time, I browsed, read blogs, until my laptop battery started dying. Then did I realize I have a tummy too and it was groaning all the while...rats running inside :-D
There was a Barista near the gate where I was sitting. Ordered an Italian club sandwich and cappuccino. Sipping this cappuccino, couldn't help reminiscing about the desy and authentic KAAPI, a Tamil sobriquet for Coffee.
Just a few words about Kaapi here - also called as 'Degree Kaapi' or 'Filter Kaapi'. Its indigenous to South India for the way it is prepared, has better nutritional value since the milk quantity is more. The coffee beans are arabica, robusta, peaberry and malabar.
Preparing coffee, each morning, was a religious ritual in itself; especially in a traditional Iyengar household. Along with the holy chants, the bells and the aroma of incense sticks and camphor, were the clunk-clunk of the traditional coffee filter and the aroma of fresh coffee. The secret art of preparing coffee was a gift handed over by mother to daughter, to daughter-in-law so that the legacy was preserved.
My summer vacations were spent in Chennai each year as a kid. The humidity, the heat, the sultriness....all these could be pardoned for the idea of savoring coffee each morning and each evening. During my grandma's time, coffee beans were roasted along with chicory in a secret ratio, and then grounded, so the coffee powder was home-made. The coffee story in my time was a bit modern. Coffee was no more grounded at home, but bought ready-made from an equally traditional and authentic makers of coffee powder.
My perimma would wake up as early as 4 AM. I have no idea when the concoction would be prepared. We kids woke up to the chants of subrabatam and the aroma of fresh coffee. The coffee filter, a heavy brass one, inherited from her grandma; was a family legacy. It had 2 compartments, the bottom one which would hold the dripping thick decoction, the upper compartment with tiny holes at the bottom. The upper compartment would be slid into the bottom one, 4 heaped spoons of coffee powder would go into the upper chamber, a stemmed disc would be pressed onto it to balance, and then some magical quantity of boiling water. Magical because I never ever get what is the right quantity of water to be added to get that perfect decoction. As the water delicately kiss the granules and merges with the coffee powder, subtle aroma of coffee would explode, the edge of the compartment would be given three to four gentle and abrupt staccatos taps, then the lid tightly secured.
The decoction would slowly percolate and collect at the bottom chamber. This is a pre-preparation of coffee. This coffee filter occupied a prominent place in the kitchen. I would call it the sanctum sanatorium of the kitchen. It was always at the line of sight. The milk, thick and creamy with not a drop of water would be boiled and ready.
As we would try waking up from sleep, perimma would yell from the kitchen amidst chanting shlokas "Ezunthukko dee, palla techuttu vaa, kaapi tharraen!!" (Wake up girl, brush your teeth, will fetch coffee for you)
As we woke up and went away to finish our brushing, perimma would then start the second stage of coffee preparation. I would straight walk into the kitchen "Perimma, coffee tharela?"(Aunt, may I have my coffee). To which she would ask "Pallu thechutteya?"(Did you bursh?) And I would reply "Hmm perimma, coffee thaango"(Yes aunt, give me the coffee please). She would say "Idho di, aayidthu".(Yes dear, in a moment)
The hot milk would be poured until half full in a stainless steel tumbler which was heavy. No porcelain cups whatsoever, sort of alien that was. The decoction from the bottom container would be poured next until she was satisfied and thought that the mixture was appropriate and the colour perfect and the aroma just blended with the milk. Sugar added, she would then transfer this aromatic mixture to a wider cup(dabara), back and forth, until the sugar was mixed, the warmth just fine and the froth overflowing the tumbler. She wold then pour down a couple of drops into dabara, take a swallow, and make sure its as perfect as her earlier preparation.
The tumbler would then be placed inside the dabara and handed it over to us. We would then transfer part of the piping hot coffee into the dabara and savor the delicious beverage. This was the best punch ever to kick start your day!!
Just reminiscing these things while holding a cappuccino, only to realise it was lukewarm now :-|
Anyways Filter Kaapi anyone?