I was in that ugly phase of life where I didn’t know what I wanted; what was my purpose; what to plan my life around? Deep thought-provoking questions with no answers!
So I got thinking and wondered what got me happy?
That 9PM coffee ritual with my BFF in hostel —– Sleeping in till 2 PM. Not because I was sleepy, but because the college café opened at 2 and I didn’t want to wake up early and wait for my coffee —– Seeing a Café Coffee Day or Starbucks near my house/office ( I actually judge a place by the quality of cafes it has) —– Looking out for 1 EUR Espresso and Croissant deals in Europe —–The whir of the coffee being ground and the buzz of steam in my morning espresso at work —– Last but not the least, freshly brewed filter coffee at home.
You see where I am going? Coffee was my purpose and what got me up in the morning (or at 2 PM)? And my travels would be incomplete if my mornings didn’t start with the local coffee, made to my liking of course.
So here’s a short list of places my morning cuppa has been to – My pursuit of happ’y’ness!
Filter Kaapi, Chennai
Let me start with what I grew up with. Good old Filter Kaapi. In a land that is synonymous with Chai (Tea), far far down south, there exists an exotic race of people who have been loyal to their coffee since the 1600’s – way before Starbucks was even conceptualized.
I, quite obviously, belong to this exotic race and the fact that I am writing this post goes to show I am fanatic, to say the least, about coffee.
Filter coffee is quite similar to the coffee one would find in Europe. The coffee decoction is prepared using a traditional steel filter by pouring hot water over a layer of ground coffee beans. The beans are roasted at a lower temperature and hence the the coffee is much sweeter than a typical espresso.The decoction is mixed with milk and sugar and served in a traditional steel davara tumbler. What is signature to this style of coffee is the froth created on top by manually mixing the boiled milk between vessels. Some coffee vendors even put up a show of sorts with their frothing techniques.
While some claim that the best filter coffee is the Kumbakonam degree coffee (Kumbakonam is a place in Tamil Nadu), I swear by Saravana Bhavan’s filter coffee (chain of restaurants in Chennai). Next time in Chennai, grab your copy of The Hindu and read it while you devour some Idli-Vada-Dosa and down it with some Filter Kaapi at Hotel Saravana Bhavan.
Café Noisette, France
A few years ago, I went on a student exchange program to France. The exchange rate and the fact that I was a student with no income meant that I had to find cheap and cheerful ways to enjoy my morning coffee while travelling.
I landed at Charles De Gaulle in the morning and like a lioness on the prowl, I spotted my prey “1 EUR Espresso and Croissant”. But wait, this filter coffee lover cannot have coffee without milk. So in my broken French, I said “peu lait” (little milk) and voila, I discovered the yumminess that is Café Noisette.
In French, noisette (nuh-wah-zet), translates to Hazelnut. But this is by no means a hazelnut flavoured coffee. It is coffee with a hazelnut sized dollop of milk – good enough for me to savour the coffee flavour and with sufficient milk to ensure the coffee isn’t too strong.
Café Macchiato, Italy
Coffee shouldn’t be mucked around with. I have never understood why anyone would want to add oodles of foam, milk and flavours (Oh God, no!) to delicious, pure coffee.
And I love the Italians because they totally get me. The Café Macchiato is very similar to Café Noisette mentioned above. Café Macchiato essentially means coffee stained with a bit of milk. Its sibling Latte Macchiato is quite the opposite and has a lot of milk stained with a bit of coffee. * 10 points for guessing what I would prefer *
If strong coffee isn’t what you want, then go ahead and order the typical Cappucino or Café Latte. And if you are feeling in the mood for some alcohol, have a Café Correto spiked with some Cognac or Grappa.
Caphe Sua Da, Vietnam
This one is almost a rich dessert – what with the condensed milk and all. Caphe sua da or Cafe sua da is a traditional Vietnamese coffee. Vietnamese-grown dark roasted coffee is ground and brewed with a small metal drip filter Ca phe phin. The brew is mixed in a cup with sweetened condensed milk, stirred and poured over ice.
My bestie ( above mentioned 9PM coffee one) and I first tried this out at Cafe Moshes in Mumbai and when we planned our girls’ trip to Vietnam, we knew we just had to try the authentic, local version. I must add the Cafe Moshes version wasn’t too different from the one in Vietnam. So, if you don’t have a trip to Vietnam planned in the near future, go try out this coffee at Moshes.
Kopi Luwak, Bali
Coffee can be differentiated by 3 things:
- Production of the Coffee powder
- Method of brewing
- Method of serving
Known as the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak is different because of its uncommon (and disgusting) method of production. Coffee beans are digested by an Indonesian Civet (a cat-like animal) ; acted upon by internal enzymes ; and the beans in the cat poop are washed, roasted and processed further for the finished product.
The Kopi Luwak coffee powder is best brewed in a traditional South East Asian filter (much like the Vietnamese filter) and served black. Personally I think it is over-hyped and I’d rather have my filter coffee sans the animal faeces.
There is a Turkish proverb that says “The memory of a coffee lasts for forty years”.
I, for one, couldn’t agree more. The memories aren’t just of the delicious coffee but of the people you share it with. It is fascinating how a simple cup of coffee is steeped in culture, tradition and socialization and you haven’t experience Turkey if you don’t visit a coffee house and spend hours together over coffee and hookah.
Turkish Coffee or Kahve is unique by virtue of the way it is brewed. This is an unfiltered coffee made by boiling ground coffee beans in water in a traditional coffee pot called the cezve. The brew is then served in small coffee cups with matching saucers. More often than not, these cups have beautiful, intricate designs and make for good souvenirs too. Kahve is served with water and a Turkish delight – the former to cleanse your palate before the coffee and the latter in case the coffee is too strong and bitter for you.
This is typical Viennese coffee drink similar to a Cappuccino. The difference here is the coffee blend which is slightly milder than the one used in a Cappuccino. Sometimes, instead of foamed milk, the coffee is topped with whipped cream. This is much too creamy and milky for my liking but if strong, bitter, toxic coffee isn’t your calling, then this is for you.
Julius Meinl (easily spotted as the man in a Turkish hat with tassels) is the most popular brand/manufacturer of coffee in these regions and make sure you leave Austria with this coffee powder.
My pursuit for coffee has a long way to go. Brazil, Columbia and the Caribbean promise to be a paradise for coffee fanatics such as me. But for now, I’ll make do with the Costco version.