Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Coffee, Coffee hotels and Coffee house!

February 16, 2008

Rev. Edward Terry, chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, wrote in 1616: Many of the people there (in India), who are strict in their religion, drink no Wine at all; but they use a Liquor more wholesome than pleasant, they call Coffee;

David Burton, a food historian, writes in The Raj at Table (1993): India’s first coffee house opened in Calcutta after the battle of Plassey in 1780. Soon after, John Jackson and Cottrell Barrett opened the original Madras Coffee House, … [They recovered] their costs with the high price of one rupee for a single dish of coffee.

From Geetha Padmanabhan and Deepa Kurup’s piece on coffee in the Hindu Sunday magazine. One rupee for a cup of coffee in late 1700s–and, I thought 60 bucks for a cup in early 2000s to be too high!

A R Venkatachalapathy on some aspects of cultural history of coffee in Tam-land:

These coffee hotels were so popular and such money-spinning enterprises that the satirist Kuttoosi Guruswamy, the ideologue of the Dravidian movement, likened them ‘to printing currency notes in one’s own press’…

A.K. Chettiar, a keen observer of contemporary culture, wrote in a lighter vein: Some find it difficult to cajole their wives to entertain friends at home. Such persons seek refuge in coffee hotels. The coffee hotel is not just an eating joint. In villages it is a place of congregation. In towns it is the place where traders clinch deals. Wage earners, school-going students and sub-editors, who down ‘half a cup’ by the hour — all depend on the coffee hotel. There are people who, sick of homemade food, go to eat at these hotels with their family every week… Moreover, what can one do when visitors turn up without notice?…

What is missing in this account, however, is the fact that the coffee hotel was generally run by Brahmins and, in the popular mind, was associated with brahmins…

Antara Das on a place of intense intoxication without alcohol, the Coffee House of Calcutta:

The coffee house at Kolkata’s College Street was the place for intense intoxication, but achieved without the aid of liquor, remembers eminent Bengali writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen.A visitor during the 1960s, though not a regular, to that now almost mythical cradle of intellectual discourse, Ms. Sen recollects how the “intoxication of creativity, intellectual excitement and free exchange of ideas” energised the place.

A cauldron of creative energy, the Coffee House was the ultimate pilgrimage for the aspiring writer, the budding poet, the young painters, playwrights and filmmakers or the radical in politics. “It was a kind of lounge where new ideas would be generated and exchanged, where young, creative, thinking people would congregate,” Sen said.

Amid the twirling haze of cigarette smoke, editors of little magazines would prod wannabe writers to submit their articles, while intricate cinematic aesthetics would be laid bare in discussions where Satyajit Ray or Mrinal Sen would hold forth.

Take a look!

Another coffee post!

December 24, 2007

Just a couple of days ago, I pointed to Anne Fadiman’s piece on coffee; this time around, closer home, Anil writes about his visit to Coorg coffee plantations (via Desi Pundit). I am not sure about one small piece of information, though. This is what Anil has to say about Chicory:

Pointing to the glass jar labeled Dakshin (South Indian Filter Coffee) Vipin explains that unlike Italian Coffee, Indian Coffee is a blend of 50% raw Arabica, 30% Robusta and 20% Chicory (also spelled Chickory). Chicory is a coffee-coloured root “sourced from Gujarat” and is blended in for aroma. “Some people might prefer lesser concentrations of Chicory blended in, typically 10%, others might go in for a higher concentration, upto 30% of Chicory.

However, I am not sure if Chicory adds any aroma to coffee; I think Indians got used to drinking coffee laden with chicory because chicory was used as a low cost substitute for coffee during second world war (There is a sentence somewhere in one of P G Wodehouse’s  novel where the protagonist  complains of a shop which gave chicory water and called it coffee during those lean months). I also heard from one of my friends in Germany that she got used to drinking chicory every morning, since, during the second world war that is all they could get. Finally, it is true that some people prefer (or, used to) coffee with high amounts of chicory; my grandfather used to like a blend with 30% (as the blog post says); however, I think his reason was that chicory makes coffee more soapy and thick. At home we used to have 100 coffee + 10 chicory blend, which is slightly less than 10%; and, presently, I enjoy pure coffee without any chicory (I hope). In any case, an interesting post; take a look!

Coffee ritual as the very acme and pitch of elegance

December 19, 2007

Here is an extract from Anne Fadiman’s latest book of essays, where she talks about the delights of coffee, the rituals of drinking it, and and the socio-literary-economic-historic-and-scientific meditations that the word coffee, caffeine, and coffee houses evoke:

When I was a sophomore in college, I drank coffee nearly every evening with my friends Peter and Alex. Even though the coffee was canned; even though the milk was stolen from the dining hall and refrigerated on the windowsill of my friends’ dormitory room, where it was diluted by snow and adulterated by soot; even though Alex’s scuzzy one-burner hot plate looked as if it might electrocute us at any moment; and even though we washed our batterie de cuisine in the bathroom sink and let it air-dry on a pile of paper towels next to the toilet – even though Dunster F-13 was, in short, not exactly Escoffier’s kitchen, we considered our nightly coffee ritual the very acme and pitch of elegance.

A must-read piece; link via Exonintron.