It’s pouring cats and dogs and I am asleep under my thick comforter away in my Utopian world far from the everyday morning madness that is a feature of every home… I can faintly hear foot steps and in order to prevent even the faintest sound from reaching my ears I pull the comforter close to my ears and continue my task of dreaming…Suddenly my olfactory nerves catch something and then despite my several attempts sleep evades me.. I peek out of the comforter and there it is……..the aroma of fresh filter coffee wading through the corridors of my house like manna from heaven….Yes truly manna from heaven as not a day has gone and not a day goes by without me marveling at this discovery of making or brewing coffee….
I take this opportunity to write about the famous South Indian Filter Coffee or “filter kaapi” as my brethren back in my home town in South India call it..
Before the advent of all the “cool coffee shops” that adorn the roads of every decent city and town in India the only coffee that was known was filter coffee. Every single day is welcomed by the wafting aroma of freshly brewed filter coffee with the entire household gulping down filter coffee served in a steel glass which is placed in a steel cup. Drinking filter coffee is an institution by itself that most Tamilian households cannot do without and the accurate measurements to make the coffee powder are passed down through the family generations.
The ubiquitous coffee filter can be found in the house of every Tamilian and occupies a prominent place in the kitchen.
The filter is a very important part of the household so much so that most people traveling abroad or staying abroad prefer to carry the filter from India.
As a child I remember staring at my parents and grandparents gulping down some strange brown colored liquid from steel tumblers religiously every morning and wondering why it is so important that the my dad almost could never function without it…All my attempts to lay my hands on it were thwarted and the reason they (my well wishing parents) gave was that it will damage the brain and will spoil my studies – what ever that meant..All this instigated my interest more in this weird heavenly smelling liquid and I was determined to lay my hands on it and in those days my only aim in life was to grow up and gulp down that liquid like my parents did..
Life moved on and soon I was in high school and by this time my knowledge about this drink improved and I learnt that this was called coffee and that it is made with a special powder that is ground from coffee beans and something called chicory in the right proportion. Every one drank coffee and drinking tea meant being an out cast as according to Tam Brams only North Indians drank tea. I know we Tam Brams can be highly prejudiced when it comes to coffee!!!!
No words can describe the feeling that I had when my mother allowed me to drink coffee for the first time.. It was the biggest achievement in my life and that also meant that I was now officially considered a grown up.. Then I joined college and slowly coffee day and barista became places to hang out and I religiously drank all that these places had on their menu but somehow nothing struck chord like the filter coffee and to this day it remains my favorite drink, the early morning manna without which I cannot imagine my day begin..
When I first came to the US my biggest worry was about my beloved filter coffee.. So many questions, so many apprehensions about how will I make it, will it be available in the market etc began to haunt me. Like a good Tam Bram I carried my filter from India along with a big packet of Coffee Powder specially bought for this trip and all the way prayed that the customs officers at the airport should not rob me off it. Throughout the flight journey I was worried that some crazy home sick Tam Bram might open my suitcase and just steal my precious coffee powder or even worse my favorite coffee filter and then I would be left without my bit of heaven on earth.. I have tried many types of coffee right from the cool cappuccino in various flavors, mocha and frappe etc – you name it and I have gulped it but the Tam Bram in me refuses to die and thus I go back to my good old filter kaapi…