I never really liked coffee as a kid or a young adult. Living in Mumbai chai or tea was more my thing and dad made an excellent cup. At that point, I felt there was nothing better than a cup of tea to start my day.
In the year 2006, the day after I was married. I woke up to a lovely rainy morning in Kerala. As I walked downstairs towards my mother-in-laws kitchen my senses were overtaken by the warm, deep, and rich smell of coffee. It’s aroma filled the entire house. Mama would make the coffee the previous night, let the dregs settle, and reheat it the next day with a bit of jaggery. Reluctantly I asked for a cup, as tea wasn’t on offer. After all, this was coffee land.
As I took my first sip it hit home, it wasn’t that I didn’t like coffee. I was drinking the wrong coffee all along. Though instant coffee has its place in our world if you want to discover the real flavour of coffee it always lies with the bean. So off we went the newlyweds on a day trip to Ravis a small coffee vendor on Jew street in Cochin. Home to my first cup of great chicory flavored coffee. Since then I have never looked back.
Now coffee is part of my everyday world. Did you know Beethoven loved his coffee so much that he would count 60 beans per cup before making his brew? Unlike him, I keep it simple.
I buy roasted beans from my current favourite supplier. I grind exactly what I need, and wait patiently as it percolates in my tiny brass coffee maker.
So where does the word “coffee” come from and how was it discovered?
Coffee is a fruit. It is the pit of a red berry also known as a cherry. They are known as “beans” because of their resemblance to legumes.
The word originates from the Arabic word for “wine”. Qahwah as it was originally known later came to be known as Kahveh in a Turkish and then Koffie in Dutch, finally leading us to what we now know in English as a Coffee.
Coffee was said to be discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia who observed a change in behavior when his goats ate the fruit of the Coffea bush. After sharing his discovery with the local monks they, in turn, realised that when made into a drink it helped them to stay up at night. Soon word spread and coffee became an important part of the world. Today it is one of the most traded commodities worldwide.
How do you take your coffee?
Coffee is widely popular all over the world. Let’s take a peek into how various cultures make and take their coffee.
The Falt White. I must admit on my very first trip to Australia and New Zealand I was pretty confused as I stood in line at a cafe. This is because the Auzzies and Kiwis have their own unique descriptions for a good ole cuppa. I had no idea what to order as every name I read under coffee seemed unfamiliar and there was nothing to aid my confusion. So I ordered a flat white. It involved a strong espresso shot with microfoam steamed milk folded in. Pretty good I thought and very popular in that part of the world with those that love their coffee uniquely creamy yet strong.
In Vietnam, there’s cà phê đá .
Here coffee, warm water, and condensed milk are mixed and topped with ice. Perfect for a hot summer day. It is also common to find coffee made with yogurt or even egg whipped with condensed milk all over Vietnam.
Turkish coffee is generally accompanied by a nugget of Turkish delight. A type of immersion coffee where the Cezve or Ibrik a long-handled brass or copper brewing pot is used to mix and boil water, sugar, and finely ground coffee. The first foamy portion of the brew is poured into small serving cups and this process is then repeated twice. Served on a beautifully decorated tray it is amongst my favourite coffees.
Italians love their espresso. If you ask for coffee you are most likely to be served a shot of espresso. In most Italian cafes the milky coffees are generally served before 11 a.m. Espresso is served standing up at the cafe bar often accompanied by deliciously stuffed Cornettos.
On offer all day in Ireland Irish coffee is a mix of Irish whiskey, brown sugar, coffee, and heavy whipped cream. This boozy drink makes the perfect mug on a cold winters day especially in front of a roaring warm fireplace. Sip through the cream to get to the coffee. Delicious!
Filter Kaapi from India seems to perfectly round off a hearty South Indian breakfast of steaming idlis, dosas, or vadas. As much as I like to drink this coffee I also love how it is served and mixed but I leave that part to my husband as I make a mess of it.
When it comes to the types of coffees around the world the list goes on.
When you start observing how coffee is served you will realise that a lot of the names and varieties are codes for the proportions or ratios of espresso, to milk, and foam.
My current favourite however is the Piccolo latte. Italian for small. This baby latte involves a full shot of espresso and topped with steamed milk. It is warm, milky, yet strong. Served in a small demitasse or latte glass at most coffee shops it is a perfect shot for lil ole me.
Cooking with coffee.
As with every other ingredient on earth, coffee is not necessarily good or bad for you. A cup of coffee not only helps wake you up but it has been scientifically proven that in moderate amounts it helps deter conditions like type two diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver, and heart diseases. We must always keep in mind that it is often not the natural ingredient that causes harm to our bodies but the modern forms of processing that ingredient or producing that food and our overconsumption of it that is the actual problem.
As a drink, coffee is often served hot or cold as an iced latte but it is also used in food. It is added to flavour truffles, cookies, ice creams, cakes, and many other desserts. Used as part of a spice rub for roasts and to marinate meats. Mixed in heady martinis, hot chocolate, and healthy smoothies.
I’ve even tasted it in the form of flavoured salt.
1 shot espresso
1-2 scoops of vanilla gelato or ice cream
Traditionally Affogato an Italian drink is more like a dessert and is served sans the toppings. The method is fairly simple. Brew a good shot of espresso and pour it warm over one or two scoops of cold gelato or ice cream into a small glass.
However, there is no harm in a little indulgence, especially on a good day.
You can choose to top it any way you like.
-Whipped cream with shaved dark chocolate.
-Melted chocolate with sea salt and toasted crushed nuts.
– A shot of a liqueur, and crushed biscotti.
-Or think middle eastern flavours and top it with spices like freshly ground cinnamon and cardamom and toasted pistachio. The choice is yours.