“You’re a filter coffee lover? Had I known, I would have brought you a gift pack of my creation (https://caffinary.com/)," coos the twenty-something Bhavika Asnani from Bengaluru as we walk towards Barista in Sector 18, Noida marketplace.
Any coffee talk invariably leads me to recall the film clip from Mashal, starring late Hindi film thespian Dilip Kumar, ever-youthful Anil Kapoor, and his lucky talisman heroine and Kathak practitioner Madhuri Dikshit. The tapori Anil feels elated that newspaper editor Dilipsaab offered him, yes, you’ve guessed it correctly, a hot cup of coffee! Not tea!
Being a Madrasi and a Tambrahm at that, starting the day with thick decoction (pure coffee, unadulterated with milk, but with sugar) is a ritual. That, too, before the never-complaining light giver, the Sun emerges out of the Bay of Bengal watchable from the sands of Marina beach near the Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane.
Another coffee thought revolves around my maternal grandpa, late Ramamrutham Iyer, holding the piping coffee (now with milk and sugar) filled to the brim of the brass davara-tumbler over his angavastram (soft shawl strung over the shoulders to beat the heat and gulping as hot as possible. A sight to behold!
My maternal grandma, the late Visalakshi, used to say coffee making is an art. The readymade coffee powder sold in the neighborhood kirana store was not for her and the family. Fresh beans bought at the India Coffee House retail outlet near the residence of India’s second President and philosopher, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, will be hand-ground at home, loaded in the upper chamber of double deck coffee filter (made of brass or ever-silver) and hot water would soak the power and permitted to drip through the sieves for some time.
Seniors at home get the first round of decoction — the best. It is their privilege. Based on the taste of kapi — not coffee for conventional Tamilians — the status of the drinker in the household can be deciphered.
Coffee is for the elite. Tea for the masses. Regular coffee drinkers but willing to taste have to go to the corner Nair tea stall (six paise a glass in the early 1970s in Mylapore) or go to Cafe Amin near the Pilot theatre, opposite Royapettah police station, and cough 30 paise served in a cup and saucer! Friend Krishna Prasadh (yes, he always spelled with an ‘h’!) would invariably insert 25 paise coin into the jukebox to hear his favorite Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bhauri featured and S D Burman-composed Abhimaan film songs. The funny part was that none of us understood a word of Hindi! However, the music was enchanting.
No Tambrahm house would store tea those days. Of course, today, those cultural symbolism has evaporated. Instant coffee — Nescafe and Bru — kicked out the traditional style of coffee-making with filters.
There are exceptions. One cannot separate Raghuram Sharma, my regular travel companion and room-sharer at hotels, and his coffee apparatus: filter and Narasu’s coffee power. Tea? Hey, Ram! He will not touch. Blasphemy. Not to be forgotten is his co-brother-in-law Selvan Dasaraj who cannot live without filter coffee, bought from Rama Stores, Munirka, Delhi. Now that he is moved to Bhavika’s Bengaluru, wonder where he does his filter coffee shopping!
Wonder why the title says, “Brunch with Bhavika,” but so far, no mention of her or the brunch.
Hang on. Order a coffee at Barista till I am back with the next dispatch.