Coffee with Krishna Rao

Coffee with Krishna Rao

This is with reference to IYR Krishna Rao's latest column about coffee

This is with reference to IYR Krishna Rao's latest column about coffee. It indeed is an outrageous thing to meddle with the composition of the quintessential South Indian morning brew! Chicory is what gives that unique kick to coffee.

Moreover, due to the fibrous inulin content in it, it is good for health (digestion, blood-sugar-control etc.), compared to the caffeinated nature of coffee itself which is notorious for postponing one's sleep and causing acidity (many of you must have felt a slightly burning sensation or hunger after drinking coffee, which is because of its pitta-aggravating quality)!

Hence, in a way, the ill-effects of pure coffee are partly offset by the blend of chicory in it! Of course, a health enthusiast would shun even this blended variant, and not without to his credit!

It may sound unpleasant, but Ayurveda recommends adding a spoon of desi cow ghee to coffee to pacify its acidic nature. We inveterate coffee-addicts are aware of all these things but sadly cannot give up the addiction to this invigorating drink.

Sorry, venerable freedom-fighters, we are reneging on your noble swadeshi spirit of discarding the goddamned British goods and legacies.

Hence, we earnestly beg your pardon, however we promise you that one fine day we will overcome this habit and turn to Satvik drinks, say a lemon-ginger drink or the cooling Dhaanyaka-Hima!

Anyway, Rao's tryst with coffee reminded me of R K Narayan's own obsession with it. In his "My Dateless Diary"(memoirs of his 1956 visit to the USA on an invitation by the Rockefeller Foundation), he writes about his coffee experiences in America.

On his very first day in New York, he was asked by the man behind the coffee counter in a self-service cafeteria: "Black or White?" Now savour (pun-intended) the delightful account of the whole incident in his own words: "Neither, I said haughtily. The server looked up rather puzzled.

'What do you mean?', he asked. 'I want it neither black nor white, but brown, which ought to be the colour of honest coffee - that's how we make it in South India where devotees of perfection in coffee assemble from all over the world"!

A few moments later, another man, who had overheard Narayan's conversation about this "special" coffee, comes over to his table out of curiosity and inquires about it.

Our "Man in Malgudi" continues: "God-given opportunity for me to start off a lecture on coffee, it's place in South India, it's place in our social life, how the darkest condemnation would be the warning uttered at their back, 'Their coffee is awful'... Coffee making is a task of precision at every stage.

I could not help mentioning my mother who has maintained our house reputation for coffee undimmed for half a century.

She selects the right quality of seeds almost subjecting every bean to a severe scrutiny, roasts them slowly over charcoal fire, and knows by the texture and fragrance of the golden smoke emanating from the chinks in the roaster whether the seeds within have turned the right shade and then grinds them into perfect grains; everything has to be right in this business... three spoons for six persons.

Place the powder at the bottom of a stainless steel vessel and pour boiling water over it and then strain it slowly through a piece of cloth. She is a fanatic and insists on straining coffee only through thin cloth; no power on earth can ever make her changer over to a percolator...!"

Thus recounting, Narayan hilariously observes: "Such a fanatic, I wondered what her reaction would to the preposterous question 'White or Black'. She would be infuriated at the very terminology.

'White' coffee actually means, according to her, milk with coffee dash, which is administered only to sick persons, black coffee should never be drunk...!".

Absolutely true, n'est-ce pas? Well, time for all of we coffee fanatics too, to take inspiration from the renowned writer's mother, and oppose the attempt to alter the composition of the crucial raw material behind our drink! In other words, let's wake up and smell the coffee!

C V Krishna Manoj, Uppal, Hyderabad

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