Growing up in India, coffee was a rare treat. When visiting friends from Southern India, I would taste coffee — it was generically labeled Madras Filter Coffee. In a country where everyone drinks tea by the gallon, I developed an early taste for coffee. I thought it was not until college when I could buy whatever passed for coffee: Nescafe instant coffee boiled with milk and laced with sugar.
When I started going to coffee houses, I could enjoy the real Madras coffee, and my love affair with the coffee bean started. In my grown-up years, someone introduced me to Turkish coffee. And eventually, when visiting London, I had a shot of espresso. I have not looked back since, and honestly, have become a bit of a coffee snob — and I am perfectly fine with it. Given that I only drink one or maybe (when stretched) two cups of coffee every day,
As part of my devotion to the bean, I try a lot of new varietals from different independent cafes. I try new gear. And of course, I read a lot of blogs, and subscribe to some coffee zines. One of them, Standart has a wonderful little piece on India and the history of Indian coffee.
It is said that a Sufi holy man brought seven coffee beans to the country from Mocha, a regional coffee marketplace in modern-day Yemen. Later, the East India Company and British entrepreneurs set up an impressive two-tiered mixed-shade canopy system to spread and support coffee cultivation throughout the country and even today, Indian coffee production benefits from this system. India is now the world’s sixth-largest producer of coffee, accounting for 3.14% of the global output, 39% of which is ‘speciality’.Standart
If you want to learn more, check out the Wikipedia entry for Indian Filter Coffee. It is quite informative and traces the story of coffee in India with some detail.
There is a wonderful third wave coffee movement gathering steam in India. It is great to visit my parents and hideaway at Blue Tokai and drink a nice domestic pour-over and read a book. I started observing the Indian coffee movement back in 2015 and even pitched this to a couple of publications, including Eater. What would be cool is if some of the local cafes in San Francisco start to bring high-quality Indian beans.