Sip of Sin : To Coffee or not to Kapi

downloadA week or two back I was part of an entertaining argument on what can be called the better drink – Coffee or Tea?

The entire discussion started in the context of my mother who just does not drink coffee and belongs to Kumbakonam.  For those not aware, Kumbakonam happens to be famous for its degree filter coffee. The situation with my mother and her tea is quite hilarious. Occasionally , we would saunter into a hotel and she would ask for tea , especially if it happens to be an off peak hour and not a big joint then the waiter will almost always return her with a look that says, “hello who drinks tea?” Who does anyway? quite a few, to say the least.

World over tea is the more popular drink . There are  three main reasons for this :

  • Tea happens to be the favorite drink of the most populous nation in this world in China and the second most populated nation, India. It is indeed the drink of masses 
  • Tea is often more broadly classified than Coffee. All forms of coffee are only derived from coffee beans grown for the purpose of harvesting coffee, Tea on the other hand is loosely used to describe any broth of herbs and leaves. Kashmiri tea which happens to be one of my favorites is an example
  • Tea has been there longer almost forever and hence has been adapted more widely across cultures

Tea clearly scores on history, tradition and numbers. Medical myths would also sell you a cup of tea over coffee any day.

Clearly the good boy drinks tea.  The not so good ones smoke the sutta and drink chai. You can also imagine the Queen of England  with a hat and a bow sipping a cup of tea quite regally. So, the drink is both sophisticated , like the old queen taking a slow sip out of the cup held closely with her wrinkled but bejewelled hands and  yet  populist, ask Mani Shanker Iyer, he will tell how.

Coffee alas is for the bad ass hangovers, for the addiction, for the caffeine high, it’s the drink of the wall street or mafia, if you will go no further, its Americano and Hollywood but also Italian , it indicates a ruthlessness, a perverseness and  a sense of decadence in all glory. Coffee in short is for coffee.

The above two interpretations are  generalized and not particularly Indian. In this country if you were then to pick a battle of Tea vs Coffee  – it will have to be the masala chai vs the filter coffee, the two most popular versions respectively. With a PM who has run a campaign  on tea, it would be foolish to say the masala chai is not the winner, and so it shall be crowned  as one ,  Afterall,  its prepared with so much trouble and effort. Cloves, cardamom, ginger, pepper and what nots are added and let to simmer. If you forget to add tea and milk in the water with all these spices  you can probably go ahead and cook your lunch with the broth to make a good gravy. And then finally the poor tea leaves are set to rise above the avalanche of spices pouring in and swim against the thickening milk.You feel a bit sorry on the kind of assault the tea leaves face. Its brutal actually.

The filter coffee is an entirely contrasting affair, its sole focus is only  coffee. So beans are roasted, ground, mixed with the right amount of chicory and brought to a coarseness that is not too fine or too granular. It is then tightly packed into a filter with just the right amount of water at the correct temperature  and allowed to drip over the coffee powder to retain the maximum flavor. It’s an art in itself ,  it’s love and  it’s about coffee.

We may have a PM who sold chai but get me my cup of coffee, filter or not ! Mr. Iyer, hope you find your peace.

-Caffeine Addict/Kapi lover