India has a very long-standing coffee culture and a unique way of making coffee.
Sweet, brutally strong, milky and a spicy undertone, this is not like anything you can get from Starbucks or the like. It is often known as Mysore coffee, as this city in Karnataka is famous for its coffee. It is also known as Indian filtered coffee and kaapi.
Coffee is believed to have been introduced to India in the fifteenth century CE. It became particularly popular in the eastern states and provinces, probably more so than tea.
During the late eighteenth century CE, several coffee houses opened in what was then called Calcutta. These were modelled on the famous London coffee houses. Calcutta was the home of the British traders and they inspired the adoption of this coffee-house culture, particularly as places to do business.
The recipe for this coffee owes much to synergies in micro-climates. Places that are good for cultivation of cardamom are also good for coffee, so where you get coffee you can usually get cardamom.
These micro-climates are also very good for producing chicory. The dried and roasted roots of the chicory plant are added to the coffee. The typical Mysore coffee blend is 35% medium roast arabica, 35% medium roast robusta and 30% roasted chicory. This mix is ground to a fine powder for preparation.
There are two traditional preparation methods. One uses a special cup that filters and drips the coffee, and the other is the Mughal method of boiling and filtering.
A coffee plunger makes a reasonable alternative, but you must make the coffee much stronger than you would normally.
To brew your coffee, the coffee to water ratio is 50g per 250ml. Using these amounts will produce 160ml of coffee after filtering. This coffee to water ratio is very different from common Western filter coffee and produces a very strong base decoction. The coffee to milk ratio is 40ml to 80ml.
Ground chicory is available from health food stores. A good Indian grocer will have a coffee and chicory mix, ground very finely. Supermarkets may sell a coffee and chicory essence under the Bushells brand. This is already sweetened, so if you use it, avoid adding any further sugar or jaggery.
This recipe calls for jaggery powder for the sweetener. You could use palm sugar, which is common in south Indian preparations of this beverage. If neither is available raw sugar is a reasonable substitute.
This recipe specifies normal full-cream cow’s milk. It can be made with condensed milk for a very luscious drink or it can be made with almond milk, a common preparation in the north of India.
The technique has you pour the final product between two pots to aerate and froth the coffee. This technique is called “pulling” and is also used when making chai. It will cool the coffee, which is the traditional way to serve it. You could return the coffee to the stove to heat it, but do not stir as this will break up the aeration. Do not let it boil.
Place the water, jaggery and cardamom pods into a small pan and bring to the boil.
Place the milk into another pan and bring to a simmer.
When the water boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the coffee and chicory. Mix well and increase the heat.
As the coffee starts to boil, it will foam and rise. Immediately take the pan off the heat, stir and allow to settle for a minute before returning to the heat. Repeat this step twice more.
Using a very fine sieve or muslin cloth, filter the coffee into the simmering milk. Rinse the pan to remove any residue.
Now pour the coffee and milk mixture into the first pan from as high a height as you can manage. The milk will froth as you do this. Repeat this step twice more.
- 35g of coffee is approximately five tablespoons.
- 15g of ground chicory is approximately 2 tablespoons.
- You can substitute the jaggery with palm sugar, which is common in south Indian preparations of this beverage. If neither is available raw sugar is a reasonable substitute.
- You can substitute the milk with condensed milk for a very luscious drink, or you use almond milk, a common preparation in the north of India.
- The pouring of the milk between the pots will cool the coffee. Traditionally this is how it is served, but you could put it back on the stove to heat up. Do not let it boil.