Monday, February 6, 2012

Coffee Tales - India 19th-Century

Sterling Silver Coffee Pot made in Lucknow, India, c 1880

The first record of coffee growing in India follows the introduction of coffee beans from Yemen by Baba Budan to the hills of Chikmagalur in 1670. Coffee drinking became extremely popular there during British rule (1612-1947); of course, I guess it became popular in most places during that particular period of time. Since then, coffee plantations have become established in the region, extending south to Kodagu.

David Burton, a food historian writes in his book The Raj at Table (1993) "India's first coffee house opened in Calcutta after the battle of Plassey in 1780. Soon after, John Jackson and Cottrell Barrett opened the original Madras Coffee House, which was followed in 1792 by the Exchange Coffee Tavern at the Muslim, waited at the mouth of the Madras Fort. The enterprising proprietor of the latter announced he was going to run his coffee house on the same lines as Lloyd's in London, by maintaining a register of the arrival and departure of ships, and offering Indian and European newspapers for his customers to read. Other houses also offered free use of billiard tables, recovering their costs with the high price of one rupee for a single dish of coffee."

Until the middle of the 20th century, private Indian households traditionally would use jaggery or honey to sweeten their coffee.  Sweet coffee appealed to the Indian population.  Today South Indian Coffee also know as Filter Coffee is a sweet milky coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans (70%-80%) and chicory (20%-30%), which is especially popular in the southern states of Karnataka & Tamil Nadu. The most commonly used coffee beans are Arabica & Robusta which are grown locally in the hills of Karnatka, Kerla, and Tamil Nadu.

For more early morning coffee tales, click here.