India to most people is not really known as place for coffee drinking. Chai (Tea made with milk, spices and sugar) is usually what comes to mind when one talks about hot beverages from the sub-continent. And yet, there is a very active coffee drinking culture in the Southern states. Kaapi (as Coffee is referred to in Tamil Nadu) or Filter Coffee is made with coffee, chicory and sweetened milk. A little like Cafe au Lait, it is very addicting. Two years of working in Chennai early on in my work life, hooked me on to it.
Since I have been in the US, I have not really had a chance to drink Kaapi. And so finally on the last trip to India, I had our niece buy us a decoction maker to make Kaapi. Like Espresso, a concentrated decoction made using coffee grinds and boiling water is the basis for Kaapi. To make the concentrate you use a two compartment concentrate maker. The top container has showerhead-like holes at the bottom and fits snugly into the bottom container. You compact a coffee grounds into the top container, fit it into the bottom and add boiling water on top. Then gravity and time take over. A few hours later you have a wonderful concentrate at the bottom. The tricky part here for me was figuring out the quantities of grinds and water to use. After many tries, I have it working now (about 5- 6 heaped Tbps of grounds for about 6oz boiling water). And by the way, Community Coffee’s Coffee with Chicory, available easily in the US, works wonderfully well.
You then take hot milk (I use half milk and half water), add a LOT of sugar to it (3 tsp and more in a cup is not unheard of) and add the decoction to it. Stir (the traditional practice involves some acrobatic skills around pouring the decoction and the milk from one container to another while striking a one-legged Yoga pose (the latter part is optional ;-)) and then enjoying your beverage. Though this is not really a hardcore coffee drinkers’ drink (who like their coffee black and concentrated), it is a heck of a drink and one that should be on every foodie’s bucket list.