World Coffee Day

I love coffee as it is evident from my posts and poem on this wonderful drink. And when I heard today was World Coffee Day, I had to write a post.

The International Coffee Day is a celebration of the coffee sector’s diversity, quality and passion as well as an opportunity for coffee lovers to share their love of the beverage and support the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the aromatic crop. The day has been used as an an occasion to promote and celebrate coffee as a beverage, with events occurring across the world. Many countries around the world celebrate their own national coffee days at various dates throughout the year. In March 2014, the member states of the International Coffee Organisation agreed to organise International Coffee Day on 1 October to create a single day of celebration for coffee lovers around the world and the first celebration was celebrated in 2015 in Milan as part of the Expo 2015. The day is also used to promote fair trade coffee and to raise awareness for the plight of the coffee growers with many businesses offering free or discounted cups of coffee.

According to one legend, coffee was discovered by the ancestors of today’s Oromo people in a region of Kaffa in Ethiopia who recognised the energizing effect of the coffee plant. However, no direct evidence that has been found earlier than the 15th century indicating who among the African populations used it as a stimulant, or where coffee was first cultivated. Another legend attributes the discovery of coffee to a Sheikh Omar. According to an old chronicle preserved in the Abd-Al-Kadir manuscript. Omar, who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer, was once exiled from Mocha in Yemen to a desert cave near Ousab in modern-day Wusab. Starving, Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubbery but found them to be too bitter. He tried roasting the seeds to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the seed, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. It was in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed, in a similar way to how it is prepared now and used used by Sufi mystics to stay awake. Shortly after, coffee became well known in Egypt, Persia, and Turkey as the wine of Araby and coffee houses started to open as the schools of the wise. Coffee farming on a large scale started in southern India and in 1560 coffee made its way through Europe and quickly became popular, until Pope Clement VIII decided that the drink must be satanic though under inspection, he gave in and baptised the drink and declared it a Christian drink. By the 1600s coffee houses sprung up all over Europe and the beans found themselves in America.

And today, this bean makes a daily journey from plantations to breakfast mugs across the world. Us humans have been preparing coffee for many presentations as drinks, candies, medicine, and some ancient civilizations even used it as currency! Coffee can energize you, warm you up, refresh you, keep you awake, and even catch you up with your loved ones.

The theme of International Coffee Day 2021 highlights the mistreatment of coffee farmers, the danger they are facing for their living and the ultimate need to take collective actions. The money that coffee farmers are compensated for the beans they create is at an all-time low. The modern-day coffee farmers aren’t earning enough to supply themselves and fulfill the needs of their families and may need to switch away from making coffee altogether- putting the production of this beverage at risk. Today there is a worldwide oversupply of coffee which is pushing down the market price. At the same time the expense of coffee-production has increased which means farmers do not make enough income to survive. Though we are paying more for a cup of coffee, farmers are compensated just around USD 0.01 or one penny for a cup of coffee.

Caffeine is a stimulant that increases activity in the central nervous system. It can increase energy levels and alertness, plus it improves mental performance. According to a study in Harvard, coffee drinkers tend to live longer, plus they have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity right after crude oil, and the most consumed beverage, after water. Every society has its own coffee tradition.

Grab a cup of your favourite coffee and celebrate this wonderful and addictive drink!

Filter Coffee: The best way to wake up!

Growing up in a tambram household in the seventies meant you woke to the sounds of MS Subbalakshmi singing the Venkatesha Suprabhartam and the smell of fresh filter coffee. I have always loved this ritual of coffee drinking and even today take my time to drink my first cup of coffee.

Filter coffee or kaapi as we southies call it, is the perfect cup of coffee. I rate it far above any coffee chain and with due apologies to coffee drinkers from popular coffee chains, I just don’t see the attraction for those, especially with the prices they charge. So what’s the difference between an espresso and filter coffee? I looked this up since I used to think an espresso is just the decoction of the filter coffee which is thinned slightly. An espresso, Italian for quick, is brewed with with high-temperature at almost boiling and has pressurised water running through finely ground coffee beans. It is also denser and more concentrated than filter coffee. The filter coffee is somewhat similar, it is made by filtering packed ground coffee through hot, boiling water through a filter, but instead of being pushed out by pressure, the water poured on the top half of the coffee filter runs down to the bottom purely on the basis of gravity. This means the brewing process takes much longer and is not really instant as the espresso is. It also means, you need much more water and coffee grounds to get the same amount of decoction for filter coffee.

I have never liked drinking milk and there are many stories in my home about how my paternal grandmother would force feed me milk, even as a toddler. Because of this intense distaste for milk, I must have made the switch to some sort of chocolate milk pretty early on. It was some protein powder in various flavours including chocolate that I drank for a few years. I switched to drinking coffee pretty early considering that most people I know didn’t start drinking tea or coffee until their teens.

My grandmother and then my mother used to buy raw coffee beans from the coffee board once every few months and then grind them till the house was full of this evocative aroma of coffee. Then using a small coffee blender they used to grind a small amount of the beans which would be just enough for a week or so. This ensured that the coffee we brewed was absolutely fresh. When I started college, it became my responsibility to get the raw coffee beans since there was a coffee board office not too far from my college. I still remember she would buy the Peaberry and Plantation beans. The Peaberry beans are also known as caracol, which is Spanish for snail, and is a naturally occurring mutation present in arabica and robusta coffee varieties where only one bean is present inside of the coffee cherry instead of two. The Plantation variety is probably a coffee plantation crop and I have no idea if it is a robusta or arabica.

A few years after I graduated and started working, the coffee board closed down its office from where we used to purchase our stock of raw coffee seeds and once my mother finished up her stash, she started buying blended coffee powder. Fortunately for us, we live very close to the heart of the tambram community, Matunga, where there is a store which sells freshly ground coffee powder, so that’s where she buys it from today. And when I make a trip to Mumbai, I never come back to Singapore without a few kilos of that freshly ground coffee powder in my luggage.

I have always been an early riser and used to wait for my mother to boil the milk and make coffee when I was young. Usually at that point, it would be just the two of us who were awake and in that dim lighting in the kitchen when the world is just waking up. Coupled that with a cup of hot steaming filter coffee in the traditional tumbler and dawara where the coffee is not stirred, but pulled is sheer bliss. When my mother makes coffee for BB, GG and S who usually drink in mugs, she will use a tumbler and dawara, which is a small cup which is used to pull the coffee and pull it to mix the milk, coffee and sugar together, with that lovely layer of froth on top and then pour it into a cup for them to drink. Even today my favourite time of the day is in the morning when I am the only one awake and it’s just me and a cup of coffee. Although now, I prefer my coffee to be black rather than with milk, it’s still a filter coffee which I brew every few days and refrigerate.

Another tradition in my home and I think most tambram households, is the ritual of a second cup of coffee after breakfast. Though I don’t follow it in Singapore, but when I am in Mumbai, that half glass of coffee after breakfast is something I really look forward to. And I drink my coffee with milk while in Mumbai because that to me is the taste of my childhood, adolescence and youth and it doesn’t matter how old I get, when I drink that cup, I am instantly transported back in memory.

Source

I can drink lots of coffee, but a few years back, decided to restrict it to twice a day and only indulging in the third cup if I am super tired or outside with friends. I wrote an ode to coffee some time back, so pop by there to read if you are a fan of coffee. As with all my memory posts, writing this brought a smile on my face while I was transported back in time, a time when life was uncomplicated and simpler, when our needs were simple and a cup of good filter coffee was all it took to welcome someone to your home! What’s your favourite coffee memory?

Poem: My Cup of Coffee

Most of us start the day with a cup of coffee in various forms. I started drinking coffee fairly early, perhaps around the age of six or seven. I hated drinking milk and it used to be a huge production when I was young to make me drink my milk. I think my mum and grandma gave in around age six or seven and I started drinking coffee. The love affair with the drink started then and has not waned over the years. I’ve tried different variations and have now decided black coffee is my favourite, followed closely by the filter coffee made by my mum!

My Cup of Joy – Coffee

I wake up when the alarm rings
And make my way to my kitchen
Where my cup of steaming coffee awaits me

I sit and contemplate the dark drink
Think about my day and how it will wing
A cup of coffee is the perfect aid
To contemplate my views about my world

To sort out how my day will fare
To clear any kinks in the air
A cup of coffee in the afternoon
Is the best solution to the dreaded 3 pm slump

And then there’s the time
A cup of coffee in your hand
A friend by your side
And the hours just slide away

As you can see, I love my coffee
It can be any blend, but has to be black
A cup of coffee makes my day and world
Just seem a tad better, as we all know