HISTORY OF KUMBAKONAM DEGREE COFFEEKumbakonam which is famous for its brass vessels, Music, Kadappa, Temples is also popularly noted for its degree or the filter coffee. A cup of coffee at the start of the day makes a person brighter and helps to give a brisk kick- start to the day. The Kumbakonam degree coffee is noted for its flavor and aroma. The name degree coffee comes from the town of Kumbakonam which can be defined as a beverage of South India and almost across the globe. This South Indian special beverage is prepared from pure cow's milk where no adulterants or chicory is added to the coffee preparation. The Kumbakonam degree coffee is also known as filter coffee which is more milky and got from the dark roasted coffee beans. The Kumbakonam degree coffee is very famous in the southern states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
MOST COMMONLY USED COFFEE BEANSSome of the most commonly used coffee beans for the preparation of the Kumbakonam degree coffee includes Arabica and Robusta grown in the hills of Tamil Nadu (Nilgiris District, Yercaud and Kodaikanal),Karnataka (Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan), and Kerala (Malabar region). Such method of preparation of coffee is also done in other countries and they are usually known as drip coffee where the process involves the passing of the water takes place through the ground coffee mainly by gravity and not under pressure. But however the Kumbakonam degree or the filter coffee has its own special features which has taken it through a long history. While 'Kumbakonam degree coffee' as a brand name is sighted in towns all over Tamil Nadu, particularly on the Chennai highway, there is not a single board proclaiming the degree coffee in Kumbakonam.
KUMBAKONAM COFFEE MAKING PROCESSThe town is strangely not keen on advertising its signature fare, and yet, it turns up its nose at imitations outside the town. The quality of the coffee powder used is very high where less amount of chicory is used in the preparation. Usually coffee powders are made in own milling machines rather than from the commercial mills. The out turn ration for a good quality of coffee powder used in the preparation of Kumbakonam degree coffee is when 100gm of coffee beans goes for grinding need to get at least 80 gm coffee powder which can then be termed as a good or a high quality coffee bean. The fresh milk used also accounts for the good quality of Kumbakonam degree coffee. The milk which is cowed from own farms are heated up in a double boiler where the milk will remain hot and also it won't get burnt at the bottom.Kumabakonam filter coffee is usually served in a brass tabara tumbler which is very rare to be found these days.
SPECIALTY OF KUMBAKONAM FILTER COFFEE
The specialty of the Kumbakonam filter coffee is that the coffee powder meant for the purpose is brewed with a metal device which looks like two cylindrical cups where one is on top of the other. Usually the cup which rests on the top has pierced bottoms. The cup which is kept at the bottom is empty so as to receive the filtered or brewed coffee decoction. The upper cup has two removable parts: a pierced pressing disc with a central stem handle, and a covering lid. In Vietnam a similar kind of device is used to filter or brew the coffee. The Kannada name for the filter coffee is "Boondh Bisneeru" where Bisineeru when split is bisi neeru which means hot water leading to the speculation that the terms are connected. But however this name is not quite common now in Karnataka for it was only used by ladies some two generations ago.
SRILANKAN TAMIL NAME FOR COFFEE"Kottai Vadineer" is the Srilankan Tamil name for coffee. The term filter coffee is generally supposed to be a high quality coffee. The degree coffee got its name from the degree milk which is used in the preparation of coffee. Milk certified as pure with a lactometer was called degree milk owing to a mistaken association with the thermometer. The chicory beans which is used in the preparation of the coffee also accounts for the explanation of the filter coffee. Another version says that it was the word chicory which was most commonly pronounced by the South Indians became chicory then digory and finally mutated to degree. Also the original with all its best of features is exactly when the coffee is decocted for the first time. The coffee prepared from the first decoction is called as the first degree or the degree coffee. The coffee prepared with the first decoction is said to be high in its flavor and aroma and mixed or added to the milk it gives the essential strength to the coffee without bringing down the taste.
TRADITIONAL KUMBAKONAM STYLE DABARAH
Whereas in less opulent houses further decoction was also done like for the second or the third time from the same load just by adding boiling water to the original powder in the filter. But however the second or the third decoction got from the coffee is not as strong as the first where one can find depreciation in both aroma and the strength.Traditional Kumbakonam-style Dabarah (or) Davarah and tumbler placed with the open end facing down is customary. Another special way of drinking the Kumbakonam degree coffee which adds up to the taste is from the tumbler than from the coffee mugs. The word tumbler which is also pronounced as davarah is originally of English origin. The coffee is first allowed to cool in the dabarah which has a wide metal saucer with lipped walls. Coffee is typically served after pouring back and forth between the dabarah and the tumbler in huge arc-like motions of the hand. This arc like motion which is followed is done for various reasons like mixing the ingredients thoroughly and also to aid in cooling down the temperature so that it is ready to drink.
REASON BEHIND THE ARC LIKE MOTIONThe most important reason behind the arc like motion is to aerate the mix without introducing extra water such as with a steam wand used for frothing cappucinos.The sketch relating the distance between the pouring and receiving cup leads to the coffee's another name 'Meter Coffee'. In our journey through the highways of South India, we will never miss out on the roadside dhabas even though it will not give a hygienic look but still we would be tempted by the craving masala chai, degree coffee and snacks and paratas. And now when compared to all these a coffee more specifically Kumbakonam degree coffee is very much tempting for it is a real stress reliever especially while you are driving or even if you just need a break after a long drive. Now there are lot of outlets in Tamil Nadu in most of the highways and each cup of this energy booster costs us only Rs. 15.There are a couple of shops in the town of Kumbakonam noted for its degree coffee though not highly posh and modernized. The chain of succession which is difficult to be traced down for the degree coffee in the temple town is far from keen on advertising the coffee it lent its name to and yet turns up its nose at imitations outside.
MOHAN COFFEE WORKSMohan Coffee works in the tingy market place can be pictured with gunny sacks and posters and pictures of goddesses on the wall has a contraption with a funnel that swallows green-tinged coffee seeds. The owner of this particular shop V. Sugumar says that the shop was established by his father in 1977 and he has no history or unable to trace. He says that the coffee seeds used in his shop are mainly got from his tracts of Chickmagalur and other parts of Karnataka and they are mainly peaberry, robusta or other plantation variety. The beans here are put into a red funnel which then flows down as a solid, muddy waterfall, heaped up and sealed in packets as powdered coffee. Chicory is also added to an extent to get a darker and strengthened output There are nearly 25 coffee powder units in the town of Kumbakonam of which Mohan Coffee Works has more number of regular clients coming even from other parts of the state though the city is populated with other coffee powder units.-But however Mr. Sugumar very clearly admits that the strength the Kumbakonam Degree coffee does not owe much to the factor of coffee powder but to the purity of undiluted milk used in the preparation of the coffee. Another shop in the list includes the Venus Coffee shop owned by Mr. Swaminathan where coffee beans shine in an exotic brown. The owner of the Venus Coffee shop says that coffee beans can be rated as good or of high quality when we obtain 80 grams of coffee powder after roasting every 100 grams of the beans. The owner of Raman's coffee Mr. V. Venkataraman gives more notes about the person who is behind the popular degree coffee. He says that the credit goes to Panchapikesa Iyer, the proprietor of Lakshmi Vilas.
HIGH QUALITY COFFEE POWDER
Being on the main road, every bus passing this way used to stop here for a tumbler (drinking glass),' says Raman, who claims to have supplied powder during the final years before the shop closed and Ayer's successors moved out. However all these people claim that there is no coffee powder without chicory for at least a 20% of chicory is added even to the high quality coffee powder. The ingredients which is used in the preparation of the degree coffee includes high quality coffee powder, hot water, milk and sugar.The initial step in the preparation of coffee is the making of the decoction where the coffee powder is added to the upper compartment of the coffee filter. Meanwhile a cup of water is made to boil and poured into the coffee powder and then the filter is closed with the lid and kept aside. It takes at least half an hour for the decoction to be filtered and come into the lower compartment through the pores in the upper compartment.Now the milk, preferably, whole or undiluted milk is boiled in the pan. Care should be taken so that the milk is not burnt. By then once the decoction is ready it gives a great flavor and aroma. Usually the decoction coffee tastes better in a dabarah and then required amount of sugar is added to the mixing bowl. Now pour the required amount of decoction into the dabarah, where usually a larger quantity gives more strong original Kumbakonam degree coffee. Now, pour the boiled milk to the decoction. Froth it well. Finally the strong Kumbakonam Degree coffee with all its aroma and flavor is ready to drink. Usually the coffee tastes great with the first decoction.