The southern Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh produce the majority of Indian coffee. While each of these states has its unique culture and language, the name KAAPI means “coffee!” Filter coffee, also known as degree coffee, Mysore filter coffee, or Kumbakonam coffee, was a staple in South Indian households long before café chains selling lattes and mochas became popular in urban India.
Filter coffee, also known as filter kaapi, is an important part of South Indian cuisine. First, milk is boiled, then a thick decoction of coffee (the coffee extract in the filter) and sugar are added. The liquid is then neatly and frequently juggled between the pot and the mug to produce more froth (norai). This element of food theatre is ingrained in kaapi culture, and you can witness it poured from a metre high at several coffee shops.
Despite being strongly established in modern morning rituals, coffee is not indigenous to India, let alone South India. Its appearance is hidden in legend. Whether it was the Sufi pilgrim who snuck in seven beans from Yemen in the 16th century, or French or British rule that introduced the culture, by the mid-1800s, coffee plants began to thrive in South India’s mountainous regions, which proved to have the ideal growing conditions for the crop.
The Coffee Board of India was established in the early 1940s to stimulate coffee production in India, and South India began producing enough arabica and robusta beans not only for sale but also for internal consumption. South Indian filter coffee is distinguished not only by its beans, but also by the manner in which those beans are roasted and ground, brewed, and finally served
Chicory is a caffeine-free coffee replacement used for its colour and aroma likeness, which adds a distinctive touch of bitterness and powerful aroma to coffee. It gives the extracted coffee a malty flavour profile and a darker shade of brown.
The filter mechanism itself is another distinguishing aspect of filter kaapi. The roasted coffee beans were ground, boiled with water, and drunk after the coffee sediments settled at the bottom (this is how Turkish coffee is still prepared today!). Following that, somewhere in South India, the Indian Filter Pot was designed to improve coffee extraction. Since then, all coffees produced with an Indian Filter Pot have been referred to as Indian Filter Coffee. A stainless steel or brass percolator separated into two parts, with a plunger and an airtight top, is a basic yet effective apparatus. The upper half’s bottom is pierced with the tiniest holes, through which coffee flows into the container below.
If you want to make iced South Indian filter coffee, add additional decoction to assist the coffee keep its robust flavour after chilling. Because ice tends to dilute rich coffee, making it stronger will lessen the overall loss of flavour.
Walk inside Amma’s South Indian Restaurant and taste an authentic filter coffee, whether it’s sizzling hot or iced!