Monday, November 07, 2011

Much ado about Coffee

Yesterday's Sunday eye of the Indian Express carried an article about Tea where the author boasted that coffee is just to pass the time where as tea is a culture or something like that. My first reaction as a tam brahm (Tamil Brahmin) was indignation and then a ruthless articulation "what would a northerner know about Coffee". But then again I thought over my words and pitied me over my indignation. The author was right about how I make tea. Just pile on everything and bring to a boil, strain and pour out in cups. I thank you sir for helping me know my ignorance in making tea. But when coming to making coffee, that for me is religion. Lovingly wash the filter (not your electrical contraption), a simple stainless steel affair which resembles a mini grain silo. Heat the strainer gently to clear the holes, dole out coffee powder measured to the last grain and tamp it gently. pour boiling water into it and let it drain through the filter. That my dear friends is how my day starts. My God in his pooja room has to wait till I finish this ritual first (I found god even in coffee, so that he could not complain). The next step in making coffee is pouring milk and sugar. How much milk and how much sugar. well that depends on how much coffee you would want to drink My first tumpler of the day is 200ML (Yes I measured it). Pour a little decoction/dikashan) from the filter (it should be still warm), taste a little (should taste like dark choclate, not dairy maik). Pour milk and the liquid mixture should turn from sepia to a shade darker than beige. Add sugar (not to make it sticky sweet). The flavor of coffee is bitter-sweet not sweet-very sweet-sticky sweet. Then add a little more decoction to bring the color to a shade of brown which resembles dark and white chocolate mixed in equal ratio. Mind you please use fresh hot milk not reheated milk. The contraption in my office dispenses this need, the milk is just plain dispensed. Pour it out in a broad tumbler, pick up the newspaper and over to my study where I spend half hour with coffee and newspaper. I would have enjoyed a smoke along with that but wifey dear had ensured that I never smoked at home (thankful for that injunction) and I also quit smoking. The thing about the first tumbler of coffee for me is the cool air around me, the very bitter-less sweet taste of coffee takes me to the seventh heaven riding on the ninth cloud, breathing in the quintessence of coffee. During the time I spend with my morning coffee, I am left undisturbed my son and wife. After marriage my best half understood my love for coffee and undertook to make my morning coffee. She like the author in Sunday Eye was a tea aficionado and was not particularly interested in coffee.In the beginning I was ungratefully critical of the output, but she put in patient effort to make it right every day and every time. Looking back I regret all the criticism I heaped on her earlier efforts . She now makes excellent coffee which I cannot find fault with. I was gifted an electrical percolator for our wedding which I use for mixing with my favorite poison - dark rum. But my morning coffee will never be insulted by being made in this contraption. I have drunk coffee at establishments like cafe coffee day, Costa, Barista and such. They can brew different coffee from aroun the world but still they would be fish out of water if they attempt a tam brahm coffee. For me they cannot and will not be able to match the exacting standards of Saravana Bhavan in Chennai or the erstwhile Gayatri hotel (Sob sob sob) in Hyderabad or Bombay Anand Bhavan in Secunderabad when it comes to making a tam brahm coffee.


Liquor with coffee: Dark Rum (Old monk and especially contessa)

Pondering with Coffee: Don't ponder. Enjoy the quintessences of coffee

Music with coffee: Vivaldi's Four seasons. 

Best Company to spend coffee time: Who else but the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

Coffee powder to water ration: 3 tbsps coffee tamped and pour 150-200 ml of boiling water in the filter. If the decoction has not strained in 15-20 minutes. you have tamped too hard. poke with a fork gently so as to not distrub the coffee and water standing in the filter.

NOTE: I am grateful to the Muslim saint bababuden ( I am not sure of the spelling, so please forgive my ignorance) for bringing coffee to India and my parents for starting me on coffee when I was quite young.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The day I almost met the Dalai Lama

A couple of days back I was watching two day old episodes of the food series - Master Chef Australia when lo and behold, I get to see the Dalai Lama which made me nostalgic and reminiscence about the past.  

Tis was 1997 and I was just out of college, job less, self-respect had reached the nadir, my worth in societal eyes was zero and I learnt from The Hindu that the Dalai Lama would be coming to Hyderabad for the installation of the massive Buddha statue.It later transpired that he did not consecrate the statue (that happened much later in this post). I read about the Dalai Lama a few day earlier in the Reader's Digest magazine and was much impressed by his fight against the Chinese. He is also one of the reasons why I have some respect for Nehru. When the Dalai Lama rode into India, Nehru gave him sanctuary much against the political wisdom of those times. Some say this act of Nehru ensured the Sino-India war actually took place. I have neither the information nor the bias to say anything about that war. Anyway back to the Dalai Lama. I wanted to see the Dalai Lama when he came to Hyderabad. Now to do that I needed some transport money and hence went to ask my amma and she ticked me off with a good word lashing. Any way, I managed to sneak out old newspapers, sold them for the fare and went to see the Dalai Lama. Murphy ensured that "everything goes wrong". I took the wrong bus, went to the wrong place and trudged 4 Kms to see the Dalai lama and by the time I reached the venue, the Dalai Lama had left. On the journey back home, disappointed and weary with thirst, I pondered on why I wanted to see him. What did I hope to achieve. I still am pondering. Fast forward to 2nd January 2006, the Dalai Lama was going to consecrate the Buddha statue. This time I was not in hell's hole. I was earning comfortably and was the master of my ship. I booked myself on a bus from Pune to Hyderabad on 30th December 2005, put an action plan to meet the seer and was quite happy with  the thought that I was going to meet the Dalai Lama. On D-Day I left home early (my mom didn't bother asking where was I off to) so that I could grab a good place. Reaching the venue, I noticed it was filled with people, careful probing and questioning revealed that most of them were "babus" who were to ensure that protocol was not breached. Whose protocol I still am not sure. Anyway I sat myself down and waited, waited, waited and then I got a glimpse of the seer. I tried to nudge closer but the security personnel ensured that I did not breach protocol. I moved slightly away, managed to get closer to the cordon, close enough to touch him and waited with abated breath. Then I managed to go into a time warp and ponder "why am I doing this?". I finally got out of the warp with the realization that it was just a whim. By the time the warp closed, the Dalai Lama was on the boat going towards the statue. 

Back to 2011 and Master chef Australia. The cooking was good, The seer did exactly as seers do-bless everyone and everything and I am still pondering why did I want to meet the Dalai Lama