Wednesday, April 7, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Filter coffee

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

There are various types of coffee (or kaappi, as it's called in many south Indian languages) depending on how the beans are roasted, ground, and how the drink is brewed. 

So, there is, to name a few, Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Instant, Americano, etc. I am sure there are many more. 

There are a few other varieties that are very (south) Indian in nature, like Black Coffee, Bella (Jaggery) Coffee, Karupatti (Palm Jaggery) Coffee, Chukku or Sukku (Ginger) Coffee etc. 

Then, there is the Indian Filter Coffee. 


Coffee, and more specifically filter coffee, is more popular in the south of the country than in the north. Not surprising, because it's said that coffee was first grown in India, in the Chikkamagaluru district, of Karnataka in south India.

The legend has it that the Sufi saint Baba Budan, during a visit to Yemen was so impressed with the taste of coffee that he smuggled some seeds back home and planted them in the hills of Chikkamagaluru on the Western Ghats.


As the name suggests, the process of making the coffee involves a filtering process in a two-layer filter pot. 

The coffee powder (which is usually a bit more coarse than the ones used for other varieties) is put in the upper vessel, pressed to make it compact, a little boiled water poured into it and the mixture is allowed to percolate through the perforations in the top vessel into a lower one.

One or two teaspoons of the concentrate (depending on how strong or light coffee you want) in the lower vessel are taken in a glass and boiling milk added to it, and if needed, some sugar. There you have the filter coffee.

Image source: Rajshree Food/Youtube 
The video, from which the above screenshot has been taken,
explains how one can make filter coffee at home. 

Filter coffee is typically served in a small steel glass placed on a tumbler. Coffee is poured from the glass into the tumbler and back into the glass from a height many times. That's an art. It's done for two reasons: one, so that the decoction, milk and sugar mix well, and two, the coffee becomes frothy and gains a different taste.

Brazil and Vietnam are among the top producers and exporters of coffee in the world. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, India is the third-largest producer and exporter of coffee in Asia and the sixth-largest producer and fifth-largest exporter of coffee in the world.


Coffee, more so filter coffee, was popularised in India by the restaurant chain, Indian Coffee House. It was originally India Coffee House. The first outlet was opened in Bombay in 1932 and around 50 others came up across British India. Later, the chain was closed down.

Encouraged by Kerala's famous Communist leader A K Gopalan, some workers of the India Coffee Board (a government organisation to promote coffee production) formed a cooperative at a meeting in Bangalore in 1957 and renamed the restaurant chain as Indian Coffee House. Different branches across the country are run by different workers' cooperative societies. There are hundreds of them across the country.

One of the Coffee House outlets.
Image source: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint 

There was one landmark outlet on M G Road in Bengaluru. It had to close down in 2006 after the workers' cooperative society lost a legal battle with the owner of the building to stay on that premises. A few months later, it reopened on nearby Church Street.

The ambience of a Coffee House is something very unique. It attracts not just coffee lovers (they serve tea too) but also artists, poets, writers, intellectuals, philosophers, etc. Very often, it's not about the food or drink, it's about the conversations in the Coffee House. It's a place where many ideas related to liberal movements in India have been discussed, and given shape.

(From the Coffee Houses, tomorrow we move to a market area that is one of the oldest in the city.)


  1. Ahhhh. Taste buds in my tongue wants this frothy coffee in that stainless steel damara and tumbler. My personal opinion is roasted beans should be mixed with 20% of chicory in it. Will taste better.

  2. Is it different than different types of coffee? Better? I admit, I know next to nothing about coffee.

  3. Hari OM
    I am so allergic to coffee in the smell can make me nauseous. Tea, though... ahhh.... I so enjoyed visiting tea plantations! Sorry, just the way it is &*> YAM xx

    1. Hi Yamini - The world seems to be split between coffee loves and tea lovers!!!

  4. I have fond memories of going to Indian Coffee House at Kerala with my father ....Filter Coffee .... its something I totally love about our South Indian culture ....

  5. I should've guessed it'll be filter coffee but I didn't.
    Oh! I absolutely love it. Got hooked when I stayed with my Kanadiga friend during University days.
    Now, craving some:)
    Thank you for sharing and bringing so many coffee and coffee houses related memories to life.

  6. Oh, the famous filter coffee. I come from a family of coffee lovers (not surprising) and I can already imagine them discussing everything from coffee beans to the tumblers in vivid detail. :)

    1. Hi Srivalli - Indeed very unique to south India.

  7. My husband read that there is a global coffee shortage this year. I'm not much of a caffeine drinker, but I hope he's wrong. There will be a lot of grumpy people everywhere. ~yikes~ The coffeehouse tradition is very cool. I used to meet fellow writers at such places. :) Thanks for sharing this fascinating history. Be well!

    1. Hi Darla - Something that brings together tea/coffee houses and creative guys, right?

  8. Hmmm, a good coffee... is good! I like Expresso, short and strong, while chatting with friends, or colleagues. I love tea too ;)

  9. Interesting. I haven't seen coffee made that way before--I don't really drink coffee anyway so I don't have much knowledge on it. I wonder if I'd like it better if it was made the filter way. I'd definitely like to try it.

  10. I am currently drinking my Vietnamese filter coffee. The filter - phin, here - looks much like the ones in your photo. I had no idea it was an Indian style, too! I drink mine black at home, but in a restaurant or coffee shop I always get it the Saigon way - iced, with sweetened condensed milk.

    1. Hi Red - I did read somewhere later that there is a filter coffee as well. Must be a different version. Interesting!