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« Some of my best friends ... | Main | Twilight of the Ayotollahs? »

January 19, 2011


Rather than reheating the decoction from the typical S.Indian filter, I take to boiling the milk to the point where it is going to froth over the edge of the cup and then add in the cooled decoction. That does yield a fairly drinkable temperature, given that I don't particularly wish my coffee to be scaldingly hot, as some do.

I'm yet to try Anna's suggestion for the Lavazza, to see if that replicates the arabica/robusta blend that I got used to...Off now to check the website place an order pronto.

Me, I'm a Chemex and Trader Joe's beans, home ground, kind of guy. I have the Bialetti and a fancy-schmancy Bodum French press, but Chemex does the job just fine, and the cleanup is almost nil. Black, no sugar, please.

I prefer Peggy to Ella. And Doughty! I'm thinking that just ascended a notch or two up the reading list. I've had the two volume Dover reprint for ages, but have always shied from starting it.

Dean : I hope my memory of the passage was correct; it could easily have been Burton or Thesiger whose books, like Doughty's, I have enjoyed in moderate doses.
Sujatha : Surely you have Italian stores near you that stock Lavazza and others as good. Me, I go for cheap. Trader Joe's is good but too far, so I buy beans at Marshalls to augment my own. Chicory, the MSG of coffee, will perk up even Dunkin D beans (quite decent), though it has disappeared from grocery stores and become a specialty item. Buying beans and having a burr mill (not a blade grinder) helps. And yes, heating milk and not the coffee; the pudu-paal reference was to that end.

Fantastically enlightening! I've been trying to drink less coffee, which means taking it more seriously as a gourmet item. Does anyone remember the coffee-grinding scene in _Smilla's Sense of Snow_? I think it's wise to include the Danes in any serious discussion of coffee. But now what I want most is my own MTR mug....

Lavazza's arabica/robusta blend, for what it's worth, is comparable in price to TJ's, on Chicory is also available on (I swear they don't pay me).

Much of interest in this, and several items that I'll admit I had to look up. I don't think that I've ever owned a "burr mill," except in the form of a spice grinder, which would be exhausting to try to use to grind coffee. Am intrigued-- seems like crushing the beans would extrude more of the oils than slicing them with a blade.

The egg white method sounds not unlike the method for making/clarifying consomme. The egg shell thing I have some memory of coming across among my mid-western connections, though I can't remember the rationale.

Mostly, I drink Pete's Coffee, only because a bottomless free supply of it is perhaps the best-- perhaps the only-- perq of my job (Pete's is a local company, and either donates the coffee to my non-profit, or at least gives us a very good deal). I find Pete's a little strong, but pretty good. My main preference in terms of beans is that I like beans on the nutty, rather than acidic/berry end of the flavor spectrum, and not too darkly roasted.

Home roasting is big in Oakland, as are micro-sourced coffee bean suppliers saddled with an air of foofaraw. I am intrigued, but so far not enough to embark on what your post only reaffirms for me is a substantial undertaking.

I've had an inexpensive cafetiere for years. Left to my own devices, I tend to make coffee in that, or in a French press. We also have an electric drip coffee maker, and a high-falutin' real Italian espresso maker (often, as now, on the fritz). Three out of four of these coffee makers were wedding gifts-- quite absurd, on some level, but also appreciated.

I traveled in Ouro Preto less than two years ago, and really enjoyed it, but don't remember the coffee, though do remember delicious coffee elsewhere Brazil. In France and in Italy, as well, cafe creme/cappuccino is for mornings or tourists. I found the rigidity on this and other food matters alternately entertaining and annoying.

That'd be Peet's, Anna. Cafeina, a little mom-'n'-pop on Solano, does a good cup of coffee, too, from Oakland roasted beans. For me, the dark roast is best, because it's less caffeinated. Now that wifey-poo is pregnant, I've been brewing a half-half decaf "blend" (TJ's beans).

Quite ignorant about the niceties of coffee brewing, I like to take my coffee outside the home. The only time coffee is made regularly in our house is when our son visits, using the run-of-the-mill drip style coffee maker. (Despite growing up among tea drinkers, the boy is a coffee lover.)

I will swear by Narayan's recollections of the Indian Coffee House (now defunct) of the spiffily uniformed waiters (where I also tasted my first hot dog around the age of seven or eight) and the Madrasi hotels with the grungy bare bodied waiter cum busboys. The south Indian coffee was really good in both places.

By the way, outside of all the countries mentioned here for their above par coffee cultures, please include the tea loving nation of Japan. Really good coffee can be found in most upscale restaurants there.

Narayan, your post has inspired me. I am getting myself some coffee paraphernalia and will try my hand at brewing a decent cup at home. I have in my larder a couple of good looking packets of coffee - a Costa Rican Espresso and a bag of pure Kona coffee I purchased in Hawaii on my trip there last summer.

Anna : The chicory at Amazon is a few notches above coffee in price. Have a word with them, please. Loved our two days in Ouro Preto in '91. In our homey B&B the wall above our headboard had a primitive scene painted on it - with Adam and a menstruating Eve! I took a picture for the unbelievers. Spent a restful drizzly afternoon in neighboring Mariana waiting for the onibus. Espresso machines are tetchy. Mine, bought reconditioned, has served well for two years. The filters clog easily with too-fine grinds and are then impossible to clean.
Elatia : Smilla? I'll have to watch it again. Don't know about the Danes but the coffee at railway stations all over Northern Europe exceeded expectations. My memory of MTR is from '55! It's a dump now, good only for eat and run, especially with irascible b-i-l threatening to bloody the waiter's nose.
Ruchira : The electric steam espresso machines (under $50, Krups for example) are easy to use and great for occasional coffee. Unless you take it black, the trick is to make it stronger than you think you'd like it. Unfortunately, roasted coffee, specially after grinding, just doesn't keep for more than a few weeks, if that. Yes, Nihonjin are serious about their kohi.

Living in India and getting coffee beans from the Coffee Board (the same outfit that ran the India Coffee House that Narayan has written so nostalgically about) makes it wonderful to get the best coffee that one can make. I too do the same as Sujatha in pouring boiling milk into the room temperature decoction, and then giving it two proper pours from about a foot or so between the stainless steel tumbler and the "davara" for providing the "head".

For getting good coffee when I am in America I use the Aeropress (available on Amazon for under 25 bucks and called Aerobie 80R08 AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker), designed by a Palo Alto based coffee addict. It gives excellent and strong "decoction" without any of the acidity that one finds in the standard fare at workplace coffee machines.

Here's to more! Thank you for an excellent article, Narayan.

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