The title of this post is not meant to be metaphorical. It is in fact an assessment of coffees served in various locations in the city. Also, I find the name Madras to be more palatable than the actual name Chennai. This would perhaps be more complete with a few pictures. But still, the picture is something that can be totally unrelated to the taste of the beverage itself.
On the first day at work, we were asked what we were looking forward to in the city of madras. Everyone told about various things like cinema, hot weather and other random things. Well I told the group that I was looking forward for some good coffee. In retrospect, I do understand the city did justice to the rumours on quite a few occasions. Sometimes, it also managed to disappoint me.
I went to Adyar Anand Bhavan (known as A2B) in Tambaram for the first time to test waters. With a lot of help from Google maps and people, I managed to reach the place. The price of coffee was almost half that of the masala dosa. All credits to the rising price of milk these days. There was a dedicated counter for coffee over there. The unique thing about Madras Kaapi is its presentation. The tumbler is always kept inside another bowl and the coffee ALWAYS overflows into the bowl when it is given to you. I am not sure if the practice originated here itself. Some hotels in Bangalore also serve it in a similar fashion.
Blissful bubbles of brown and white along with the small circular dark patch of brown in the centre seduced me like a maiden in her best gown. The first few sips of coffee were not so strong. It was mostly occupied by over enthusiastic bubbles of coffee. It was perhaps like a trailer to a Nolan movie. It created some curiosity though it was not the real stuff. At that point, one is expected to keep the tumbler down take a break for a few seconds, but not more. Then, one must empty the contents in the bowl, shake it for a couple of times and then sip the drink. I followed the procedure almost involuntarily. My taste buds appreciated that sweet spot that the drink had managed to strike. It was the perfect mixture of milk, sugar and decoction.
Surprisingly, the Adyar branch of A2B did not serve good coffee during one of my visits. That was a major disappointment. So was the T-nagar branch of Saravana Bhavan. In fact coffee sucks in all branches of Saravana Bhavan that I have tried. Even some tier two eateries like Bhat’s Bhojan serve better Kaapi than them. However, I might have discovered a gem by chance.
It is this small coffee near T-nagar bus stand called “Vivekananda coffee”. The person there makes a series of vivid expressions while mixing the milk with decoction. It is almost on the border of psychic or hypnotic facial expressions during which his eyes almost follow the path of the coffee falling from the vessel to the cup. Even if the coffee was not so good, I would go there just to see his actions and expressions while he makes the beverage. I would say that the coffee in this place is a notch above that in A2B . It is a bit bolder. It stays on the tip of your tongue for an hour longer (approximately). It is also five bucks cheaper (though that wouldn’t count for most of us).
I am yet to try this Degree Kaapi. I wonder why they call that. Anyway, my topmost achievement would be a successful replication of some proper Madras Kaapi in my own Kitchen. Till then, these Kaapi journeys and narratives will continue.