My enduring memories of coffee as I was growing up was the daily morning sound of the Philips hand grind machine which my dad would without fail turn to produce the fresh coffee powder which would go thru the rather traditional decoction process and get mixed with the freshest available buffalo milk full of creamy goodness coming from the nearby cowherd stable (it was in the grounds attached to my house – distance from the udder to stove being not more than 10 meters).
Actually the journey of this best coffee would begin a little earlier than that. It would start with the ongoing visit to India Coffee House Depot outlet in Sector 5 market complex, the Pondy Bazar or Orchard Road of Rourkela, a small steel township in the eastern part of India where (initially regularly and later a little more erratically) one would go to source for the gold standard in coffee bean Pea Berry (much later I discovered that there is no such variety as pea berry, it is either Arabica or Robusta). Such was the demand this fine variety of coffee bean that quantity per person often got restricted. The unlucky ones would get Plantation A. (Later on when India Coffee House really faltered in its ability to deliver coffee one would take pains to source initially the beans from Calcutta and later on with much reluctance the coffee powder from Chennai.) Coffee bean would then go through the elaborate process of drying and roasting in small batches filling the house with the aroma of roasted bean. The roasting had to be perfection would often take a lot of time effort and stirring of mom. That would then get cooled down and put in a tin container which would be kept air tight. The batch would only last for a week, making this a weekly ritual.
Preparation of coffee decoction alluded to earlier in this note is also an involved process. There would be the traditional two container filter which would come detachable with top container having fine perforations to let the concentrated decoction flow through. The ground bean would be transferred into the filter and receptor container would then be affixed to the filter. Water would be boiling in the meanwhile. Trick would be not let it reach steam level but stop just short of that, this was done ensure the powder does not burn away. The process of pouring water is nothing short of an elaborate ritual. One had to pour a bit of water on the powder to dampen the powder so as not to dissipate the powder through the perforation. Once the powder and water slush was ready add more water carefully to let it seep through and create pure liquid gold of a first decoction. This is as close to nectar as it can be. In the meanwhile the fresh full cream buffalo milk would be set to boil. The milk boiling point and the decoction falling should be timed to perfection so that the first decoction and the freshly boiled milk would mixed with a small dollop of sugar to get possibly the best coffee in the world. That with two days old The Hindu paper would be a start to a perfect day.
Having moved on in life when I have my cup of coffee in the morning these days with The Straits Times in hand I still think back of the best coffee that I ever had and always this picture comes to my mind and brings a smile to my face.