Madras Coffee – What makes it so great?!

| September 15, 2012

Madras coffee is a sumptuous and extremely satisfying sweet milky coffee beverage made from dark roasted coffee and chicory. Especially popular in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Madras coffee was originally introduced by Baba Budan to South India in the 16th century and became very popular under the British Rule
The popular Indian lore says that on a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 16th century, Baba Budan, a revered Muslim holy man from India, discovered the wonders of coffee. In his determination to share what he’d found with his friends at home, he managed to smuggle a whopping seven coffee beans out of the Yemeni port of Mocha. Apparently, Starbucks had not yet found its way to Yemen. As a matter of fact, India’s first coffee house didn’t open until after the battle of Plassey in 1780, in Calcutta.

Chicory, the wildcard component of Madras coffee is the root of the endive (lettuce) plant. The root is roasted, ground and added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roasted beans. It introduces a delightful, almost chocolate flavor. Until the middle of the 20th century, traditional Indian households would not use granulated sugar in coffee, they used jaggery (a concentrated product of cane juice without separation of the molasses and crystals) or honey.

Most of us, at one time or another, have observed the exciting pouring ritual of the delicious blend back and forth between the dabarah and the tumbler in huge arc-like motions of the hand. This serves several purposes: mixingthe ingredients thoroughly; cooling the hot coffee down to a sipping temperature; and most importantly, aerating the mix without introducing extra water (such as with a steam wand used for frothing cappuccino).

As Madras coffee requires the use of chicory which is not easily located in the U.S., a reasonable alternative is to use a brand of Indian instant coffee that is commonly available in ethnic supermarkets. BRU instant coffee has 30% chicory and has a very similar taste to authentic Madras coffee.
To make one cup of coffee:

1. Heat just 1/4 cup (think espresso) of water until it boils. Put in 1/2 to 2 teaspoons (depending on the desired strength) of BRU instant coffee.
2. Stir the solution well to ensure that there are no lumps.
3. Boil 3/4 cup of milk.
4. Add the coffee concoction to the milk and add sugar as per your desired sweetness.
5. While the coffee is still very hot, pour it into a mug or preferably a stainless steel tumbler.
6. While pouring the coffee slowly and carefully, raise the saucepan until the coffee is falling into the mug/tumbler from a height of about 1 to 1  1/2 feet. This will cause the coffee to froth like the foamy head of a cappuccino.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!