Filter Coffee

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South Indians like to enjoy their coffee prepared by the 'filter method'

Baba Budan lived in the 17th century in what is now Chikmagalur District of Karnataka. He went to Arabia to perform the 'Hajj', which is a pilgrimage to Mecca. On the way back, he came via Yemen. There he encountered a strange drink that the Arabs living there made.

They made it by roasting and grinding the beans of a particular plant, and then brewing the powder in water. It was coffee! It was said that it was discovered by a Somali goatherd, who found that his goats became very perky after eating the leaves and berries of a particular plant that grew only in the shade.

When he tasted coffee, he was so excited that he wanted to take it back with him to India. But trade in coffee was tightly controlled by the Arabs. They wouldn't let anyone take seeds out to plant in their own country; they could only take the roasted beans.

Baba Budan managed to get hold of seven beans, which he hid among the folds of his long robes. As he was a very saintly man, few people thought of suspecting him. He left Yemen through the port of Mocha (from where the coffee by that name comes) and came back to Chikmagalur. He planted the beans - and luckily they grew!

Coffee has been enjoyed by South Indians ever since the time of Baba Budan. Even today, the best coffee beans are said to come coffee estates from Baba Budan Giri, a small range of hills in Chikmagalur district.

1860 coffee cultivation gained momentum for it held the promise of export but a few bags managed to pave its path into the local market and received extensive support from the railways and the local stall vendors. Coffee slowly transitioned from road side stalls to households where it found aficionados who roasted their own beans - peaberry preferably - and devised their own unique gadgets and utensils for roasting, grinding, brewing and serving that came to be known as the filter. In the process, they elevated filter coffee into an art form and created a coffee culture that practically defines a community.

The filter coffee wave brought with it a teaming economy - the Leo coffee was set up in 1910, followed by Narasu’s coffee in 1919.
MTR set up shop at Lalbagh Fort Road, Bangalore, and out-of-home coffee got a new dimension, the magical kaapi, along with idli, vada, dosa and sambhar, found yet another entourage of devotees.