I'm just back in Chennai for another term teaching at the Asian College of Journalism. It's 28 degrees here - gorgeous! I had a wander this afternoon to reacquaint myself with the Alwarpet neighbourhood where I stay - I took a stroll round neighbouring 'TamBrahm' Mylapore - and I did a bit of household shopping.
And where else would people shop in the fashionable parts of Chennai but - just as in the posher bits of north London - at Waitrose. Not that there's much in common between Britain's upmarket supermarket chain and the perfectly pleasant but pedestrian store just down the road (no delicatessen, no meat, no fish, no freshly baked bread, no tapenade, no organic hummous ... ).
Except coffee, that is -
If there's one grocery item I can't live without it's Waitrose's Monsooned Malabar coffee. I love the stuff. Every time I open a new packet, I inhale deeply just like a glue sniffer - the wonderful, rich aroma reminds me pungently of the Senior Service cigarettes I used to smoke surreptitiously all those decades ago. It's a smell that takes me right back to adolescence.
Monsooned Malabar is, of course, South Indian coffee - though from the other, western, seabord. Waitrose Chennai-style doesn't stock Monsooned Malabar. But it does have a very handy, friendly, open-air coffee stall (yes, I know it's called 'Tea2Go' but coffee is its speciality) right by the entrance.
This serves excellent South Indian filter coffee at 17 rupees (20 pence) a cup. It's a brew using freshly ground coffee, with a just-about-compulsory dollop of sugar, topped up with boiling milk ladled out from a big pan.
It's served in a metal beaker or tumbler which comes with an outsize metal saucer. Aficionados pour the coffee to and from the tumbler and saucer (it's called a dabarah) - that mixes the coffee, milk and sugar; it cools the drink; and it also aerates the coffee, a bit like the steam wand in a cappuccino. This is what the coffee looks like when ready to consume (photo from Wikipedia - I forgot to take a photo of my own drink).
At this stall, the woman serving does the pouring - a key part of the ritual of South Indian filter coffee.
Now, that's what I call coffee!
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