The very mention of coffee invites stimulating thoughts to many. Some relate with the refreshing aroma, the almost bitter taste, the slow warming of the insides or a rejuvenation on an exceptionally tiring day. Well, yesterday having attended a talk on coffee, made me reflect on many aspects of this refreshing drink. The speaker traced the history of coffee in India and the cultural connotations. Interestingly coffee along with many other foods like chillies, ground nuts, tapioca, tea and sugar is not indigenous to India. These food products were introduced by the colonial legacy. Coffee was in fact considered as a substitute for alcohol as it had some intoxicating properties.
Only the late 19th century witnessed the raise of coffee in India. Hmmmm. Seems like we have had the drink forever! The speaker mentioned how coffee was viewed with a certain cultural anxiety as alcohol is today. People from the lower strata of society did not drink it. It was consumed only by the upper crust of the society. Coffee was also the realm of men and women who drank coffee were viewed as rebelling against the 'male-system' as they were seen as 'fast' women. Patriarchy!!! Interesting!!!
Now the coffee drunk in mainstream places (read cities) is different from that of the rural. There is also a distinction between the coffee in Northern India and Southern India. Tea is famous in North India where coffee is in the South. Even in South India, Tamil Nadu favours coffee while Kerala prefers Tea. Cultural habits, you see!!
After all this, the coffee we consume is actually a clever consumer package which is not the exact quality of coffee. We pay almost three times the original cost of coffee. Furthermore, the price of coffee is decided by Nestle in Switzerland and not in India (this is the popular Nescafe, Nestle's product). Even in America the democrats and not the republicans, favour coffee, so the statistics say.
Now did you ever think that the lovely coffee you so enjoy has this kind of splendid history. Every food has its own background. Would be lovely if you could provide trivia about some favourite food of yours. Afterall food is an indispensable part of culture!
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