Wednesday 9 December 2009

Can I ask you for a cuppa coffee

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! 

Image courtesy:


  1. Oh yes, if you read Wikipedia (and trust it), coffee was positioned as a drink for the elite, when it was introduced in India. It therefore carries this legacy and hence coffee powder still costs more than tea powder.

    And in US, tea replaced coffee because of the availability of cheap (and forced) labour in Brazil during the initial days of the US republic. Couple that with the desire to get away from anything that was a carry over of the British legacy. So, Americans dumped tea in favour of coffee because of market economics and the desire to be different, rather than any changes in taste.

  2. Rightly said Vinay. Its interesting that many of our food products have an interesting history. Talk about the politics in food! I do trust Wiki as its something that is based on collective community contribution.


  3. Thanks Susan for sharing the wonderful history of coffee.

    You are very right, we seldom give enough thought at how some of the foods and drinks we simply are addicted too can have an equally interesting history.

    Keep up the good work.Hope to stay in touch.


  4. So when's our date for a cup of coffee, Sus.. Ours is a coffee family n we drink say about 7-8 coffees daily (Nescafe n Bru).

    I prefer instant variety to the boiling powder.. N I run far away from tea..

    Strong coffee any day without sugar for me... between isn't it from Brazil....:))

  5. Beautiful post about the history of coffee.;) I love this wonderful drink and yes indeed, some ofte facts you list here were not part of my knowledge.;)

  6. Chatterbox: Weird to call someone like that. Welcome aboard and thanks for coming by. I like new visitors and when comments are expressed, WOW! You are right when you say that we seldom give thoughts to food and the like. Being aware is the key here.

    Ashes: Missed thee. Anytime. Just tell me and we shall go by and by and have a cuppa coffee. It came over from Ethiopia.

    Zuzana: Glad that the post was informative to you. Thanks for coming by dear one.

    Joy always.

  7. Heading home during the weekend....Will be missing in action for a couple of days... last minute packer, so running around!

  8. All the best for the season. Joy to you as well as AB.

    Shall miss you!!!! :-(

    Joy and love always,

  9. This was a very interesting read...
    Coffee was viewed as a form of rebellion!?! Who knew! :)

    I am a tea drinker in the summers and a coffee maniac in the winters...Have a cup of coffee sitting in front of me right now! :)

  10. Although I'm a tea drinker, I love the smell of coffee. But I do shy from it because it just gives me the jitters. I don't know why it is but I've never developed a tolerance to the high levels of caffeine. I'm so jealous when my husband brews a nice pot of coffee and just sits there and sips cup after cup of it. I steal a sip every once in a while, but a full cup is more than I can handle.

    That was a very good review, Susan. Thank you for bringing us this fine bit of history and custom.


  11. Be back to read your posts, but for now come by my blog have something for you. Blessings.

  12. For something as simple as coffee it's not that simple after all.
    Thank you for the interesting history. Who would have guessed it could take on fashion, social class, economics and politics.

  13. greetings, ladyoflight! just wanted to drop by and say hello and thank you for your sweet spirit dropping by my places as you do - your visits always brighten my days!

    as an aside, the past week or so has found me distracted and sidetracked with the ups and downs of familial and other issues which have taken me from my usual time and energies on my own blogs and those of dear friends such as you - also i'm working on a couple of large art pieces with imminent deadlines - so please forgive my seemingly "irreverent" attention here and know that my lack of postings and comments in no way reflects my anything except that which it is - peripheral things to which i must attend for a couple of weeks - but i'll be back and forth as i can so please check over at my place at your leisure, as i, of course, will yours! with much affection - jenean

  14. Sorry for the late acknowledgments. I was away for a while.

    Ashley: Nice of you to drop by. Hmmm. Every food has its history. Dig in for a lot of surprises.

    Nevine: Your comments are always insightful like a stimulating cuppa coffee!! But I am still unable your aversion towards coffee. Everyone’s tongue is different, I reckon. Thanks for the kind words dear Nevine.

    Gaia: ((((Hugs)))

    Being Me: Thanks for coming by this blog. Glad that you liked the post. Hope to see more of you in the future. Have a great week.

    Govind: “Kappi na Narasus kappi than.” Nice ad which reminds me of the good old Ussilamani and the times. Thanks for coming by. Nandri!

    Jenean: You take great care and be happy!

  15. Great post! I'm drinking coffee right now. . . .

  16. Elizabeth: Nice to see a comment by you. Thanks for dropping by. Hope the snow is not getting on to your nerves.

    Joy always.



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