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Coffee by the Meter!


Meter Coffee, Coorg


The measure of a good coffee in South India is often a function of the ‘lengths’ to which the coffee maker is prepared to go to mix his concoction. The man seen here, nonchalantly drawing a meter-long string of decoction and milk, from one arm to the other, is a minor celebrity of sorts in the area near our Resort. ‘Ali Ikka’, as he’s popularly known, is someone who can ‘pull’ the coffee to that perfect length without batting his eyes, or allowing the flow to even stutter. This ritual is something that even the most humble barista (or coffee wallah) in South India has to master before taking his appointed place behind the boiler and filter that are the tools of his trade. While the quality of the brew depends on the blending and filtering, a good ‘coffee master’ is a showman who understands that the froth that crowns the cup is half the battle won, and that is directly a consequence of the length and robustness of the mixing rhythm. Ali’s Cafe by the Cauvery is a rudimentary shack in the village adjoining the Resort. This quaint little place, however, boasts of a rather sumptuous menu to accompany the famous kaapi. You could sit back on a rainy day sipping a hot cuppa while biting into a delicious ulli vada, or succulent sweet and savoury bondas, juicily crisp pazham-poris, or even a flaky puttu or crisp dosa if you’re game for a leisurely breakfast. If all this seems redolent of neighbouring Kerala, it’s because Ali migrated from his native Malappuram almost a quarter of a century back, and brought with him the flavours of his beloved Malabar Coast. What he learned in Coorg, thankfully, was the knowledge that the difference between a cup of coffee and an urn brimming with frothy divinity, was often just a meter!


Photograph: Ganesh H Shankar Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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