Over a cup of coffee

As October 1 is International Coffee Day, TNIE takes a look at the origins & journey of these magical beans

Published: 30th September 2023 07:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2023 07:22 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: As the rain pours down, starting your morning with a cup of warm coffee is just heaven. A bit bitter, a bit sweet — coffee is the nectar that makes your morning better. The concoction is so versatile that on a hot day, you can even opt for a chilled brew with ice cubes clinking in the glass.

There are many theories regarding the origins of this popular beverage. According to some, this drink was already available in Mecca in the 15th century. One popular legend centres around an Ethiopian goat herder in AD 800. He noticed that his goats were becoming increasingly lively after eating a certain wild berry. Curious, he presented the berries to a local monk, who then threw them into a fire, cursing them as evil. 

However, the delightful aroma that sprang forth captivated both. After retrieving the roasted berries and soaking them in water, the two found the resulting drink invigorating, even capable of keeping them awake at night. These magical beans soon reached the Arabian Peninsula, from there they started a journey, conquering the world.

By the 16th century, coffee had already made its mark in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Coffee became more than just a beverage — it became a sensation. The Arabs tried to hold a monopoly over it, only letting the ground coffee go out while holding cultivation privileges. Coffee houses started emerging where men would gather to talk about philosophy, politics, religion, and gossip, far away from the watchful eyes of the authorities. These coffee houses gave birth to philosophers and provided them a communal platform, which was previously reserved for the elites.

India was not always obsessed with tea. There was a time when coffee was the drink of the common people while tea belonged to the elites. But how did coffee make its way to India?  There are some fascinating tales regarding how coffee reached here. The popular among revolves around a Sufi pilgrim from Karnataka named Baba Budan. 

After his pilgrimage to Mecca, Budan secretly brought back seven coffee beans in the stitches of his coat from Arabia, where they closely guarded the coffee trade. He then sowed these beans in Chikmagalur’s Chandragiri Hills, which later became renowned as the starting point of coffee cultivation in India. This region is now popularly referred to as Baba Budan Giri in his honour. Legend says the seeds he acquired were of the Arabica type, which is intriguingly the second most cultivated coffee crop, after Robusta.

There are also claims that coffee first emerged on the Malabar Coast, brought by Arab merchants. It’s also said the beverage was a favourite in the courts of the Mughal elite. While coffee was known in India, its widespread distribution and commercial growth truly began during the colonial period. The renowned Arabian beverage caught the eye of the English, leading them to seize the opportunity. Vast forests were cleared to establish extensive coffee plantations, primarily in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

During the Industrial Revolution in Europe, workers were periodically given coffee breaks to rejuvenate their energy, enabling them to work extended hours, often around the clock. Thus the drink of the elite became a common drug of the working class. While in India, we predominantly relish our coffee with milk and sugar, globally, the beverage has varied avatars. In Italy, it’s a dark shot, the espresso; in Vietnam, it’s with condensed milk, sometimes an egg is also added to it; in Arabia, it’s cardamom kissed; in Cuba, it is espresso but with sugar; the French have their own roasting style. Indeed, the coffee wears a lot of costumes. Yet with every sip, it sings the universal tune of content.

South India cherishes its distinct brew, the filter coffee, affectionately referred to as ‘kaapi’. The aromatic brown drink served in a steel tumbler and crowned with milk froth, is an emotion deeply woven into the fabric of its culture. It was around the 19th century that the Britishers tried to popularise tea among the common people. Subsequently, they took over coffee trade and soon, coffee houses owned by the British mushroomed in India. But these were off-limits to the locals. However, the emergence of the Indian Coffee House, operated by the Coffee Cess Committee, became a prominent social hub for intellectual discourse.

The first Indian Coffee House was set up in September 1936 in Churchgate, Bombay. They gained popularity nationwide. The Coffee Board of India, a successor to the Coffee Cess Committee, threatened their existence. In response, workers, aided by communist leader A K Gopalan, consulted Jawaharlal Nehru, who recommended establishing a cooperative society, which then took their control from the board.

They have been running branches of Indian Coffee House around the country since 1958. The first coffee house under the society opened in Thrissur. Since then, coffee has become gained increased popularity among Indians, especially after the liberalisation in the 1990s. Now, coffee is everywhere, and so are coffee chains and cute and cosy cafes where people throng for their daily fix of caffeine.


  • Monsooned Malabar, a technique distinct to the Western Ghats, emerged accidentally when the British transported coffee beans to Europe. Exposed to months of rain and humidity, the beans swelled and their acidity diminished, unveiling a novel coffee taste. The process draws its name from the monsoon breezes.
  • Before the art of coffee brewing was discovered, tribes in East Africa combined coffee berries with animal fats and consumed them as food.
  • The first machine for making espresso was built and patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy.
  • In 1932, the Brazilian government didn’t have enough money to send their athletes to Olympics, so they funded the trip by selling coffee. They loaded up a ship of coffee beans to sell them in California.
  • Coffee is the second-most traded commodity after oil.
  • Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, is extracted from the dried feces of the civet.
  • India is the eighth largest producer of coffee after Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Honduras, Ethiopia and Peru.

( Recipe by Aiina Mariyam @_pandafied_)

Mascarpone cheese: 1 cup
Whipped cream: 1 cup
Powdered sugar (optional): ¾ cup
Black coffee (cold and without sugar): 1 cup
Lady finger biscuits (savoiardi): about 24 pieces
Vanilla essence: 1 teaspoon
Cocoa powder for garnish

Method of preparation
Whisk the cheese until smooth and creamy, add sugar to the cheese and mix. Add the whipped cream and fold them without deflating the cream. Finally, add vanilla essence to the mix. Dip the lady-finger biscuits in cold coffee and layer a base in a bowl or pan. Top the biscuits with the mascarpone cheese mixture and repeat this step, layer by layer. Dust the top layer with cocoa powder.  Refrigerate and serve.


Strong coffee: 1 cup
Irish whiskey: 1-2 shots
Sugar: 1-2 tablespoons
Whipped cream, for garnish

Method of preparation
Heat a mug by rinsing it with hot water. Add the coffee, whiskey, and sugar to the mug and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately.


Egg yolk: 1
Sugar: 1 tablespoon
Espresso: 1 shot
Condensed milk: 1/4 cup
Hot water: 1/4 cup

Method of preparation 
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the condensed milk and whisk until combined.
Pour hot water and espresso into a glass and top with the egg yolk mixture. Serve immediately.


Vanilla ice cream: 1 scoop
Espresso: 1 shot

Method of preparation 
Place the ice cream in a small bowl and pour espresso over it. Serve immediately

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