Coffee, Tea and Me


Ever woken up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee? If you have you’ll completely agree with me when I say there’s nothing more heady and bracing. The first sip of that cuppa hot and bitter brew would excite an ‘Hmmm…’ of utter approval from the most grouchy riser – if he is a coffee lover.

Though it takes about 45 minutes for the caffeine to be completely absorbed by the stomach and the small intestine, did you know that within ten to fifteen minutes of draining that cup the caffeine stimulates your central nervous system and your metabolism into action?  Due to the norepinephrine released by the brain, caffeine increases respiration, strengthens the pulse, raises blood pressure, stimulates the kidneys, relieves fatigue and makes you mentally and physically alert. Besides (beware diabetics) caffeine urges the liver to release sugar into the blood stream. The pancreas react by producing more insulin and there begins your blood sugar roller coaster ride. And there also lies the reason for that spurt of energy you experience.

As a child growing up in a household of coffee addicts (my parents) the early morning aroma of brewing coffee was as natural as the sun filtering through the slats of my bedroom window. However, I never tasted the stuff until I was ten or eleven years old. My mother had once poured a tablespoon of thick coffee into my milk hoping the aroma would coax me into finishing my milk. That was not to be. I neither took to coffee in my milk nor to milk in its natural form. Other than that my foray into the world of coffee extended only to the occasional visit to ‘Santacruz Tea Mart’ a little shop in Bombay (India) that sold Coffee and Tea in its purest forms. My mother relied on this ‘institution’ for as long as I remember, to feed her fondness for coffee and tea. Suburban Bombayites might remember this little shop that had branches in several parts of the suburbs. Once in a while Mamma would send me out to buy coffee and tea. I would repeat her instruction over and over in my mind so as not to forget the special brew she required. ‘Peaberry coffee and STM special tea’. Only a quarter kilo of the freshly roasted and powdered coffee would be purchased at a time and this would last for four or five days at the most.

Though there are only two main types of coffee grown in the world – Arabica and Robusta, the growing conditions, (temperature, soil and water) and processing techniques (temperatures used for roasting the beans) result in the differences in flavors. Arabica accounts for 70% of the coffee grown in the world and Robusta for the remaining 30%. The Arabica bean is mild and aromatic and the plant flourishes at higher altitudes. However, it is killed by frost. The Robusta is easier to grow and has a heavier more bitter-tasting bean. It also contains greater amounts of caffeine and this plant can stand variations of temperature as well.  The Peaberry is a rarer form of coffee. It belongs to the Arabica clan but with a difference. Coffee plants produce fruit in the form of a coffee cherry. Typically the coffee cherry grows two halves of a bean within a cherry. Sometimes the coffee cherry produces a single bean rather than two halves. It is smaller in size than the regular bean and has a more robust and acidic flavor. This rarity which accounts for only 5% of the world’s coffee is called Peaberry Coffee.

Now we come to the roasting of the coffee beans. There are three kinds of roasting techniques,  The mild roast requires 4 minutes of roasting the beans in a wok or karahi or any other wide heavy bottomed container.  You have to continuously stir the beans until they achieve a even, light brown color. The temperatures should not exceed 250*C. The heavier roast requires the beans to be roasted for 5 minutes and you will achieve a darker shade of brown. The last technique known as the French roast gives you a very dark shade of brown and to achieve that you have to roast the beans for 6.5 minutes.

My addiction to coffee commenced only when I was 36 or 37 yrs old. My husband Rajeev often grumbled about not ever enjoying the companionable pleasure of sharing a cuppa brew together. He was a tea drinker and I disliked both coffee and tea with milk and sugar (I had never tried black coffee or tea until then). On his urging I tried to drink coffee with milk and sugar and then without milk but with a little sugar. Hated both! Then one day I tried black coffee, mildly brewed… and loved it! Over the years my coffee and its custom have grown stronger and I can no longer stay away from it.

There’s a little known fact about coffee that I must share with my women readers. Coffee kills Cellulite by breaking it down. Instead of throwing away the coffee grounds, mix it with olive oil and apply regularly over thighs and other areas where cellulite accumulates, rub gently for five minutes. Please let me know what happens to the cellulite. Besides, coffee grounds act as a very good fertilizer for house plants, especially rose bushes. It is also known to be an insect repellant. See what happens when you empty your coffee grounds over the anthill in your garden!

(to be continued)

– Vinny


a trained singer and an excellent cook. She has been cooking at home for the last 32 years and is now a restauranteur. An Army officer's wife, she has travelled the length and breadth of India and has been exposed to many of the numerous variations of Indian cuisine. She likes to experiment and is particularly fond of breakfast food and meats.