Two days ago, I saw this sign at our local Peet’s coffee shop.
When I first came to IIM Ahmedabad as a teenager-from-Delhi, coffee was something that came instantly out of a bottle. Delhi’s main hot brown drink was chai, boiled into a strongly flavored soup with spices, or taken English-style with milk and sugar. In our house, we took tea fairly seriously; my Mom would get two kinds, one for flavor and one for strength, and blend them in an airtight can with a piece of dried orange peel. But coffee? That came from Nescafe or Bru. My standards weren’t high (which is just as well, because the standards of the IIM mess weren’t high either). I found the coffee adequate, if barely so.
For my friends from South India (and there were a lot of them), it was torture. Coffee, it seems, was supposed to come from freshly-roasted beans that were ground shortly before being made into a decoction. I had, at this point, never encountered a coffee bean.
My friend Srilata explained the process, and it was she who first told me about Peaberry, the champagne of coffees in Madras (well, it was Madras then, it’s Chennai now). After all these years , here it was popping up as “rare and exotic” and worthy of a countdown at Peets.
I’ll probably stop by to sample some. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never tasted Peaberry coffee though my family-by-marriage is Tamil. (All the best Peaberry is exported, remarked my husband.) I confess it will be probably be wasted on me. I’m still a Philistine about coffee, quite content with instant coffee in a styrofoam cup with Coffeemate and artificial sweetener.