I am a compulsive coffee drinker – the trait that I share with most Americans. Now that Starbucks is spreading in India, should try by favourite Cafe Latte when one of their outlets open in my city – Chennai.
The quintessential Decoction Coffee
My idea of a satiating coffee experience is the typical “Decoction” coffee, which is erroneously (and widely) referred to as “Filter” coffee. It is not the equipment (or the receptacle) that makes that kind of coffee unique but the special brew prepared by the process of ‘drip brewing’ employing the appropriately roasted and ground coffee beans – the “Decoction”, which is the crux!
Traditionally such decoction coffee is served in “Dabarah (Davarah) and Tumbler” set, which is again peculiar to the composite Thanjavur district (presently comprising Thanjavur, Thiruvarur & Nagapattinam districts).
This type of preparation of coffee first by making the decoction employing the famous “filter” which is a two-part vessel and then mixing it with boiled milk in correct proportion at correct temperature had been perfected by the fastidious coffee aficionados of Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, although coffee (beans) is sourced (mostly) from Karnataka where the coffee estates are situated – on the Western Ghatas, at Coorg for instance. The Tanjoreans had been the ultimate connoisseurs of decoction (filter) coffee as the morning cup of steaming coffee is an inseparable part of their lifestyle.
Some Gyan on the nom de plume of ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’
The town of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district typifies the culture and ethos of the people of the whole district and hence the decoction coffee has acquired the moniker of “Kumbakonam Degree Coffee” aka “Kumbakonam Fileter Coffee”. And where does the ‘degree’ come from? For the uninitiated – the term ‘degree’ represents the appropriate degree of density (creaminess) of milk, measured by the “Lactometer” which is a special purpose Hydrometer. But the term “Degree” is no longer relevant since we get all our milk in sachets with the relevant data on fat and SNF content of the milk printed on the package.
Beware of Duplicate Kumbakonam Degree Coffee Stalls
If you are a frequent traveller to and from Chennai on the Grand Southern Trunk Road (NH 45), you might have noticed a plethora of sign boards in blue & white peppered along both sides of the road, enticing you to taste the elixir of “Kumbakonam Degree Filter coffee” just off / up to Chengalpattu. But the truth of the matter is all filter coffee shops are not the same! There is only one genuine coffee shop and the rest are all phony. This wisdom dawned on me after a bitter (literally) experience. On a weary afternoon, I strayed on to one of those pretenders, enticed by the huge signboard, and the coffee (christened as Kumbakonam and all that) that was served there was a concoction tasting like a saturated solution of castor oil and tamarind seed extract!
So be warned and avoid all those huge blue and white boards ( and/or of any other colour, for that matter) which swear by the marketable keywords such as ‘Kumbakonam, degree, coffee, filter’ etc.
And the Only Coffee, the Genuine One!
The first and the genuine degree coffee shop is called “Only Coffee India Private Limited”. It is a new concept of Highway Exclusive Coffee shop providing an authentic Kumbakonam Degree Filter Coffee served in Brass Tumbler with an exotic aroma and distinct flavor. It has been a huge success right from its inception. It is a law of nature that the success of a model spawns innumerable clones and copycats! Hence the mushrooming of degree coffee outlets of different hues, but characterised by uniform lack of quality and taste!
Exact Location of the genuine Only Coffee India Pvt Ltd
Actually I had not noted down the address of the outfit when I enjoyed the coffee a few months ago, assuming that I can remember the location, being a frequent traveller. But human memory being notoriously treacherous, I couldn’t recall the name nor the location! Added to that is the annoyance of copycats galore, flaunting Degrees and Kumbakonams all along the highway! Recently on my way towards Chennai from Tiruchy, I was frantically looking it up – is it this Kumbakonam, or that “Degree Coffee” – No, it doesn’t seem to be like that! I was progressively eliminating the pretenders like the principle of “Neti Neti”, meaning, “Not this, Not this”, which is the Vedic analysis of negation in understanding the Advaitic concept of Brahman (the Ultimate) as enshrined in the Brahadaranyaka Upanishad.
Now to the correct location of our favourite “Only Coffee India Private Ltd”:
1. While driving towards Chennai on NH 45:-
5th Kilometer from the Melmaruvathur Bus Stand, opposite to an Indian Oil Petrol Bunk. You can find an ATM of City Union Bank in front of the Coffee Shop. The next door has a JCB show room. You can’t miss it easily!
2. If you are driving away from Chennai, there is also an unit of Only Coffee on that side of the highway (being double roads). It is a new premises with all modern facilities, with the quality of the quintessential degree coffee (Kaapi) unchanged! They have a good variety of special snacks too. Availability of liberal parking space and very neat and clean toilets is an added attraction!
It is at 20th kilometer from the Chengalpattu Toll Booth, and approximately 2 Km from the Balaji Bhavan Restaurant.
The secret of the inimitable and satisfying taste of the Only Coffee? Hear it from the very owner of the outfit himself (in Tamil). Essentially he uses good quality fresh milk as well as quality Plantation Peaberry coffee beans and mixes only the “First Decoction” that is brewed in the filter – which is the very NUB that gets you the unique taste!
Enjoy the heavenly coffee at “Only Coffee” and avoid the spurious ‘degree’s!
- Elegant and charming Audrey Hepburn
- What I see around me!