Subtleness is that India is the world’s sixth largest coffee producer, growing some of the finest coffees in the world but has been synonymous with tea drinking. An average Indian consumes only 100 grams of coffee a year — compared with 5 kilos for an average European (Per capita consumption of Finland is 11 kilos!!). For India big chunk of this little consumption comes from the Filter coffee drinking market mostly from southern India. It is something of a cultural icon in southern India, where everyone wishes to wake up to their sinful, little cups of Filter Coffee served the traditional way, It is also customary to offer a cup of coffee to any visitor.
Traditionally Indian filter coffee it is made with a mix of chicory root, a coffee substitute introduced in India as a means of more cheaply cutting the more expensive pure coffee. Chicory, when mixed with ground coffee, it adds thickness, aroma, and volume, the taste that is imbrued within Indian filter coffee tradition. Coffee worldwide is regarded as one of most desired healthy drinks, scientists have studied the effects of coffee on various aspects of health and their results have been nothing short of amazing. Coffee contains only caffeine but hundreds of flavourful compounds that have major health benefits.
The one thing that everyone knows for sure is that coffee energizes you, keeps you awake. Sadly, I have never felt energized drinking the Indian filter coffee, the coffee which generally has mix of 20% chicory, sometime even up to 40%. Some of the filter coffee brands call a 40% chicory mixed as a ‘Strong & Bold’ coffee.
Solubility – Pure grounded coffee when mixed with water for extraction yields about 20% (18-22%) solubility meaning; only 20% of the coffee is extracted or dissolved (in decoction). As opposed to coffee, chicory has 75% solubility; it dissolves in water much more than coffee. So for example if we take a 10gms of ground Filter Coffee with 20% chicory mix to make filter coffee decoction, the extraction of coffee with 20% solubility will be about 1.6gms (out of 10gms) and extraction of chicory with 75% solubility will about 1.5gms. So essentially you will be drinking 50% chicory that completely masks all the beautiful flavourful compounds of coffee. Whatever doctrinal differences, most coffee fanatics will agree that the ground coffee must not be mixed with any other substance, not even milk.
India has long been growing some of finest coffees still grown in a traditional shade grown culture which matures the coffee more slowly in the shade by increasing natural sugars and enhancing the flavour making it one of the most preferred coffees in the world. Sadly 90% of the specialty coffee is exported out of India and whatever bit that stays is mixed with chicory, leaving the coffee connoisseurs of India craving for a good cup full of coffee.