Coffee came to the hills of South India in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. South Indian coffee reflects its special connection to the land where coffee is frequently planted in the same micro region as many spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. This particular recipe combines two such unique local flavors from South India: coffee and cardamom.
Mysore cardamom coffee is not a typical espresso shot, coffee shop latte or even the house coffee from an average drip coffee machine. The unique flavor of regional South Indian coffee, with or without cardamom, comes from the addition of the chicory root to finely ground coffee. Chicory root is naturally caffeine free and it lightens the jolt of caffeine without compromising the taste, and gives it a mild, sandalwood-like aroma. Depending on the regional source of the coffee beans, extent of roasting, ratio of chicory to coffee, method of preparation, milk-to-coffee ratio, and sweeteners used, a chicory blended coffee such as this one can bring you a genteel caffeine fix or a jolt of energy and adrenalin.
My father-in-law fondly remembers how his sister, who was responsible for making the coffee, sweetened it with palm sugar in place of cane sugar. Though the use of palm sugar in coffee is a regional-cultural preference, it is frequently used in Ayurvedic preparations to treat patients with iron deficiency. My husband loves to make the traditional South Indian filter coffee the old fashioned way with a stainless steel filter apparatus, whereas I prefer a much lighter cup. I will share a two-step method that does not use traditional utensils (unless you already have the filter apparatus), but an espresso machine instead. The distinctive aroma of this coffee takes me to the lush, misty hillsides of Coorg.
Makes: Twelve 2½-oz servings; 45 calories ea.
Diet: Jain, Ritual friendly, Vegetarian, Gluten-free
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time, Ease: 10 minutes, Easy
2-3 tbsp South Indian chicory blend coffee1 cup hot water4 cups whole milk2-3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk (optional)3-4 green cardamom pods4 tbsp raw sugar, jaggery or palm sugar (or sweeten to taste)
Prepare a decoction of the coffee using your preferred coffee maker.
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a low boil. Lightly crush the cardamom pods, place them in a tea ball or infuser, and add it to the milk. Let this to brew for 4-5 minutes on low until the cardamom fragrance is distinctive. Brew a little more for a more intense cardamom flavor. Carefully remove the tea ball. Add the condensed milk, if desired, and stir in until it dissolves. Add the coffee decoction into the hot milk and stir in. Sweeten to taste.
To serve, “pull” the prepared coffee by pouring rapidly between a tall heat-proof glass or cup and the saucepan, allowing the milk to froth, cool slightly, and aerate simultaneously. I find it easier to pull the coffee using utensils that have a lip or spout such as a measuring cup or a creamer cup. This form of pulling also ensures that the flavors mix well. A mechanical frother will only mix and froth, but not cool the coffee. Serve immediately in small cups of your choice with the milk foam on top.