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Antique Brass Coffee Filter

Antique brass Coffee filter
Antique brass Coffee filter

 

I am one among those millions world over for whom a cup of freshly brewed hot coffee early in the morning is a heavenly delight. My coffee should be a South Indian filter coffee with fresh decoction taken from well roasted coffee beans with the right blend of chicory powder mixed with fresh hot foaming milk with a balanced mix of sugar. The first coffee in the morning is divine with the pleasant aroma giving a heady feeling.Without this golden brown brew stimulating the taste buds and the rest of the system,the daily routine will never be triggered.

To have that wonderful coffee,you need a thick fresh aromatic coffee decoction .There is a simple device called Coffee filter which gives you that miracle brown liquid called decoction. The decoction mixed with fresh hot milk and sugar makes an excellent south Indian coffee that is normally served in davara set that consists of one saucer like cup with a rim and a tumbler placed inside the davara. The beautiful antique brass coffee filter shown in the picture has served thousands of tumblers of coffee since more than 100 years and must have witnessed the grateful smiles of satisfied coffee lovers. I am really proud of having this most enchanting antique piece in my collection.

 

Complete coffee filter assembly- Lower chamber, upper chamber, lid and plunger.(The stainless steel plunger is not a part of the antique brass filter but shown as a model)
Complete coffee filter assembly- Lower chamber, upper chamber, lid and plunger.(The stainless steel plunger is not a part of the antique brass filter but shown as a model)

 

The Coffee filter set

The traditional South Indian coffee filter has two chambers that sits one over the other, a lid to cover the top chamber and a plunger. The top chamber has the perforations to allow the filtration to happen.The bottom chamber serves as a collection point of the decoction. Coffee powder is put into the perforated chamber, and the plunger is kept on top of the powder and pressed gently. The plunger is basically a convex disk with perforations and a pin that is welded vertically at the centre of the disk. The purpose of the pin is to lower the disk to sit on top of the coffee powder and to take it out when not required. Hot water is poured on the upper chamber and covered with the lid. The plunger ensures that the falling water do not make a hole in the coffee powder when poured from a height. The plunger takes the pressure of the water and distributes uniformly around the plunger. The hot water seeps into the coffee powder through the holes in the plunger. Over the time, the coffee gets brewed and the decoction percolates to the lower chamber drip by drip carrying the essence and the aroma of the coffee powder. The decoction collected from the first drips mixed with fresh thick milk with adequate sugar makes the perfect coffee and I know people who wake up early in the mornings only to sip this wonderful coffee.  Coffee is the motivation for most of the South Indians to get up early in the morning.

The precious gift

Shrimathi Saraswathi garu and Sri Venkatappayya garu
Shrimathi Saraswathi garu and Sri Venkatappayya garu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beautiful brass antique coffee filter set was gifted to me by Shrimathi Janaswami Saraswathi garu (“garu” is the respectful way of addressing elders in Andhra Pradesh). Saraswathi garu and her husband Janaswami Venkatappayya garu are closely related to us through our niece Vani. Vani is the daughter of my brother-in-law Machraju Purushothama Rao and his wife Machiraju Parvathi. We used to have frequent mutual visits with Janaswami family   while we were in Mumbai. Saraswathi garu was heading a reputed school in Mumbai and Venkatappayya garu was a general manager of Canara bank. Subsequently we settled in Hyderabad and by a pleasant coincidence they have also shifted to Hyderabad and our frequent visits continued.She used to encourage my antique collection and one fine day she gifted this antique brass coffee filter in the year 2006. I was told that the filter was passed on to  Saraswathi garu by her grandmother and it must be by any means more than100 years old.Those were the days the stainless steel has not yet invaded into domestic utilities and hence this filter is made of pure brass. Moreover, the coffee tastes at its best in brass filter and served in brass davara set. I am always grateful to this noble lady for her gracious gift.

 

Lower chamber, upper chamber with perforations and lid- top view
Lower chamber, upper chamber with perforations and lid- top view

 

My experience with coffee

My first experience with coffee was in the year 1950 prepared by my mother in our village Someswaram. My grandfather Shri Yenugu Krishna Murthy Garu is a connoisseur of coffee and he was one of those privileged people in the village to have coffee in those days .My grandfather used to buy coffee beans in bulk from the nearest town Rajahmundry and store them. My mother is to pick up one week’s consumption, roast them to a dark brown colour and pound them to a fine granular powder.Subsequently he used to buy fresh readymade powder. There were no metallic coffee filters available those days around my village. My mother used to keep coffee powder in a bronze tumbler and pour over it hot boiling water and keep a lid for brewing. Then she used to filter the brew through a fine cloth which would allow the fine decoction to filter down and arresting the residue. We used to call the process Gudda coffee (“gudda” means cloth in Telugu). My next taste of coffee is in Kakinada, Dwaraka Lunch Home in the year 1956. I did not know how it is made but there is nothing special to mention about it.

My first real filter coffee experience was at Madras (present day Chennai)in the year 1961.My sister and brother-in-law used to stay in West Mambalam, Madras, the core area for typical Tamil culture. My sister adapted quickly to Tamil culture, particularly to the early morning filter coffee and I had my first taste of filter coffee in my sister’s home. When I used to go for a stroll in the streets of Mambalam in the morning, the air was filled with aroma of freshly ground coffee and occasionally mixed with fragrance of jasmine flowers from the plaited hair of passing by women, with M.S Subbalakhmi rendering Venkateswara Suprabhatam in her melodious voice, the gents with “Hindu” newspaper sipping hot fresh filtered coffee.I cannot forget this nostalgic experience of my early days at Madras. Subsequently, I stayed in Chennai for 12 years from 1967 to 1973 and from 1983 to 1989. But by then the cultural romance has gone out of daily life.

 

Coffee davara set- saucer and tumbler
Coffee davara set- saucer and tumbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to prepare good south Indian filter coffee.

The taste and Aroma of the coffee comes from quality seeds like Pea berry, Plantation, Arabica and Robusta. You can also use the combination of these two verities of seeds to get the best out of the both seeds. The seeds have to be roasted to dark brown shade till they emit the deep aroma of the roasted coffee.The roasted seeds are to be grounded to granular powder neither too fine nor too rough.It is ideal to grind coffee powder just before the filtration by using the traditional hand grinding machine. Addition of Chicory is optional.Some people like to add chicory because it gives extra texture and colour to the coffee.Taste of the coffee also depends on the quality of water used and the milk.Ground water with lot of minerals,corporation water with too much of chlorination will spoil the taste of the coffee.Use good potable water for making decoction.The milk should be fresh and thick to get the real zing out of the coffee.In this occasion I should mention about the “Degree Coffee of KumbaKonam” which is very popular for its authentic south Indian filter coffee.In southern states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Coffee is affectionately called as “kaapi”. In Tamil Nadu hotels, restaurants and dairies buy milk from the vendors by testing the quality of the milk with a lactometer and the quality is rated in degrees.Hence any milk that measure up to the degree standard is called degree milk. In Kumbakonam, coffee is prepared with degree standard milk and hence it is called as “Kumbakonam degree coffee”.

 

Roasted coffee powder
Roasted coffee powder

 

Roasted coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 How to prepare a good South Indian Filter coffee

1- Boil pure water(mineral water recommended) in a steel vessel.

2- fill the upper chamber of the coffee filter with fresh coffee powder depending on the size of the coffee filter and the number of coffee tumblers required.Minimum you should keep fourheaped tea spoon full of coffee powderif the filter is small and six if the filter is large. If you keep less,the water will just run away from the upper chamber without percolation. Even for single person there should be a minimum amount required.If the number of tumblers required is more additional coffee powder is to be added.

3- The coffee powder in the upper chamber should not be too loose or too tight. Just press the coffee powder with your fingers gently. If it is too loose hot water will just run through the powder without any percolation. If the powder is too tight the water settles down on top of the powder and will not percolate down and even if it does it takes lot of time.

4- Place the plunger on top of the coffee powder.

5- Place the upper chamber on the top of the lower chamber tightly.

6-Pour the boiling water on top of the plunger and keep the lid.

7- Keep aside the filter for 20 to 30 minutes for brewing. The decoction will be collected in the bottom chamber.

8- Boil the fresh degree milk in a stainless steel vessel.

9- Take the tumbler from the davara set, add 1/2 inch level  of filtered decoction, and add hot milk to the required strength of the coffee.If you want your coffee to be strong add less milk and for lighter coffee add more milk. Add sugar as per the taste. The proportion of milk to the decoction has to be experimented initially till you hit the required taste.

10- Hold the coffee tumbler in your right hand and the davara saucer in your left hand and start whisking the coffee from tumbler to saucer and saucer to tumbler in quick motions repeatedly for three or four times till a nice brown froth is collected by the aerated coffee. Take care not to spill the coffee in the process. By practice you develop the art of whisking the coffee.

11- Keep the coffee tumbler in the davara saucer and serve.

 

Processed green coffee beans
Processed green coffee beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The culture of Coffee Serving

The tradition of serving coffee in davara set started with the practice of echai(no contact with saliva) by orthodox Iyer and Iyengar and other Brahmin families of Tamil Nadu. With echai practice the tumbler should not touch the lips and hence they used to drink coffee by pouring directly into the mouth from a respectable distance. To regulate the heat of the coffee to avoid the burning of the mouth, the saucer is used to cool the coffee till right temperature is arrived.Then the coffee is transferred to the tumbler and then to the mouth. The davara saucer is also used to whisk the coffee into the tumbler and vice versa to aerate and achieve the right temperature.

It is a tradition in Tamil Nadu to offer coffee to the guests. The coffee should be a filtered coffee served very hot. It is considered as bad manners if you serve cold or staple coffee and there are chances that the guests will get offended.

In some traditional families the coffee filter should be brass (not stainless steel) and served in brass davaa set. The well maintained brass items shine like gold and brass is considered as Laksmipradam (equivalent to goddess Lakshmi). In some well to do Tamil families, they also use silver coffee filter and silver davara set. As a mark of respect, most Tamil families offer the coffee made out of the first collection of the decoction to the elders of the families.

 

Coffee plant with coffee berries
Coffee plant with coffee berries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Modern coffee house sand coffee bars.

Time has its own magical effect on people.Things have changed.Now with NRI culture huge coffee mugs have taken the place of good old davara sets. The convenience of instant coffee has taken upper hand over the time consuming filtered coffee.The beautiful coffee filters have become a collector’s items.

Now, the youngsters prefer the modern coffee houses that sprang in all cities and towns.These places are trendy lounges where people can sit leisurely and sip mugs and mugs of coffee with friends or with laptops in front .Drinking coffee in joints like Cafe Coffee Day,Barista,Costa coffee, cafe Mocha and Starbucks is all about cooling with friends and catching up social get-together.Coffee today signifies bonding and great reason to spend time with people you like.Inthese up market cafes you get variety of coffee selections with really magical names.I have tried some of these coffee menu and I am sure you may also would like to try if not already done.

Expresso: Expresso is a strong black coffee made by forcing steam through dark- roast aromatic coffee beans at high pressure. A perfectly brewed expresso will have a thick, golden brown foam on the surface. Adding a dollop of steamed milk completes the drink.

Cappuccino: A Cappuccino is a combination of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk froth. This luxurious drink, if made properly, can double up as a desert with its complex flavours and richness.It is common to sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or grated dark chocolate.Iced Cappuccino makes a great summer drink.

Americano: An Americano is a single shot of expresso added to a cup of hot water. Many coffee houses have perfected this brew which is a creamy, rich coffee that one can savour.Get the maximum flavour from your Americanoby keeping the amount of milkto a minimum.

Caffe Latte: This is a single shot of expresso mixed with three parts of steamed milk.Pair this with cookies,sponge cakes and even Italian bread for a unique and satisfying breakfast.

Caffe Mocha (Mochachino):This is Cappuccino or Caffe Latte with either chocolate syrup or powdered chocolate.This versatile drink can be made in several ways.Add cocoa powder or grated chocolate for flavour and garnish with whipped cream to make it more delish.

Caramel Macchiato: The most common method of making caramel maccciato is by combining espresso,carameland foamed milk.Steamed milk is usedsometimes and vanilla is often added for extra flavour. You can add sugar as well,but be warned, the drink is already sweet as it is.A caramel sauce topping makes it all the more lip-smacking.

Long Black: As the name suggests,this is a cup of rich-bodied black coffee,and black coffee alone.It is usually made by topping a single shot of espresso with a cup of hot water,with or without sugar.

Flat White: This is ideal for those who enjoy the strength of cappuccino,but not the foam that goes with it.To make a flat white,simply top up an espresso with steamed milk,but make sure that you only add the milk and not the foam.

 

Coffee plantation- Coffee plants grow under the shade of trees
Coffee plantation- Coffee plants grow under the shade of trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee plant with flowers
Coffee plant with flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story  of coffee- How it is discovered

I will not be doing justice to this article if we do not appreciate how this wonderful drink is discovered and passed on to our generation for us to enjoy and admire. I read from Wikipedia that a goat-herder discovered this coffee plant and the story goes like this

“ A 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a Monk in a nearby monastery. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed and the monks came out to investigate. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee. The story is first known to appear in writing in 1671, and thus may be fanciful.

 

Filter assembly- Lower chamber,upper chamber with perforations and lid
Filter assembly- Lower chamber,upper chamber with perforations and lid
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Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler

Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler
Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler

The primitive man drank his water from the flowing rivers and water tanks by cupping his hands to form a tumbler to drink. Later, he started using leaves by rolling them like a tumbler. Subsequently, with the invention of the cutting tool, he started using the hollow bamboo cut to size to form a tumbler. With progress of civilization, he started making earthen pots to store water and small pots to drink water. With the invention of metals like copper and brass, he started making tumblers with these metals to drink and carry water. Next, with the invention of glass blowing technique, man started making different varieties of tumblers with glass material not only for drinking water but also for the purpose of drinking wine, fruit juices, milk and other liquid foods.

The civilized man invented a special variety of glass for decorative and aesthetic appeal and one such variety of glass is known as milk glass. I am fortunate enough to collect one drinking tumbler made out of milk glass. I am happy to introduce this beautiful vintage milk glass tumbler to you and I hope you will admire its bewitching beauty as much as I do.

Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler- Front view
Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler- Front view

 

Measurements – Height – 6 inches. Rim diameter – 3 inches. Bottom diameter – 2 inches

 

Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler- Angle view
Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler- Angle view

 

Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler – Top view

 

This picture is milk in glass tumbler-resembles vintage milk glass tumbler

 

The Story of the Milk-glass Tumbler

This beautiful milk glass tumbler was purchased by my father in the year 1930. Yanam is a French colony which is around 40 kilometers from our village Someswaram in East Godavari district of present Andhra Pradesh. The rest of Andhra Pradesh used to be under British rule. In order to expand their business, the French people in India used to import lot of goods into Yanam and sell them in the rest of the British India. Many women street vendors used to smuggle interesting items into nearby villages in cane baskets carrying them on their head. Such street vendors used to come to our village also and my father purchased this French made milk glass tumbler from such vendors. In those days, there were no shopping malls to purchase the items you want. You had to purchase items that are available to you. Otherwise you had to buy the similar British goods from the shops in cities like Madras (present Chennai), Bombay (Present Mumbai) or from Calcutta (present Kolkata) or Delhi.

This precious milk glass tumbler used to be kept is a locked cup board in our house. Whenever important guests came home, we used to take out the glass from the cupboard and serve cool water in this glass. We also had coconut trees in our house. In summer, we used to drink tender coconut water from this glass which used to be a very pleasant experience. It used to be a wonder in our village to have glass like this. When our family shifted from our village owing to the job I took up, this particular glass was carried by my mother in her suitcase along with her clothes for safe transportation. Subsequently, I have shifted into around 50 houses on my various assignments, and every time my mother used to take charge of this delicate glass for safe transportation to our new locations. Finally, we settled in Hyderabad since the last 15 years and now this glass is the part of my collection at Hyderabad.

This charming vintage milk glass tumbler is 5 inches tall,3 inches in diameter at the rim and 2 inches in diameter at the bottom.

We have another important event connected to Yanam. My mother and father got married in Yanam. In those days, it was a tradition and social norm to marry the girls before they attained puberty. The average age for a girl to attain puberty is around 13 years and they had to be married before turning 13. But this was against the law in those days. In British India, there used to be a law called “Sarada Act” which stated that girls should be married only after they attain the age of 18 years. Getting the girls married before they turned 18 was punishable under the law. The “Sarada Act” was against the social custom and the parents of the girls used to escape this law by celebrating the girl’s marriage in Yanam which was under French law and British “Sarada Act” was not applicable there. My maternal grandfather, in his orthodox approach, celebrated my mother’s marriage before she turned 12 at Yanam.        

The HistoryOf Glass

Glass was known to Stone Age man as early as 9,000 years who made tools such as cutting tools and spear heads with natural glass. Archaeologists have found that since 3,500 BC in the Bronze Age, ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt were using man-made glass for coating stone beads for decorative purpose. The first hollow glass resembling a tumbler was made in 1500 BC by covering a layer of molten glass on a sand base model.

The major breakthrough happened in glass making with the invention of glass blowing around 1st century BC in Babylon. Glass manufacturing and usage has taken interesting strides throughout human civilization, particularly influenced by cultures of China, Africa and Europe.

How natural glass is formed?

Natural glass is formed when natural events that produce super high degree of temperature melt certain kinds of rocks to form a sheet of liquid glass.When the liquid glass is cooled down, a hard sheet of glass is formed. During volcanic eruption when hot lava (liquid rock) is flown into cool water beds like tanks or rivers, a shiny black natural glass is formed. Similarly, when lightning strikes on earth or a meteorite collides with earth, super high temperatures are generated due to high impact. Such high temperatures melt certain varieties of rocks that produce natural glass.

Characteristics of Glass

Glass material is inorganic and solid in nature, clear or translucent.It is brittle and can withstand sun, rain and wind. Glass is utilized for making utensils, windows, bottles and mirrors and other kinds of items.

Discovery of Man-made Glass

Man has discovered a strange stone which we call now as glass in the ashes of a fire thousands of years before. This might have happened by accident. The Roman historian Pliny wrote in A.D. 77 that Phoenician sailors placed “stones of soda ash” into a fire (presumably to rest their posts on) on a sandy beach. They later found a “hard smooth stone” in the ashes. That’s one possible scenario, given that sand, soda ash (sodium carbonate), and heat are all ingredients for making glass. 

 

Vintage Milk Glass Tumbler – Upside down view

 

What is milk glass?

Milk glass got its name from its milky white color.Milk glass is a translucent or opaque glass with milky color that can be pressed or blown into a variety of shapes. These varieties include decorative lamps, drinking glasses, dinnerware, costume jewelry and vases .The articles made with milk glass are known for their beauty and grace in design. Milk glass items were first made in the 16th century in Venice .These can also be made in colors like yellow, blue, brown, black and pink. Out of all these colors, the white milky color is the most popular. The milk glass is originally called “opal glass” because it is opaque in nature. In the later years, it came to be called as milk glass basing on its white milky color. To get this beautiful opaque milky white color, opacifiers like bone ash or tin dioxide are added to the regular glass. These milk glass items make a wonderful collection items.World over, the lovers of milk glass collect original antiques or replicas of popular collectable items.