Filter Coffee Deserves Its Moment

In a nation of tea drinkers, South India’s signature drink, kaapi, has remained largely in the background.

Filter Coffee from Saravana Bhavan horizontal
Filter Coffee from Saravana Bhavan (Wikimedia)

Nikhita Venugopal


March 13, 2020


9 min

The bubbles froth close to the edge of the tumbler, so precarious that it’s hard not to worry whether the liquid goodness is about to spill. Fortunately, it rarely does. Instead, you’re left with a beverage for mornings, afternoons, and evenings, a leisurely ritual and a way of life. It’s a cup of filter coffee, one that’s crucial yet commonplace to many who have lived or grown up in South India. 

India is a nation of tea drinkers, the home of Darjeeling and Assam, the land of masala chai. But few know that India is also the seventh-largest coffee-producing country in the world. Inextricably tied to India’s coffee story is South Indian filter coffee.

People called the beloved drink many names depending on slight variations — Madras filter coffee, meter coffee, degree coffee, or simply its Tamilized name, kaapi. Yet even as its counterpart, chai, has captured devoted fans in the West, kaapi has remained largely unfamiliar and is less easily available to coffee drinkers outside South India.

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