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Random Forays: Coffee crusaders versus tea tornadoes

ByVivek Atray
Aug 27, 2023 02:53 AM IST

Arguments often breaks out at home or office about which of the two, coffee or tea, is the superior beverage

The sheer frigidity of the vibes witnessed between tea diehards and coffee aficionados often exceeds the tensions palpably evident when supporters of opposing Indian Premier League teams meet. Indeed, those who swear by tea and its obvious becalming benefits are hardly impressed by a coffee lover’s perceived superiority complex and the endless pronouncements about the qualities of their beloved beverage.

There is a clear-cut chasm in society between the “chai types” and the “coffee types”. (HT File)
There is a clear-cut chasm in society between the “chai types” and the “coffee types”. (HT File)

There is a clear-cut chasm in society between the “chai types” and the “coffee types”. Very few individuals venture to travel astride both wagons. One sort would hardly be seen with a cuppa of the other sort in hand, even at home. There may be some who choose to exercise the dual preference mode, but as in most walks of life, they are a miniscule minority.

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The French in fact do not distinguish between a cup of coffee and a coffee house which serves it, when it comes to nomenclature. Both go by the name “café”. The etymology of the word seems to have had its roots, however, in Italy and the now famed beverage was first introduced in Venice in 1615 by merchants from Turkey and Egypt. The origin of the word seems further to have emanated from the Turkish word “kahveh”, but even earlier from the Ethiopian region of Kaffa.

The genesis of “tea” probably came from the Fujian province of China and it was brought to European shores by Dutch tradesmen in the sixteenth century. The Indian version, now globally renowned as “chai”, had its roots in Persia, according to experts.

The fact remains that most human beings cannot revive themselves without one or the other of these world-class hotties in the morning. They couldn’t care less about etymological truths, but must be served their desired fluid on waking up, in order for them to get going.

Americans will guzzle down several cups of black coffee every day in order to obtain caffeine boosts and keep going with fulsome energy. Many Indians need an equal number of home style cups of hot tea with sugar and milk to maintain a similar tempo.

Government officials can hardly survive a day at work without having savoured several cups of tea in the many meetings which they tend to attend, one after the other. Coffee is very often not available in such ecosystems, but officers with fancier choices will certainly manage to produce some of the best aromatic brews around, even at work. Most north Indian establishments tend to serve a milky and sugary version of coffee, reminiscent of its old-style espresso machine avatar, with which wedding parties would be embellished in bygone eras. South Indian filter coffee is, of course, a class apart.

The espresso, macchiato, americano or cappuccino versions of coffee and newer offerings like flat-whites were unheard of in the pre- coffee house era. The Indian Coffee House would dutifully serve an authentic cup of coffee and a frothy version of cold coffee. Black coffee was unheard of until some America-returned CEOs started flaunting their preference for it in board rooms, and later elsewhere!

In a scene from the Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee starrer, “Hum Tum”, Saif, who is an unabashed flirt, conjectures in his mind that Mukherjee would surely ask for tea when the flight attendant seeks her preference. Saif’s plans to impress her with an emphatic statement demanding coffee for himself come to naught, however, when the charming lady asks for black coffee herself!

The subtle joust that coffee “crusaders” and tea “tornadoes” tend to find themselves in the midst of, often, will doubtless continue until our yearning for normal food and drink is somehow replaced in the unforeseeable future by artificial intelligence (AI) enabled doses of digital nourishment. Till then, every youngster whose folks finally allow him to feel grown up enough to have a choice of tea or coffee, will have to choose one or the other school of thought. But an argument breaks out at home or office about which of the two is the superior beverage, the teen would do well to keep his opinion to himself.

Conflicting opinions on the subject are sure to remain very stringent, in the decades to come!

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