Although India is the world’s second-largest tea producer behind China, in South India coffee-drinking—and especially Kumbakonam Degree coffee—is the thing.
The reason is obvious, Sajib Chowdhury, owner of All Bengal Sweets and Coffee House, explains. “All the coffee in India is grown in the south so that’s where people consume most of it.”
Since 2015 his café has specialized in Kumbakonam Degree—coffee that comes from the town of Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur District of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. (The “degree” likely comes from a mispronunciation of “chicory,” which is ground up with the coffee.) Traditionally the drink is prepared by first adding sugar to the filtered chicory-flavored coffee; then the milk is heated up in a double boiler so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Finally, the heated milk is added to the sugar-laced coffee.
Chowdhury put his own spin on the drink. He imports his lightly roasted beans from India and adds chicory and other ingredients to his secret recipe. From there, instead of the traditional metal filter (similar to the one used for Vietnamese coffee), he uses an espresso machine to make the black coffee, which is then mixed with steamed milk, creating a frothy head. He adds in a teaspoon of brown sugar, and serves it in a tin cup known as a dabra that allows the liquid to cool. Once it’s poured from the dabra to the tumbler, the result is a brew that has no acidity and hints of woodiness.
This coffee goes well with the syrup-soaked, creamy treat chomchom, but enjoy it with any of this place’s house-made sweets. You really can’t go wrong, no matter which you order.
All Bengal Sweets & Coffee House
Mahatma Gandhi District | 5901 Hillcroft, 832-659-0580