Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Coffee culture, indeed: Why a generous cup of coffee meant so much during Hurricane Igor

When Prajwala Dixit moved to St. John's, she found that coffee was much more than a breakfast beverage.

There are good reasons why 2 kinds of coffee are brewing in my home

A whopping 152.1 litres per person of coffee was consumed by Canadians in 2015. (Pixabay/Couleur)

Coffee. This simple word evokes strong emotions, from gratitude to hope. Every morning, millions of us watch this grainy, brown powder transform into the elixir of life.

Its strong aroma percolates the four corners of our house.

After all the seeing and smelling, when we finally consume it, it induces the same reaction — a resounding sigh of relief.

To many of us, coffee is more than just a simple beverage. Yes, it wakes up our sleepy heads and energizes our tired bodies, but it is also an ice-breaker on a date and a life-saver for newborn parents.

For decades, coffee has been a staple part of the average Canadian household. Canadians consumed a whopping 152.1 litres per person in 2015. 

From drinks to desserts, coffee has seeped its way into daily life.

While some people do wake up and smell the coffee, many others don't. 

Hot chocolate, chai and sarabba are some popular breakfast drinks around the world. When the coffee culture is viewed from the eyes of an immigrant, for some, it takes a while adjusting to it.

However, for others, much like myself, it is the first thing that makes you feel at home.

A coffee story out of Hurricane Igor

I arrived in St. John's with Hurricane Igor in 2010. My first morning here, I woke up to no electricity and ice-cold water …and wondered where I had landed.

I did not have a phone on me or a computer. There was no way to talk to my folks to let them know I had made it safely. (My poor parents, it must have been worse for them!)

As I sat on my bed converting Canadian currency to rupees in my head while pondering ticket prices to home, I heard a knock. 

Outside my door stood my landlord with a giant cylindrical cup filled with a dark brown liquid — coffee!

I smelt it before I saw it. That same aroma had woken me up for nearly a decade and boy, I was glad that it was here to greet me my first morning in Canada.

Prajwala Dixit's stainless steel filter brews out a thick concoction. (Prajwala Dixit)

For Kannadigas (and many other South Indians) like me, coffee — or kafee or kaapi — is an integral part of the day. Had after every meal, its quality is a topic of conversation in South Indian households.

From what history tells us, coffee wasn't native to India but several centuries ago, Baba Budan — a 16th century Sufi — literally planted the (Arabica) seeds of this sizable industry in the hills of the Western Ghat in southern India.

Today, home to 16 unique coffee varieties, India cultivates this bean in the lush and green canopied western and eastern Ghats making it the seventh largest producer of coffee in the world.

But production aside, its strong presence has trickled down into everyday life making it — that is, the filter coffee — a cultural icon of South India.

A local vendor makes coffee at his shop in Mumbai. Coffee is more widely served in South Indian cities. (The Associated Press)

The smell of coffee fills the streets of busy shopping districts of Bengaluru, one of the largest and fastest growing cities of India. Freshly roasted Arabica beans are mixed with chicory creating a customized blend, the most popular one being 80-20 (coffee to chicory).

This fine powder is then put into a stainless steel metal device with two chambers, one of which has small holes. Using this, a drip brew coffee decoction is prepared.

As this thick decoction blends together with boiling milk (in a steel vessel kept atop a gas stove), it creates small bubbles of brown and white. Piping hot, this mixture is poured back and forth repeatedly between the vessel and a steel lota — a round container — creating a hot and frothy drink.

Feeling at home in a foreign land

So, naturally, when I saw this beverage — albeit in a mug and not a lota — outside my room door, and I inhaled its intoxicating smell, I was at a loss for words.

For my landlord, it was a simple and kind gesture, and one that I am grateful for. For me, it was one of the first things that made me feel at home in a foreign land.

The coffee grains on the left are a household Canadian brand, and on the right, a household Indian brand. (Prajwala Dixit)

Its simple presence was comforting, telling me that even in a new place I can find an old friend.

Today, filter coffee and "Canadian" coffee have found a space in my Indian-Canadian household.

Both are brewed with the same enthusiasm and consumed with the same love: the love for coffee.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

About the Author

Prajwala Dixit


Prajwala Dixit is a journalist, columnist, playwright and writer in St. John's.