Murdering a Cup of Coffee Bean‑Free Coffee on the Kochuveli Express
Sukku Coffee in Tamil Nadu
Train journeys in India have a curious charm. You get to sample many local cuisines, depending on where you’re headed and where the scheduled stops are. The options are many, from deep-fried snacks served in paper plates, like samosas and vadas, to hot drinks—tomato soup, chai, coffee—poured out of large flasks.
On a train to Coimbatore from Bangalore—-the Kochuveli Express—I discovered the joy of a caffeine-free coffee. Not only was the name of this drink intriguing—Sukku Coffee—the seller, a leather-skinned man, announced its arrival in our compartment in a sing song tone, in Tamil, and it seemed too enticing to pass up.
Handing me a paper cup with the piping hot and potent beverage for all of 10 rupees, he made his way through to the next row of thirsty customers across the aisle. Sukku Coffee, I learned, is not decaf just to be trendy. It’s also made entirely without coffee beans, primarily of dry ginger, cumin, and coriander seeds. Sukku Coffee also offer many benefits: it’s energy-boosting and is supposed to relieve many ailments, including the common cold, headache, sore throat and even nausea and indigestion.
Sukku Coffee is native to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and it’s brewed just like herbal tea. You can find it in little cafes or wayside snack shops across the state. You can also buy Sukku Coffee powder for a more instant fix. When freshly brewed, with whole spices, it has a distinctly snappy flavor, even though it’s sweetened with sugar or palm sugar (honey would work just as well). The earthiness of the cumin and coriander seeds, coupled with the sharpness of the dry ginger, could really hit you in the throat if you tried to gulp it down.
On the Kochuveli Express, a few small sips at a time made it thoroughly enjoyable, and gentle on the palate—particularly given the clacking movement of the train as the blurry green and brown landscape scrolled past me through the grimy windows. After I finished the first cup, I waited eagerly for another cup of the stuff to come my way.