New brew for T.O. coffee fans
Fans of traditional South Indian filter coffee — and those unfamiliar with the brewing method — are about to get a new spot to visit in Toronto. Madras Kaapi (870 College St.), founded by Shilpa Kotamarthi and Aditya Srivathsan, will officially open its doors in early December, serving up kaapi, light snacks, and its signature coffee beans to prepare at home.
If you’ve never had kaapi (South Indian filter coffee), it’s traditionally made with finely ground beans from the region, blended with chicory root at a 10 to 30 per cent ratio to add a warm, earthy flavour.
There’s a special tool to make it, too: A coffee filter designed to brew a thick, rich concentrate, called a decoction. Add that to hot milk and manually aerate by pouring it back and forth using a davara, a widelipped cup with a tumbler, and you’ll have creamy, frothy kaapi.
The couple grew up drinking it every morning in their respective family homes back in India, with the smell of fresh decoction lulling them to the table. Kotamarthi remembers watching her grandmother make the brew, timing it perfectly for her grandfather, who liked it as hot as possible. Now, every morning Srivathsan makes a cup for Kotamarthi, who isn’t as picky about the heat.
Srivathsan moved to Montreal in 2007 to pursue an MBA, and Kotamarthi followed in 2014 after completing her own MBA in New York City. They scoured Montreal store shelves for their favourite beans, but none had a similar flavour to the ones they loved back home. So, they enlisted family who still lived in India to mail them boxes of coffee straight from the source.
“We were tired of asking people … to send us coffee in Canada,” says Kotamarthi, who remembers Srivathsan eventually saying, “If we miss it so much, why don’t we do something about it?”
That was the spark they needed; the couple started importing green coffee beans from a small farm in India’s Tamil Nadu region, found a roaster in Montreal and began selling the beans online in 2016.
At the new shop, the signature drink can be enjoyed hot or iced, plus specialty versions are in the works, like a kaapi mocha. The duo prefers to keep it simple when it comes to accompaniments: “We want to focus on our hero, which is coffee,” says Kotamarthi.
‘‘ We want to focus on our hero, which is coffee. SHILPA KOTAMARTHI CO-FOUNDER, MADRAS KAAPI