Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

Few months back, I was passing through double road off the CMH road in Indira Nagar and this board caught my eyes:

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

I thought it’s a quirky name. A quick check in Google told me it is a kind of traditional filter coffee made using freshly churned and undiluted cow’s milk. The word ‘Degree’ comes from the process of testing the milk for its purity.  Lactometer, the instrument used to check the richness of milk, has markings like a thermometer and therefore the word degree is used to call the markings.

If a lactometer sinks up to the mark (or degree) ‘M’ mentioned at lactometer, it means the milk is pure. Basically, the story is, they used the freshest and purest milk to make this ‘Degree’ coffee.

Of late, I have seen many KDC (Kumbakonam Degree Coffee) shops on the highways outside Bangalore, but a chance to wrap my hands on a cup of Degree Coffee always eluded me.


The chance came. My sister and brother-in-law were in town last weekend and we landed in Indira Nagar via metro.  The original plan was to book a cab from Indira Nagar to home, but when we couldn’t find a suitable cab within ten minutes pick-up time in Ola Cabs, we decided to check out KDC.


It’s a quaint little place on the double road towards BDA Complex and Punjab National bank. And then, as I went in through the door, I was expecting to hear a pure Tamil-speaking Iyer welcoming us in his usual ‘Vango, vango’ style, instead I stood facing two men, appeared to be from North India, shaking their heads and speaking something in Hindi.

What? Hindi in a Tamil shop! In Tamil Nadu, this is enough for a communal riot.

I pressed ahead in Tamil, thinking they may know Tamil despite their appearance.

“Tamil nahi pata. Hindi.”

My sister intervened.  She is a Madhyama pass. I’m a Pratamik fail.

She spoke to them. But my Pratamik level of knowledge was enough to understand that there’s bad news. The shop is closed for the day. They only work from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm.

We told them we had come all the way from the other side of the city just for their coffee.  They wouldn’t budge.

Then my sister came up with an ultimate softener.

“Can you give me just a spoon-full of your coffee, to have a taste of it?”

The two men looked at us, their shoulders hunched, and then at each other.

“Ok, sit, all of you, we will make coffee for you”

By this time two more male customers and a family had also sneaked in through the half-open door and the place was almost full.

I went through the menu. KDC coffee comes in two sizes – large and M=medium. Large is Rs.30 and Medium is Rs.20. I ordered Large.

The Coffee arrived after 10 minutes.

Apparently, the old tradition of using freshly churned milk for coffee died long ago because it is not a feasible idea anymore, and the current version is only an imitation.


What do I think about the coffee?

Actually, I can hardly tell a coffee from a tea. For me everything that goes down my food pipe tastes the same unless it is awfully bad. This KDC was tasteless to me, that means it isn’t bad. But my bro-in-law says it’s one of the best coffees he has ever had, so it must be very good.

In the end, we couldn’t thank those two guys enough. I took several photos of them, and I plan to give them copies of their photo next time I visit.

Degree Coffee is a cherished tradition of South India, and in KDC Indira Nagar, it is safe in the hands of two North Indians.


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