I'm no stranger to Colombo's busy markets. On a visit in 2018 I walked through Petta, the city's busy retail market that's nowhere as crowded as similar markets in most cities in India. Last month, I was at Old Moor street, Colombo's frenetic wholesale market on a walking tour curated by the Movenpick Hotel. Spices are the mainstay of this market, the legendary Sri Lankan cinnamon is one of the most traded commodities here. It was here in the most unexpected places that I stumbled upon a traditional beverage that has enjoyed cult status for generations for its health benefits.
Sri Lanka might be strongly associated with tea, but Ape Kopi, a tiny outlet in Old Moor Street, showcases Sri Lankan coffee from estates in the same vicinity as the country's tea growing regions of Nuwara Eliya. Among all the coffees on offer, it was their traditional Sukku Coffee that caught my attention. A few minutes later I sipped on a cup of freshly brewed sukku coffee that ended up being a cup brimming with nostalgia. My maternal grandmother was a big believer in the health benefits of sukku coffee or sukku kaapi and used to source ingredients from markets in Bengaluru to make her own coffee mix. She was not alone; in many homes across Tamil Nadu and South India, this beverage has been treasured for its health benefits.
(Also Read: Crazy Coffee Concoctions Around the World)
Sukku is the Tamil word for dried ginger. It's the key ingredient in this beverage that's both healthy and invigorating. The version I tried in Colombo was crafted with a mix that combined coffee powder with the traditional ingredients of a sukku kaapi. This is a version you can buy online and you might find at select organic stores. And then there's the version without any coffee powder that is also called sukku kaapi. While the version with coffee powder can be blended with milk or served as a black coffee, the traditional sukku kaapi works best without milk.
The traditional recipe is dominated by dried ginger. There's also a version that incorporates coriander seeds with crushed pepper and cumin (jeera) in the powder; it's sometimes referred to as sukkumalli kaapi (malli or kothamalli is the Tamil word for coriander). Sukku kaapi has many health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties. It helps clear and soothe your throat and is also preferred for its digestive properties. Just a week ago I was at Savya Rasa, a fine-dining restaurant in Gurgaon that serves authentic South Indian cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered sukku kaapi as a beverage option after a heavy meal. In Northern Kerala for instance, the Sulaimani tea with its mix of spices is a preferred beverage after a huge meal. There's one big difference; the sukku kaapi is usually sweetened with palm jaggery that adds to the wellness quotient of this time-tested beverage.
At a time when many tea and coffee drinkers are seeking milk-free options, the sukku kaapi is a great choice. If you're opting for a powder blended with filter coffee powder, you can use the percolation method (with a traditional filter) to brew your coffee and then add water and palm jaggery. Otherwise, it's as easy as stirring the sukku kaapi powder into hot water. You could drink this as a cold beverage but sukku kaapi's curative properties work best when it's served hot. It's also a preferred beverage in cold weather. You can try fixing this beverage and the powder with this simple recipe that was shared by the culinary team at Savya Rasa.
Sukku Coffee Recipe: Recipe Courtesy - Chef Sheik Mohideen - Savya Rasa, Gurgaon
- Water: 300 ml
- Dry Ginger Powder: 1.5 teaspoons
- Palm Jaggery: 2 tablespoons
- Bring the water to boil, add dry ginger powder and boil it for a minute.
- Add palm jaggery (you could add sugar).
- Strain and serve hot.
For The Sukku Malli Coffee: (Powder for about 5-6 cups)
- Dry ginger powder: 2 tablespoons
- Coriander seeds: 1.5 tablespoons
- Peppercorns: 1 tablespoon
- Cumin: 1 tablespoon
- Cloves: 1-2
- Dry roast the ingredients and cool them before grinding them to a fine powder.
- You can mix 1 teaspoon of the powder for a cup of sukku kaapi with palm jaggery.
- If you'd like to blend filter coffee powder, you could you can use the percolation method (with a traditional filter) to brew your coffee and then add water and palm jaggery.
So go ahead and savour the authentic flavours of sukku kaapi in the comforts of your kitchen with this easy recipe.
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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.