Delhi, Sept. 24 -- The smell of freshly-brewed beans wafts in the air as I make my way to a store in Coorg. Even though I tilt towards tea when it comes to my choice of beverages, it is hard to ignore the rich scent of coffee. While there are dime a dozen coffee houses that have sprung up in the country, serving cappuccinos and espressos with a bloated price tag, fierce loyalists and coffee connoisseurs swear by the 'real' coffee culture that has South India in its grip.

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It never ceases to amaze me how coffee, which originated in Ethiopia, found its grip in South India. According to popular belief, coffee beans made their way to India with a Sufi named Baba Budan, who snuck them into the subcontinent in the 16th Century. He...