Chennai Foodies Recommend 10 Places For The Best Filter Coffee
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you refuse to start your day without getting a cup of strong coffee, you’d appreciate the aroma and flavour of Chennai’s classic filter coffee. Available in pretty much every food kiosk, street corner and even high-end restaurants, the concept of a filter coffee really comes from beans that have been roasted until their aroma fills up your nostrils and ground, before a decoction is allowed to seep through a filter, which is then mixed with milk and sugar. The hot liquid is then poured into a small steel glass which is alternated with a cup, to make the top frothy and bubbly. One sip of this drink and you’re sold!

Like the Bombay sandwich or vada pav is to Mumbai and kebabs are to Lucknow, filter coffee is what makes the city of Chennai move. It is the elixir that people wake up to in the morning, take a breather while stopping for a quick sip and also the beverage of choice when one unwinds at the end of a long day. It is said that the first known origins of this iconic coffee was when a Sufi saint from Karnataka paid his visit to Mecca, and smuggled seven coffee beans back home after he discovered the wonders of the beverage.

He then went on to plant the beans on the slopes of Chandragiri hills in Chikmagalur district, from where the first known coffee plantations came through. Typically, Indian filter coffee is made with arabica coffee beans, which are roasted, ground and blended with chicory. It is the bitterness derived from chicory that gives filter coffee its distinctive flavour. While the traditional Madras-style coffee is served steaming hot and frothy, some places also prefer to upturn the coffee-filled tumbler into the cup, allowing guests to do the frothing for themselves.

We’ve rounded up a list of places, with a little help from foodies who grew up in the city, to have you find yourself the best filter coffee experience; and for a quick cuppa, of course!

Vivekananda Coffee House – Recommended by Janani (@legit_travel_maniac)

Established in 1959, this coffee house is one of the few businesses, that also sells their freshly ground coffee powder. Famous for their ‘Kumbakonam degree coffee’, Janani loves to unwind on Sunday evenings with a hot cup of this frothy, dark beverage.

Location: 94, Usman Road, Near Renganathan Street, T. Nagar, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 9am-9pm. 

Cost for two: ₹200 

Coffee Shastra – Recommended by Aditya Kharat (@foodlab121)

Looking to enjoy a quick bite with friends? Head straight to the fairly new coffee shastra in Adyar, where assembling your cup of filter coffee almost feels like a science experiment. The staff pour the decoction into a disposable cup and top it off with hot milk, like clockwork – that it feels like they’ve been at it for longer than you know. Enjoy it with an onion samosa or hot bajjis, for a 10/10 coffee experience.

Location: 23, 2nd Ave, Shastri Nagar, Adyar, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 6.30am-10pm

Cost for two: ₹200 

Mylai Coffee – Recommended by Mohanapriya Venkatesan (@miss.chennaifoodie)

Located in the temple district of the city, Mylai district is where you head to for a true taste of Chennai. Along with the traditional brew, the coffee place also offers contemporary coffee-accompaniments like muffins, French fries and cookies. The hole-in-the-wall café also bakes fresh biscuits that you can pack and take home with you. How is this not a win-win!

Location: 23 37, E Mada St, Vinayaka Nagar Colony, Mylapore, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 6am-10.30pm

Cost for two: ₹200

 Ratna Cafe – Recommended by Vignesh R (@the_hunger_doody)

Known to be one of the oldest spots in Mylapore, Ratna Café has also featured previously on our list of Chennai’s best tiffin places. The iconic establishment dishes out some of the best idlis, dosas, vadais and of course, an unbeatable cup of filter coffee, which is highly addictive; so much so, that calling for a second cup is inevitable. Head here for breakfast and wash it down with a strong, aromatic cup of coffee.

Location: Triplicane High Rd, Triplicane, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 7am-10pm

Cost for two: ₹350

Friends Karupatti Caapi – Recommended by @hungry_species

What’s most special about the coffee made here, according to the foodie, is the addition of palm jaggery as a sweetener to the hot drink. Giving it an almost caramel-like flavour, the delicious filter coffee is unique in a way where the deep bitterness is complemented by the sweet caramel notes of palm jaggery.

Location: 53A/J147, Block J, MMDA Colony, Vinayagapuram Main Road, Arumbakkam, Chennai

Timings: NA

Cost for two: ₹100

Image Credits: Salon

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Madras Coffee House – Recommended by @enthuexplorer

According to him, there is no better way to start your day than with a piping hot, strong filter coffee. The iconic Madras Coffee House, which has multiple outlets all over Chennai as well as in other cities like Bengaluru, is the perfect stopping point between a shopping spree or walk around the city, to rejuvenate with the city’s beloved beverage.

Location: New 12/1&2, Old 53/ 1&2, Starling Avenue, Nungambakkam, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 6.30am-11pm. 

Cost for two: ₹300

Vijayram Coffee – Recommended by @madras_food_talk

Priding themselves in brewing the best coffee since 1975, he says that his favourite way to enjoy filter coffee at this establishment located in the heart of Chennai, is in their chocolate-coated wafer cup. “The filter kappi is as same kappi we used to enjoy but when combined with this chocolate waffer cup gives it a good twist,” he says about the experience.

Location: New #37, Old #17, S Usman Road, T Nagar, T. Nagar, Chennai

Timings: Daily, 6am-9pm. 

Cost for two: ₹100

Hot Chips Restaurant – Recommended by Sakthi (@saapatu_raman)

Similar to Madras Coffee House, Hot Chips also has multiple outlets across the city. Known for its deep-friend snacks like bonda, raw banana bajjis and the tiniest cup of filter coffee available, stop by the restaurant for a quick caffeine kick. The restaurant sources its own beans and roasts them in-house, to maintain consistency in quality and taste.

Location: 2/546, East Coast Road, Neelangarai, Chennai

Timings: 7.30am-10.30pm

Cost for two: ₹350

Murugan Idli Shop – Recommended by @madras.ponnu

The glories of Murugan Idli have been sung far and wide for their fluffy podi idlis, freshly fried vadais, spongy utappams and of course, a strong filter coffee to wash it all down. For Madras Ponnu, who considers herself a coffee connoisseur, drinking a cup of coffee at Murugan Idli is the experience that locals and visitors enjoy with equal enthusiasm; not to forget, the old-school charm and slightly dingy interiors which lend to the appeal.

Location: Armenian St, Parry's Corner, George Town, Chennai

Timings: 7.30am-11.20pm

Cost for two: ₹200

Mylai Karpagambal Mess – Recommended by Valli (@murukku_meesakaran)

Also featured as an iconic establishment on our list of tiffin places, the ‘mess’ located in Mylapore has its unique take on the filter coffee. Slightly milkier than the usual cuppa you might find elsewhere, Valli says that the little circle of milk floating in the middle of the froth is what adds to the taste. He also recommends ordering the keerai vadai and medu vadai to enjoy with the beverage, while you’re there.

Location: 20, East Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai

Timings: 7am-10.30pm

Cost for two: ₹200