the effect that
one word can have on a man, though.
That one word can singlehandedly….
( or single-wordedly, if you will )
drag me outta my nice, warm, cozy bed —
Just the sound of the word brings
on a Pavlovian response in my mouth
and makes all my synapses jump with anticipation.
C o f f e e .
When I’m in a particularly contemplative mood,
(usually after about 2 or 3 cups of coffee),
…. I ponder the possible deep spiritual significance
behind the two most sublimely delicious substances
known to man ( chocolate and coffee)
being derived from simple beans.
Maybe I think too much.
Or maybe it’s the coffee–
–it’s got my brain on overdrive.
And that’s one of it’s most wonderful features.
The early story of coffee is,
like any good story, part truth and part myth.
And it’s actually much easier to
separate grounds from coffee
than the myth from this story.
So I’ll just tell it and you can be the judge.
In 9th Century Ethiopia,
there was a goat herder named Kaldi…
He noticed that his goats liked to chew
on the red berries of a
particular plant called bunnu-
and that they seemed more active afterwards…
……… sometimes even dancing.
One day, he decided to try it for himself..
he liked the effect, and brought some
to a local holy man for his opinion.
The holy man figured anything
that could make a person
feel so good had to be bad ,
so he threw the berries on the fire,
whereupon the resulting delicious aroma
of roasted coffee made both Kaldi
and the cleric believers.
Now, I know…
it sounds kinda half baked to me too…
But in 1671, the story was explained
by Professor Antoine Nairon this way:
” The myth of Kaldi the Ethiopian goatherd
and his dancing goats, the coffee origin story
most frequently encountered in Western literature,
embellishes the credible tradition that the
Sufi encounter with coffee occurred in Ethiopia,
which lies just across the narrow passage
of the Red Sea from Arabia’s western coast. “
So I guess we can all agree
that coffee originated in Ethiopia,
and that it was a pretty cool discovery, goats or no.
The word ‘coffee’, or ‘kaffe’ —
is thought to have been derived
from the region in Southwestern Ethopia
where the whole Kaldi myth was based,
and where they happen to grow an awful lot of it-
Coffee spread slowly through the Middle East ,
reaching Yemen in the 15th century,
and that’s where the modern way
of preparing it was originally developed.
the world’s first coffee shop, Kiva Han,
was opened in 1475.
The Ottoman Turks tried very hard
to keep the coffee genie in the bottle ,
as it were, absolutely banning it
for export to non Islamic countries..
so, for the next 200 hundred years,
coffee growing was restricted to Muslims.
Coffee drinking started to catch on in the West,
and in 1645, a coffee house in Italy was opened—
—- a couple years later,
the Queens Lane coffee house opened in London.
Still, coffee had to be imported from the Middle East,
through Venice, and it was quite expensive.
Coffee growing finally reached the West in 1670,
when a Sufi named Baba Budan smuggled
seven seeds from the port of Mocha, Yemen
to Bangalore, India-
where they were grown and cultivated.
There is, in fact,
a shrine to him and this event at Karnataka.
Pope Clement VIII initially wasn’t all that thrilled
about this new import, and considered issuing
a Papal Bull against it, but decided instead
to declare it a drink compatible with Christianity.
Soon, coffee was being cultivated all over —
and was spread
to Indonesia, Java and Ceylon by the Dutch,
the Caribbean by the French,
Brazil and South America by the Portuguese,
and of course, India by the British.
Here in the U.S., coffee wasn’t anywhere
as popular as tea until the Revolutionary War,
when the scarcity and expense of tea ,
coupled with it’s British-ness,
drove many a colonist to drink java instead.
At one time, Haiti supplied half of all the world’s coffee…
but the horrific working conditions under which
it was harvested eventually contributed to that country’s revolution –
— and the coffee industry there never recovered.
Brazil is currently the largest producer of green coffee,
producing over 2 million tons in 2011.
One thing I really like about coffee—–
Coffee is all about choices.
You choose the bean,
the roast, the grind, the brewing method,
and how to serve it.
There are two cultivated types of coffee beans,
Arabica and Robusto…
(over 25 species of wild coffee are also out there… )
…. the Arabica being the more expensive, sweetest and tastiest, with a wonderful aroma.
The Robusto beans have almost twice the caffeine, and are produced by a heartier plant, resistant to a disease specific to coffee.
Of course, other things certainly have a bearing on coffee flavor,
other than what type of bean you’re using.
There is something called ‘terroir’ —
how the soil, climate, water, topography, etc. of a local area effects the flavor….
An Arabica bean grown in Southern Minas Gerais of Brazil has a much different growing environment than one grown in Yergacheffe, Ethiopia, or in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, for instance.
Water— the type of water you use to brew also affects the flavor of your coffee–
Filtered water seems to work best .
And naturally, the ‘roast‘ — that is, to what degree a coffee bean is roasted,
……… will have a lot to do with what it ends up tasting like.
There are several methods,
…… including air roasting and drum roasting—
But the “roast” of the end product coffee can be divided into the general categories of :
Light (American ) Roast– ( mild, toasted grain flavor)
Regular (Medium High) Roast– ( sweeter, more body than light roast)
Full (Vienna) Roast– ( bittersweet, smoky )
and Dark (French) Roast– ( very dark, oily, intense )
Now, it’s ready for the next step….
Once you’ve chosen your ‘roast’,
then, you’ve got to choose your ‘grind’,
Very Fine, Fine, Medium, Coarse….
…….. and many inbetween !!
(which will be determined, by and large, by the brewing method)
or better yet—
……. grind the beans yourself for the freshest tasting coffee!
The finest grinds are like talcum powder,
and work best in Turkish and Espresso pots.
A French Press uses a coarse grind, with grains like Kosher Salt,
……. while most Drip coffeemakers
with paper filters use a medium grind, with grains like sand.
If you want to do it yourself, and you should —
There are two types of coffee grinders generally available:
A blade grinder, with a small hopper for the beans and a blade which chops up the beans.
They’re usually inexpensive, but have no real control on grind level… you gotta go by eye.
Cleaning is as simple as wiping it out.
A burr grinder, which uses something resembling wheels to grind up the beans.
These are more expensive and elaborate, but you have control over the grind.
If you get one of these, make sure it’s parts are fully removable for cleaning.
As I said earlier, the ‘grind’ level you choose is mostly determined by your chosen brewing method.
But, before we talk about brewing and serving…
I guess I’d better mention that big ole elephant in the room that I’ve been kinda hesistant to talk about, since it goes against nature and all…
There is this substance that they call “Decaffeinated Coffee “.
I’m not sure I understand the point of it,
but apparently they take most of the caffeine out of the coffee
( along with much of the flavor )
and then sell it to you at a higher price than good ole ‘regular’ coffee.
There are several processes they use to do this horrible thing…
…. one involving solvents like methylene chloride,
another “Swiss” method that percolates coffee thru charcoal,
and a newer system involving pressurized carbon dioxide.
Sorry, but I don’t get it…
Drinking decaffeinated coffee
is like putting a Pinto engine into an Aston-Martin.
Without the vvvvaaarrrrrroooooooom, why bother ?
Now here is where you can really make a big difference in how good your coffee tastes.
It goes without saying that some methods of brewing coffee are easier than others…
And nobody’s suggesting that you go through an elaborate cafe ritual every morning before you rush out the door ….
It’s just nice to know that when you want to take the time for a very special cup-o-joe you’ll have the where-with-all to make it.
Most of us in the United States have ‘Drip Type’ coffeemakers …
using that on a day to day basis is a great way to get your fix using coarse grind coffee.
….. but remember to turn off the warmer plate–
direct heat ruins coffee fast !
I like my coffee Espresso style… that is, very dark and strong, in a small cup.
For this, I use a small range top ‘Stainless Steel Espresso pot’ ….
You put the water in the bottom, a fine grind coffee in the middle, and when the water boils, it’s forced up into the top of the pot, through the grounds once, and that’s where is stays.
A good friend of mine swears by his ‘Percolator‘… the problem is that the coffee simply regurgitates back through the grounds time and time again, picking up a lot of bitterness along the way.
I recently got to try out a ‘French Press’, and I have to say, the coffee came out just lovely.
It is a bit less user friendly than the drip method, but not all that complicated…
You put the coffee in the bottom, add hot 200 degree water, wait three minutes, stir, add more water, and then push the plunger down to separate the grounds from the coffee.
There are also a miriad of popular ways to serve coffee.
Espresso , Capuccino, Americano , Latte , Au Lait , Mocha , Macchiato ……
Here are some of the more popular styles:
Americano — Espresso with hot water added.
Cafe Au Lait — Strong coffee with scalded milk added.
Cafe Ron — Espresso and Sweetened Condensed Milk @ 1:1 ratio.
Cafe Latte — 2 parts steamed Milk, 1 part Espresso.
Cafe Marocchino — a Cafe Latte dusted with Cocoa Powder.
Capuccino — Espresso, hot Milk, and steamed Milk Foam @ 5:6 ratio.
Decaf— Don’t ask.
Doppio — a double shot of Espresso.
Espresso Roma — Espresso with Sugar and Lemon rind.
Irish Coffee — Sweetened Coffee with Whiskey, Cream.
Macchiato — Espresso with a dash of Milk Foam.
Mocha — a Latte with Chocolate Syrup .
There are also many varieties of coffee styles that use flavored syrups, etc.
Finally…. after your coffee is ready… you’ve got one final choice.
Do you like your coffee in a mug, a glass, a china cup ?
Truthfully, some days, I think I’d drink it right out of the pot !!!!
Well, however you like it , I hope you liked this post, too …