Coffee Essentials.

Coffee EssentialsCoffee Essentials

While it is true that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, it’s also true that the last impression of a restaurant dinner, generally a cup of coffee with apologies to tea drinkers) lingers longest.

It is incomprehensible that most restaurants serve poor quality coffee, unless you ask for an espresso or cappuccino and even than there is a no guarantee you will get the real thing. Of course you should never ask for a cappuccino after 11 a m.

Tea drinkers are even worse off. This is a subject to handle separately.

Canadians love coffee. Some 70 per cent of the adult population consumes an average of three cups daily and a substantial portion of them even more. But Finnish people are the biggest coffee drinkers of them all with an average of several kilograms of pure coffee annually.

Coffee is a multibillion-dollar industry across the country and needless to say millions are purposefully deprived of consuming good quality coffee at a reasonable cost.
An observant Ethiopian goat herder accidentally discovered coffee in the 6th century who saw how his flock became animated after eating the red berries of a shrub.

Eventually he tried the stimulating berries to see how his body would react.

At first coffee was prepared in crude fashions; pounded in a mortar and mixed with water and boiled. The bitter liquid was fragrant and stimulating. Then spices like cardamom were used, finally honey was added to sweeten, but it was the discovery and popularization of sugar that actually propelled coffee consumption.

From Ethiopia coffee drinking was brought to Yemen and then Ottomans introduced it to Istanbul that was the capital of the empire. Coffee consumption took unheard of popularity amongst government employees, nobility and the army.

When the Ottoman army was forced to flee the scene on the outskirts of Vienna, which it was trying, to occupy, supply regiments forgot to remove two sacks of coffee. Once the Austrians got hold of them and tasted the coffee there was no turning back. To this day Viennese coffee houses are famous for their wide range of offerings, service and pastries.

When you are in Vienna don’t miss the opportunity to visit at least one and preferably many of these venerable establishments, some of which go back to the 17th century. Konditorei Sacher located in the eponymous hotel is not only famous for its Sacher torte but also for its coffee that is always brewed to order cup by cup.

Today, coffee is grown in many countries thanks to enterprising British, Dutch, French and German governments, investors, agronomists and  merchants.

There are three species of coffee beans – coffea arabica, coffea robusta and coffea liberica. The last two are low quality robusta being the lowest, coarsest and least expensive used mostly to produce instant coffee.

Coffee connoisseurs, and there are millions in the western world and Middle East, buy coffea arabica, medium-roast or green. Then they grind it just before brewing. Green coffee stores much longer but must be roasted first. Hand grinders are best.

Coffea arabica beans are small, flat, uneven in shape and readily recognizable. Over roasted coffee tastes carbonized, caramelized and bitter. Poor quality coffee beans are almost always over roasted to hide their unpleasant taste.

Most coffee plantations are in South America, Africa, and Indonesia. Caribbean and Central American countries and some Asian jurisdictions grow coffee, but of all Central American countries Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala are the most famous.

The best coffee quality is grown on 450 – 600 meters altitude from estates that are well managed and maintained.

A well-brewed coffee has a brilliant colour, an appealing fragrance, refined texture, pleasant mild flavour and finishes with a long aftertaste.

There are many ways to prepare coffee: Middle Eastern style (coffee, plus sugar, plus water boiled together); the drip method; espresso; cappuccino, French press; and filter.

If you want flavorful coffee buy your supply from specialized suppliers and try to grind it according to your daily need.

Once ground and brewed coffee starts to lose its fragrance and flavour. If kept too hot above 180 F=80 C)  for more than 20 minutes it turns muddy, dull and bitter.

Store coffee beans in a tightly sealed bag in a cool, dry place, never in the fridge or freezer regardless of what other people say.


Coffee timeline

6th century
Discovery of coffee by an Ethiopian goat herder

6th to 10th centuries
Priests and monks use coffee to help them stay awake during devotions. Extensive plantings in Yemen.

10th to 13th centuries
Coffee berries are mixed with fat and chewed as food.

13th century
Islamic mystics use coffee for their devotions and as medicine.
Coffee is roasted for the first time.

15th century
Coffee houses open in Arabic speaking countries and quickly become place of meeting and discussion.

16th century
Popularization of coffee drinking in the Ottoman Empire.

17th century and onwards
Spreading of coffee culture in Europe and North America.

Coffee Essentials

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