It may come as a surprise to most of you to discover that I occasionally enjoy a cup of java and that one of my favourite aromas is that of freshly ground and brewed coffee. It seems appropriate that a post dedicated to the object of my desire should make an appearance.
Coffee; Good enough for goats
Allegedly discovered by a young goat herder that noticed his goats were acting a little weird after eating the berries off a small bush, our intrepid hero gave them a try himself. The rest as they say is history; well not really as it cannot be confirmed, I just wonder if he preferred it with one lump or two.
Obsession or addiction
A steaming cup of frothy caffeine is often the start of many people’s day without it they can be grumpy and down-right unsociable. What makes this tiny little bean so special? Many would say it has a bitter taste, most children in my experience do not like it, and it is something we seem to ‘grow’ into.
My personal preference is for an especially strong brew, enjoying the whole process. The grinding of the beans, the lovely aroma it produces, making the perfect blend, watching a true barista display their true skill and artistic ability then sitting outside on a sunlit day with good company.
A coffee story: Cuban Storm in the Coffee Pots
That is actually quite important as ‘coffee art‘ not only looks pretty but it means the coffee has actually been made correctly, the temperature is perfect. Producing those intricate patterns or pretty pictures in the froth of the coffee means it is actually at the correct consistency or else this would not be impossible.
Coffee the film star
Java has made many appearances in films and television programmes; some are merely ‘cameo’ roles but others it has had a major role. Two which stick in my mind are:
“Jaws” was not especially memorable for coffee, but even as a small child when I first saw the film there was something that struck me as odd. There is a scene in the hospital where the eldest son of Chief Brody has survived a close encounter with the deadly ‘squallus’ and his Mum asks him if she can get him anything. Now thinking back to when I was a kid such an offer would have brought requests for ice cream or chocolate maybe, but no this caffeine loving child has only one thing on his mind; coffee! Even now whenever that film is on that particular scene always stands out for me. Let’s not analyse that too much, maybe Steven is just a big coffee fan?
Coffee makes a much more prominent and amusing appearance in the latest incarnation of the “Godzilla” films, a film which never takes itself too seriously. This revolves around our favourite French secret agent of all time played by Jean Reno struggling to find a decent cup of java in New York. It involves some of the funniest moments in the film for me and probably results in Jean becoming addicted to ‘creamer’.
There are of course many other films in which the worship of the coffee bean is portrayed and probably much more significantly but these stand out for me and merely demonstrates the importance of the role it plays in our society.
Big chains tend to be pretty impersonal but if may suffice if you need a quick fix, do not mind drinking from a cardboard cup or just have to flavour it with the myriad of possible options; caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, almond, tabasco. Okay so I made up the last one….. though it may turn up in a Starbucks near you sometime soon.
It is probably quite clear that this is not the way I prefer to enjoy my coffee, really do not get; “one skinny, organic, vanilla-caramel mochalotta with chocolate flakes and a cardboard Danish to go!”
I prefer to savour my obsession in its pure form, even better if it can be shared with friends on a pleasant day outside watching the world scurry by.
This of course is the whole concept of ‘cafe culture’ exemplified by the continental mainland of Europe where they have taken coffee drinking to an art form.
Wander along any boulevard in France, Italy, Spain or even Germany and it is likely that numerous pleasant little coffee houses will be encountered. Making use of every spare inch of pavement, covering it with tables, chairs and tempting menus. Perfect for wiling away an hour or two, taking a break from the strenuous and often stressful task of sight-seeing.
Discover the habit: Café Culture; Coffee the Social Habit
Most often have delicious looking cakes, pastries and hand-made chocolates, a far cry from the mass produced ones available from the ‘chains’. So successful is cafe culture that it is being exported throughout the World with almost every major town and city now making the most of every moment of good weather to stick out a few tables.
Coffee is taken very seriously in many parts of the globe, though possibly Italy is the true home of the coffee drinker. Most Italians only drink coffee with milk in the morning; cappuccino and latte are ‘breakfast’ coffees. Once the hour hand reaches twelve noon espresso or Americano become the order of the day, this is ‘correct’ coffee etiquette. They even have a term for searching for the prefect cup; tifosi, this perfect cup is much debated and is dependent on many factors, type of bean, humidity, water temperature are just a few to be considered.
French press coffee is popular around the World and as Jean Reno ably displayed the French are serious about their coffee. It was therefore a little shocking to me when CouchSurfing in Corsica to find they often reheated the coffee in a microwave! This usually entailed making a huge pan of coffee over the stove one day and then for the next couple of days just reheating what they needed. I often took a trip into the nearby city of Corte for my ‘fix’, hoping that this was not typical of the French coffee drinking population.
Oasis for Coffee
Turkey in particular is famous for its coffee culture and its extremely strong blend is well known throughout the World, often being served in special little coffee houses in most major cities. Served in small cups often with a pot to allow it to be poured by the guest, there is not any filtering process so it is necessary to allow it to settle for a few moments before taking a sip.
There is even has a ritual in which a young woman that is being visited by a potential husband has the opportunity to accept or decline him. The sweeter the coffee the luckier he is; very sweet an emphatic yes, no sugar at all and he better look elsewhere. If the coffee is salted he is lucky that she even bothered to reply!
Egypt has shisha coffee houses where not only can the men that frequent them, (I did not see any women other than tourists during my stay) enjoy a coffee or minted tea but a large ornate ‘pipe’ of flavoured tobacco can be ‘hired’ to smoke.
A culture of beans in Jordan: Postcards from Coffee Club in Jordan
The Berbers are Muslims so alcohol is prohibited, therefore it is particularly important to them to have a good alternative. Coffee fits the bill in many ways and is certainly enjoyed throughout Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Not surprisingly they have their own special version; Berber coffee is made with cinnamon, very strong and unfiltered so it is also advisable to allow this time to settle too. I found it quite pleasant despite the addition of the cinnamon and enjoyed a few whilst in Morocco.
There are a great many other factors in coffee culture but to avoid appearing totally obsessed it might be worth me quitting whilst ahead.
Just be glad that it is not illegal as it has been a number of times in the histories of some cultures; including Islam and the European countries of England and Germany.
I am quite parched now, time for another coffee. The economy needs my help after all, as coffee is the second most traded commodity behind oil. Therefore there is a need to ensure the average daily consumption of cups of coffee each day remains above five hundred billion! Globally of course, though that might become my lifetime target!