Let’s face it: coffee is a great excuse! A great excuse to start the day, or to get together with friends, or to curl up by the fireplace with a good book on a snowy winter night or even to close on an important business deal. Any occasion is a good occasion to have a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee--or maybe even cold? Today, we can make it at home or buy it at the coffee shops. To us, this is a simple and delightful process, but, in reality, in order for us to have the opportunity to appreciate the aroma and the flavor of this dark, rich and bold drink, a long and arduous process had to take place beforehand.
Let’s begin at the root. The coffee bush is from the family of the rubiaceae. Its beautiful cherry-like fruit, white blossoms and gentile fragrance speak of mystic beauty. These bushes grow best on high elevations (500 to 2000 meters) in misty, tropical environments. Those of us who have had the blessing of watching the bushes blossom in a plantation field agree that it is an experience to be forever cherished.
On the outside, the coffee berry looks like a cherry; but when it is cracked open, two seeds that are surrounded by a yellowish pulp emerge. These are the seeds that become the coffee grains after they’ve been processed.
No botanist agrees exactly on how many species of coffee exist, which doesn’t necessarily surprise me. As a matter of fact, new species pop up every once in a while. Such is the case of a beautiful but bizarre winged coffee bean discovered in 1996 in the region of Tsingy de Bemaraha in Madagascar. It is unlike any other coffee species. It is also sad, but true, that only a very few of coffee genus found worldwide are actually harvested. Three of the most popular are the Coffea Arabiga, Coffea Robusta and Coffea Liberica.
The Coffea Arabiga bean is characterized for having the most exquisite aroma and smooth flavor. Its varieties are as follows: Cramer, Maragogype, Bourbon, Moka, Tipica, Caturra, Geisa, Kent, Amapella & Sumatra.
The Coffea Robusta bean is characterized by a bold grain, strong in flavor and its varieties are Java, Congensis, Kouillon & Crillon.
The Coffea Liberica bean was discovered in 1843 in Liberia and although it is still cultivated throughout Africa, its variety, Kape Baraco, is presently grown in the Philippines.
As a coffee lover, I have always marveled at the mysterious legends and myths behind the beans that make such a trendy beverage. And, because I also love good stories, this one (which is my favorite), I pass on to you:
A young Ethiopian shepherd boy by the name of Kaldi was once herding his goats on new pastures. The goats were happily grazing from nearby bushes while Kaldi was simply enjoying the majestic views. A bit later, he noticed the goats were behaving in a very happy and playful way. He walked over to them and saw that the goats were eating the bush berries. He decided to try them and see if he would experience the same effect. Although the taste didn’t necessarily agree with him, he nibbled on a few of them and he too, began to experience a very euphoric feeling.
Not knowing what to make of it, he gathered plants, flowers and fruits from one of the bushes and ran down the mountain toward the house of worship, followed closely by his lively goats. He then handed the bundle to the caretaker monk. The monk then took them to the rustic kitchen and boiled them in water. When he tasted the drink he was so disgusted by the flavor, that he grabbed the rest of the plants and berries and threw them all into the fire pit. As they burned, the kitchen became invaded with a delicious smell and soon, everyone who lived in the house of worship was in the kitchen drawn in by the intoxicating aroma that these berries were producing as they burned.
And so it is said that coffee was born. A gift from Ethiopia to the world that was tasted by goats, discovered by a shepherd boy, and roasted by monks, who I’m sure never imagined that the flavor of coffee would keep captivating people throughout the centuries.
Taking the monks as example let's brew and spice our own! Here’s what you’ll need:
--Good quality coffee and the spice of your choice (or a blend of them): such as cinnamon, apple spice, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, cardamom, etc. …you can find some very good high quality coffee spices right around the corner at the Lexington Co-op.
--Cream or milk (optional)
--Dark brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)
Prepare to make the coffee as you usually do, but before you hit the brew button, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the spice of your choice over the coffee and then add about 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar or maple syrup to the empty coffee pot. Then allow it to brew.
Next, add milk or cream to your coffee and more of the dark brown sugar or maple syrup if you need to and enjoy!
There are so many great places to sit and have a good cup of coffee in the city, but if you'd like to make some of this delicious spiced coffee at home, stop into Blue Mountain Coffees on Elmwood. They carry some of the finest coffee in Buffalo. If you haven't stopped in before, you're missing a treat!
Blue Mountain Coffees
509 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo 14222
Laura Anhalt and her business partner Beverly Barry make up A Taste of the World, a business that offers not only a very popular series of intimate cooking classes, but also a line of gourmet sauces which are available at Premier Gourmet and other area retailers with a passion for products made locally.
Lead photo by Patrick Anhalt