Monday, January 18, 2010

A relationship with coffee - part 1

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

St Exupery

Today's reflection is on St Exupery's words and how they relate to the simple act of enjoying a cup of coffee. It looks simple but in fact the chain of events to bring you that cup of coffee are immense and full of buying decisions we need to understand together with its worldwide implications. Before I savour my cup of coffee, do I really know how it got created in the first place?

Many gadgets were created to provide solutions to tasks that were being achieved manually, changing the world gradually towards mechanisation. Personally, I am unravelling some of the mechanical operations being done in the home in a bid to increase my personal productivity and use the time available to create a better relationship between the elements it presents. Knowing more about where coffee comes from instead of accepting the instant jar enables me to make decisions with regards to the outcome of my cup of coffee.

The gadgets required to provide a cup of coffee are staggering.

Ever since coffee was taken as a beverage, roasting grinding and leaching comprise the trio of essential preparation stages, prior to consumption, irrespective of where and how they are carried out.

Soluble coffee turned out to be a truly global phenomenon .It occurred in Guatemala, home of some of the world's great Arabica origins. A George Washington, born in Belgium of English parents and bearing the same name as the first President of the U.S.A, happened to notice a deposit building up under the spout of his sterling silver coffee pot. He tasted the deposit to find that it possessed real coffee flavour corresponding to origin and blend of beans blend he was drinking. His chance observation has not only made soluble coffee possible, but the core science and basic mechanics of what happened over 100 years ago are used today by soluble coffee manufacturers. They capture the entire soluble fraction of roast coffee beans in a highly concentrated solution of liquid soluble coffee and subsequently evaporate off the water using spray drying or freeze drying, thus encapsulating the water soluble coffee compounds in a solid instant coffee formulation, as powder or granules depending on the method used.

It did increase coffee consumption as the arduous task of grinding the beans, straining them through a filter to create the dark sensuous liquid at the time demanded equipment, personal energy, time and effort to get a cup of flavoursome coffee. More granules could be shipped easily all around the world than roasted beans of the coffee plant.

An electric kettle provides an amount of boiling water in an instant to pour on coffee that for my convenience has been pulverised and freeze dried. No need to percolate because that has been done somewhere in a factory. The resources used to create that cup of coffee are immense.

My grandmother used to have a coffee grinder and coffee making used to be a ritual when we visited. Her best linen tablecloth would be spread out on the table, china set out and some ' koffiekoeken' ( cakes to be eaten with coffee) would be served on a silver platter. Then she would disappear in the kitchen to take the roasted beans out of a tin, put them in the grinder and when its little drawer opened, the ground coffee would be tipped in a ' Melitta filter', water boiled on the stove and poured through the filter into the coffee pot. Having coffee was a special occasion and we would enjoy its aroma at the table. I also had no idea how the bean got to the shop and the process involved in getting it to the grinder.

The world is visible in a single cup of coffee.


Sustainable harvest international
Where does coffee come from
Fair trade coffee campaign
Huffington post article about Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Coffee, Tea and Cocoa


Jeremy and Jenny said...

and fair trade tastes better. it is shade grown so it is sweeter, more floral, and more balanced. i think you can taste the love too. check out

Anne said...

Jenny and Jeremy that is a really good point. Taste translates the care, work and pride of people in providing a unique product for our pleasure.