Anyone for a coffee?

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There are few things nicer than the smell of freshly brewed coffee, it reminds me of holidays and lazy weekends. Heart Kitchen has just invested in an all-singing, all-dancing Italian Gaggia coffee machine, which we are very excited to share with our guests! We have all been trained in the art of espresso-making, and are now highly skilled in cappucinos, macchiatos, lattes, breves etc, and as for our skills with steamed milk art; coffee bean, heart or oak leaf anyone? Coffee or kavvh has been around for centuries. Rumour has it that an old Ethiopian Goatherd was baffled to see his herd of goats suddenly leaping and dancing around his field after feasting on some red berries foraged from a nearby tree. Kalbi tried some of the berries himself – eating the whole thing including the pit (raw bean) and felt himself becoming quite energised. He took the fruits to a nearby monastery, and expected the monks to be astounded by his find. Not so! the monks found Kalbi’s claim to be ridiculous and threw the berries into the fire. After a few minutes roasting, the monks were overwhelmed by a delicious aroma coming from the beans. They tried to preserve the smell by grinding the beans and mixing them with water. On drinking the resulting beverage, the monks were stunned to find that after several cups of kavvh, they could keep praying and meditating for much longer. Coffee was subsequently adopted as a popular drink with Muslims as they were forbidden to drink alcohol, but strong boiled coffee beans were an acceptable substitute! There are references to coffee in Ethiopia and Yemen as early as the 8th Century where beans were ground up and mixed with ghee and used as an ‘energy bar’ originally. This has subsequently evolved as a beverage. There are two main types of coffee, coffee Robusta and coffee Arabica. Arabica is the most common, around 75% – 80% of all coffee exported; it is softer, lower in caffeine and more flavoursome than c. Robusta. Robusta can be used in instant coffees, but is much stronger, more bitter in flavour and higher in caffeine, more hardy and easier to grow.  Arabica is grown by choice as although it is not so hardy, it commands a much higher price the c. Robusta. Coffee is a major export of most developing countries in the tropical belt. (Coffee can only be grown between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn). There are many different types of cultivars and varieties of c. Arabica, with different types being grown in different countries, the most popular being Blue Mountain, Java, Typica and Columbian. Another type of coffee is the kopi luwak which is coffee harvested from beans which have been ingested by the Indonesian civet (wild cat) and literally ‘pooped’ out. The beans are then cleaned (fortunately), roasted and ground, and command upwards of £300 per kilo as oppose to £3.00 for Arabica beans. Allegedly, the digestive juices of the civet produce enzymes which improve the flavour of the bean, plus the difficulty in harvesting (presumably wandering round the Sumatran bush looking for clusters of civet dung) makes for the high price. Some producers have tried to emulate this process by force-feeding civets in captivity. There has been much controversy surrounding the force feeding of palm civets, keeping them in dreadful conditions similar to our battery hens. Sadly this process can be described as inauthentic and cruel, and with no standards in place, it is very difficult to tell if a product has come from the original cottage industry or is mass produced. Back to the 20th Century and the sort of coffee we expect from our traditional coffee shop………. There are so many different types of coffee to experience now, thanks to our ancestors and their experiments. The most popular is still the traditional Italian espresso which is literally ground coffee beans with the same amount of boiling water shot through it under pressure. This can be transformed into the milky/frothy concoctions that we love, but most coffee puritans prefer the flavour of the coffee in a straight up espresso………unlike the American G.I.’s who were stationed in Italy during WW2. They had never tasted anything like proper espresso, only being used to wishy washy drip-through or filter coffee. They therefore demanded their espressos be topped up with hot water, thus inventing the Caffe Americano. In America, the espresso is often called the Caffe Italiano! Since then, coffee culture has taken the western world by storm, and designer coffee shops have sprung up everywhere, a good thing for us coffee-loving Brits who no longer have  to cross the channel to Europe for a decent cup! Why not sit and savour your delicious cup of fresh coffee; feel the sun on your face and imagine the coffee bushes absorbing the sun’s warmth to ripen the fruits; see the  picker collecting the berries; picture the beans being collected from the berries and then roasted, bagged up and sent by boat to their final destination. Think of the bush being planted by a hard-working Ethiopian farmer – would he have been thinking of you, the consumer, enjoying a cup of his beautiful coffee? He ultimately planted it with you in mind, you are his livelihood. Then smell that delicious aroma, sit and savour the taste of the coffee, it will hopefully energise you for your day as it did the  monks and the goats!


Author: Celia

The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.

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