Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Corner View 6 - Coffee



The theme for this week's Corner View is coffee. Now, when you mention the word 'coffee', the first place people think of is Brazil. The coffee beans in the picture, which I will grind for my morning coffee tomorrow, are indeed from Brazil, but they have, in a way, returned home, because like most of the world's best coffee beans they are Coffea arabica and as the name suggests, they originally came from the Arabian peninsula, just over the border from here, in Yemen, where coffee was first cultivated more than a thousand years ago. Arab traders took these beans to Indonesia and East Africa hundreds of years later and eventually they were exported to Latin America.

Last summer I was in Panama and learned a lot more about coffee when I was given a guided tour of the Kotowa Coffee Estate by Dutch coffee farmer, Hans van der Vooren. The first and possibly most important thing is, don't buy coffee that's already been ground. Coffee not only loses its flavour and aroma very quickly, it also absorbs smells and tastes from its surroundings. So, for example if you fry bacon and eggs near ground coffee, that's what it will taste of. Also, for the same reason, you should keep your coffee beans in a vacuum-sealed container. When buying coffee beans, what should you look for? Well, they should have a uniform shape and size as this shows that they have been properly sorted and graded; bigger beans tend to be more expensive. And they should be 100% Arabica as that is the best variety. Why, you may wonder, do farmers bother growing any other variety? The reason is that Coffea arabica is not easy to grow and requires very specific conditions: warm mountain slopes with a minimum altitude of 1,500m and light shade, which is usually provided by surrounding trees. The other main variety, Robusta (Coffea canephora), which is the basis for most instant coffee, is far easier to grow and can tolerate direct sunlight.

Now, with regard to how the beans have been processed, Hans explained that you don't want them burnt too much. Light roast beans (the pale coloured ones) will retain the greatest bouquet of flavours. These complex natural flavours can range from citrus fruit to vanilla and chocolate. If they are poor quality beans, they will also have unpleasant bitter flavours present. So, the cheaper beans are roasted for longer to get rid of the bitterness. Dark roast beans are invariably poor quality which is why they needed to be roasted for so long. The worst culprits are the French roast beans. They are from the cheap Robusta variety and have been burnt almost to a cinder in order to eradicate their natural bitterness. Medium roast is indeed a happy medium as it will retain much of the original bouquet of flavours, yet at the same time not be too bitter.

Panamanian coffee is currently considered to be the best in the world. Based on price and results in international coffee-tasting competitions, the world's best coffees are Panama's Geisha, Jamaica's Blue Mountain, Hawaii's Kona, Indonesia's Kopi Luwak, Guatemala's El Injerto, Brazil's Fazenda Santa Ines, El Salvador's Los Planes, Island of St. Helena Coffee Co. and Rwanda Blue Bourbon. They are all Coffea arabica. A kilo of Geisha beans from Boquete can cost more than $200.

For those of you who haven't ground your own beans before, you don't need a mortar and pestle. There are lots of cheap, efficient electric coffee grinders available in the shops. I particularly like the Kenwood CG100.

Please visit the other Corner View bloggers:

caitlin, joyce, ani, couturecoucou, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t.,jeannette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca, state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemian girl, ruth, dianna, isabelle, amber, girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate, mon, victoria, crescent moon, erin, otli, amy, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, vanessa, britta, virginia, april, rebecca, b

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45 comments:

  1. Like the other things you talked about, your coffee is a great adventure !!!

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  2. I love this post. Once again, a wealth of information (she says as she sips her sub-standard French roast).
    On another note, at your suggestion I investigated Chet Baker. Love him. He was a wonderful talent with a tragic life. I intended to do a post, and still may, but I didn't want any more time to pass before thanking you.

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  3. great info ian- i actually wanted to take notes... thanks for this. besos-jane... and me too-with honey. but you didn´t tell me if you are a dunker.:)

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  4. No, Jane. I like a satisfying crunch.

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  5. Wow! Fantastic info!! Beautiful photos too!!

    Happy Day to you!!

    ...Lisa

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  6. Great! And thank for the informative post. I learned a lot. :)

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  7. Ian not only do you take fab photos I always walk away with a lesson learned. You crack me up with your one liners too (your comment to Jane)! LOL...

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  8. I tought I knew coffee, but you taught me a lot. Thank you Ian :-).

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  9. Holy cow! So French Roasted's no good? You're shattering me!
    Well, great lesson at any rate. Really. I'm going to come back and read it again in the morning. Over coffee. I'm still not sure I get the Brazil / Arabica thing. If they started as Arabica, why are they Brazilian? I do need sleep. Night.

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  10. Also have you ever considered going into teaching?

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  11. thanks for the info!
    now i go and make me some coffee...

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  12. I'm not a coffee drinker; I get my caffeine from mate though. But I do love the smell of coffee. My school was right by a spices refinery, and the smell of coffee reminds me of Autumn days going to school. Beautiful pictures!

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  13. I always love the information I walk away from when I leave your blog. Well actually since there is no real walking.. I prefer to imagine I rode away on one of the many camels you introduced us to. Great job! (also I like the new layout)

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  14. walk away WITH not from.. you get the idea I think.

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  15. I learnt full of things by reading your post and it was a nice walk in the coffee plantations, thanks !!!

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  16. now i know a lot about a drink i never drink. HA!

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  17. Cuban coffee is my favourite so far but I have many more to try! :)

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  18. Fantastic post! I've just learnt so many new things about coffee. Thank you for sharing.

    Have a lovely day,
    Kasia

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  19. Wouhaou !! Thanks for all this informations... Have you got something about tea ? ; )

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  20. Loved reading all about the coffee I didn't know before.

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  21. Great Post!
    When I stopped and was staring confusedly at all the coffee choices at the store the other day, a very nice young man covered in tattoos came over to help me choose. I haven't opened the bag yet, but he talked me into El Salvador pea berry coffee, because he said pea berry was a seasonal variety and the El Salvador season had just begun and therefore was very fresh. Thanks to that guy and you, I'm realizing I have a lot to learn about coffee.

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  22. Leave it up to you to do a terrific post on coffee!
    Next thing on my things to buy...a coffee grinder!
    Have a great day and I´m looking forward to all your comments. ;)

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  23. Hi Ian and thank you for your story on the coffee.I think my coffee is not good.But now I know which to choose!

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  24. dear ian, thank you for your coffee post. can almost smell the coffee...i've to read your post again tonight with more time. how was it in the zapatista coffee? you really have been all over the world....wish you a wonderful day*

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  25. Well, your post gives a lot more interesting information than mine! But similar in theme. So you think it's the English thing... I'm actually Spanish but maybe have been living in England for too long! :)

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  26. I love coming by to get the great information here at your blog on corner view. Thank you for taking so much time to explain this!

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  27. Ian,

    What about The Mongolian Girl? I can't even find links to it in this post. Thanks!

    Jim

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  28. Wow, what a great post. Gee I learnt something today about coffee. I don't give too much thought about the beans I just like to drink coffee.
    But thanks for the information, I will be on the look out for light roasted beans.
    Again great post!!
    BTW I like the new look of your blog.

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  29. Thank you for all your nice comments.

    Jim, I'm going to post an explanation of what is happening with The Mongolian Girl.

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  30. Sipping my freshly ground coffee as I write (though the Prodigal household likes dark roast--we mix espresso & French into our own blend). My favorite coffee story--when we went to Puerto Rico, we stayed overnight at a coffee plantation, thinking we'd have great coffee in the morning. Wouldn't you know it, they only served Colombian coffee and thought we were mad when we asked to sample the local brew! Turns out, they hadn't grown coffee in years, no point, they said, when you can bring it in from Colombia.

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  31. interesting stuff about coffee. thanks.

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  32. how nice to grind your own coffee - and it smells delicious, too!

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  33. This is a personal message (don't publish it). Have you seen the last posts on Dolphin Man's blog? Shoud we be worried? I think I am.

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  34. Great post Ian ! Very informative. My husband grinds his own beans every morning ... but I think there may be some helpful information in here for him ... I'm going to have him read this !

    PS. Love the new look of your blog.

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  35. You sure know your coffee. As an aside, I hate grinding beans -- too lazy in the morning...

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  36. hi Ian!
    if - by travelling around the world - you're passing Napoli: you know where to go drinking coffee!
    ;-)

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  37. Schanett, thanks to you, I certainly do. We have just written a poem together. Where do we go from here?

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  38. Just yesterday my favorite shop called to tell me it was Ethiopia Coffee day! My favorite!
    And I've always had a strange aversion to frenchroast... my insides know it's burnt :D
    I'm a big fan of this Mr. Coffee GrinderSo I can have perfect coffee for whichever means I use to make it!

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  39. wow! thank you for sharing all this information!
    (i love colombian coffee!)

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  40. Wow that was a whole lot of information you've posted here. And a Dutch man?? I have to visit that link later..
    Great post!
    (ps: why did I had to watch that youtube clip with the year of the cat??)

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  41. Very informative ... coffee is quite a science :-)

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  42. Thank you for the information about coffee! It's good to know though I don't drink coffee...
    Maybe I have never had a great coffee??

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  43. I`ll 45th those sentiments--great and informative post!

    I have a story for you, but it`s long so in a nutshell (or a coffee bean)...I went to take the photo for you of the `greeters` in the department store. I had to go when it first opened since that is really the only time it happens on the grand scale. I waited with the shoppers, my camera ready, but when it came time to take the shot, I couldn:t do it. The whole scene was like a sacred ritual, and I bowed in return, the camera lowering itself with my gesture.
    Sorry about that ! But you got me out to see a side of my corner that I ordinarily would have missed.
    Thank you! and thank you for sharing all that you write here.

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