Prompted by my daughter’s recent blog post from Australia, Seven Things Travel is Teaching Me, I need to chime in and say “Amen, honey” to her sentiment that “coffee is a beautiful thing”. Her tio, my brother Rafael, grows coffee in the mountains above the family homestead in Yauco, Puerto Rico and I have to say that Cafe Don Rafa, is about the best coffee I’ve ever had.
Cafe, kava, kahawa, java, whatever you call it, this inky liquid has significance far beyond its place at the breakfast table. Without even mentioning a certain shop that-starts-with-S-and-ends-with- KS, just think of the many ways we use coffee; it is an instrument of getting to know someone better, as in “Would you like to get a cup of coffee?” It is a vehicle of commerce; Where would Turkish rug vendors be without it? It is practically a requirement of hospitality and a source of communion (which I’ll get to later). In short, the ubiquitousness of coffee unites the world while its endless variety defines cultures.
Here are some of the cups of coffee I remember best. Why not use the comment area to add yours?
I drank too many flat whites in New Zealand and I ought to call them fat whites because after downing three or four a day for about a week, someone told me they were made with milk. Duh! No wonder they are so delicious. They’re beautiful too.
When I was visiting my friend Elham in Jordan, she would put crushed cardamom pods in the grounds then boil the lot in a tiny ibrik. It was amazing!
On my recent trip to the United Arab Emirates I was served a variation of this; whole coffee beans boiled with cardamom. It’s weaker – almost watery. Drunk on its own, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it. Served with the Emirati dates right off the tree, it was magnificent.
This takes me to another thought about coffee.
When a couple dances salsa, the man’s job is to perform admirably – but in the background – while the lady gets the glory. Coffee is sometimes like that.
Lisbon’s Pasteis de Belem is famous for its custard pastries, and yes, they live up to the hype. For the true experience, however you must wash them down with coffee served in heavy ceramic cups.
New Orleans’s Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter is all about the little fried donut-like confections called beignets. Their sweetness and the strong, bitter coffee well, dance on!
When I drink coffee at home, I often open a tin of evaporated milk and mix a little in. Serious coffee lovers may be horrified at this. I like the taste though and more significantly, this is how my father used to drink his coffee.
My dad died in 1997, and I don’t sip coffee with evaporated milk without remembering him. It’s analogous to communion practiced by Christians. We drink wine and eat bread to remember Jesus.
Remarkable, isn’t it? Our senses reach directly to our hearts with a power that turns a tiny grape or a little bean into so much more.