Friday, April 4, 2014

A Cup of Coffee, Please!

cup-of-coffee
The week is almost over, and we’re heading for another weekend – I hope you all have plans to relax a bit and have some fun. As I stand here, large mug in hand while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I’m thinking about where that coffee comes from, its history and what we can do with it. And I’ve always thought it funny that a bean is harvested, dried, roasted, ground, water is poured over it, then we drink that water and discard the grounds.

There are many legends and stories about coffee’s origins, but it’s thought that those origins go back to about the 13th century. One story is that a goatherd in Ethiopia by the name of Kaldi found that his herd became more active after eating the berries from a certain tree in the fields. Wondering if the effect would be the same on humans, he tried one and found that he experienced the same feeling of exhilaration. Another legend is that a man from Yemen, while traveling in Ethiopia, noticed that birds gained energy and vitality after eating the berries and tried them himself with the same results.

The Arabs were the first to cultivate and trade coffee. From Ethiopia coffee traveled to India, then to Europe, then around the world. The Turks, in about 1453, are said to have been the first to actually make a drink from the beans. In Turkish law around that time it became legal to divorce a man if he failed to provide enough daily coffee for his wife!

At times throughout history the use of coffee was banned by religious or governmental authorities for different reasons.

The National Coffee Association USA was established in 1911, becoming the first trade organization for the US coffee industry and one of the first trade associations in the country.

Varieties of Coffee:

The 2 main types of coffee are Arabica and Robusto. The Arabica is known for its rich flavor and aroma, and is typically more expensive. Robusto is often used for instant coffee.

How It’s Harvested:

There are two harvesting techniques:

1) Strip Picking – all berries on the tree are removed, either by machine or by hand.

2) Selective Picking – only the ripe berries are removed, by hand, and the harvesting crew rotates through the fields as the berries ripen.

After harvesting, the pulp is removed from the berry to reveal the bean. The bean is then dried. Roasting then darkens the beans and releases the oils that give coffee its flavor. The roasted beans are ground, and the ultimate brewing method determines the grinding process – the finer the grind the faster the brewing preparation should be. A larger grind would be exposed to hot water for a longer period of time during brewing, whereas a finer grind would be ideal for a shorter brewing method.

Where It’s Grown:

Coffee is grown in several areas of the world – in Central and South America (Costa Rica, Columbia and Brazil), in Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia) and in the Far East (Vietnam and Indonesia).

Buying and Storing It:

Ideally, you should only buy as much coffee as you will use in a short time, maybe a week or two at most. Any extra coffee should be stored in a dark airtight container (never in glass) in a cool, dark place. It’s best not to refrigerate or freeze coffee in order to protect it from any moisture, which would degrade flavor.

Brewing Methods:

Over the years there have been several methods and types of equipment for brewing coffee. Long ago there were those sturdy metal coffee pots used on the campfire or in the fireplace. Then came the percolator, which was probably the first actual “machine” used to brew coffee. I remember having percolators, both aluminum and ceramic, that were placed on the stovetop. Then came drip coffeemakers, which many of us use these days. There are also the French Press and the Espresso coffee makers. The latest development in coffee machines is the single-cup brewer, which provides convenience and versatility. The individual cups are available in many flavors of coffee as well as teas and cocoas.

However we prepare it, most of us savor that cup of coffee first thing in the morning – and all during the day. Its health benefits have long been debated, but I say everything in moderation!
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Here are a couple of simple coffee creamer recipes and one for a flavored coffee mix. Any of these would make great gifts, too.

SWEET AND SPICY CREAMER

1 cup powdered creamer
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix a heaping teaspoonful in mug of hot coffee or tea.

MOCHA CREAMER

1 (16 oz.) jar powdered creamer
1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix for milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix and store airtight. To use: mix a tablespoon into 6 ounces hot coffee.

VIENNA COFFEE MIX

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered creamer
1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
4 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 cup instant coffee


Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix 2 to 3 tablespoons into one cup hot water.
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The new series called “Husband’s Choice” will start this weekend, with results posted early next week. My husband will, at random, select a cookbook from my bookshelves. From that cookbook I will select several possible recipes, then he will choose one to be prepared.
The book for this week has been chosen – The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. This talented blogger, photographer and Food Network chef is a favorite of mine, and her down-to-earth style appeals to so many of us home cooks.

The chosen recipe is under wraps for now. More to come….
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Saturday is International Pillow Fight Day, National Deep Dish Pizza Day and National Love Our Children Day. (They all sound good to me!) Sunday we observe Hostess Twinkie Day, National Student Athlete Day and "Sorry, Charlie" Day.

And check the "Holidays" page for even more!
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"Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee."
(Author Unknown)

"Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis - a good, hot cup of coffee."
(Alexander King)

"Do I like my coffee black? There are other colors?"
(Author Unknown)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

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