Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coffee’s aroma better than its taste

March 26, 2008

There are two schools of coffee drinkers - those who like it straight and those who prefer it diluted with milk products and sweeteners. I happen to be one of the latter, although I occasionally drink it straight up. I do sympathize with those who want it straight and black. I grew up in a household where my mother wanted it as black as a thief's heart and my father poured milk in his.

Mother couldn't face a day without coffee. I think her blood must have had a huge component of caffeine that needed to be reinforced throughout the day. She was proud of her Swedish heritage and felt that her love of coffee had come to her through that component of her genetic make-up. Her coffee pot wasn't a chic glass carafe. It was made of a stainless silverfish metal with a glass percolator knob. She sat it over an open gas flame to merrily bubble away.

The wonderful scent of coffee being made floated through our home to begin the day. I still think the best thing about coffee is its aroma. I'm usually disappointed by the actual taste. That might be why people like to put cream and sugar in coffee - to make it taste like it smells.

Mother let her coffee boil away until later in the day, it began to resemble tar. She drank it hot and cold - but always black.

In both my mother's house and in my mother-in-law's, coffee was the drink of choice for hospitality. A cup of coffee and a piece of pie were universally accepted as an invitation to have a seat and share conversation and companionship. There was nothing better. My mother-in-law and her sisters all served coffee at the close of every visit, and it wasn't decaffeinated. It was fully leaded. Perhaps, that's why everyone made it home safely. Their eyes were wide open.

Coffee was discovered in the ninth century in what is now Ethiopia. Since then, coffee beans have become an important agricultural export item all over the world. According to Wikipedia, it is the most important export in 2004 for at least nine countries. Arabia was the first place the coffee berries or beans were roasted before they were used to make the drink. It was brought to Europe in the late Sixteenth Century where it gained popularity. Pope Clement VIII declared it a Christian drink in 1600 A.D. After the Turks were turned back from Vienna in 1683, the captured supplies were gladly confiscated and used by the good citizens of that Austrian city. The rest is history. Coffee became more popular than tea in the United States after both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 made the import of tea from British merchants unpopular and expensive.

When I was in college at the University of Kansas, there was a coffee house downtown that served all kinds of coffee with milk and flavorings in it. It had art on the walls and occasionally hosted performers. It was an alternative to places which served alcohol, and I always liked to go there after going to a movie or other event. Now, coffee has become an upscale experience with Starbucks and other places making it almost unrecognizable with the additional of many different flavors.

Of course, with the chic transformations, the price has soared. The nickel cup of coffee has disappeared along with gas available under a dollar. We're lucky to find a cup of coffee at a restaurant for a dollar. Even at that price, it's a bargain compared to anything else other than plain water. May our coffee pots never run dry!

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