Dark, delightful and desperately needed,
Any warning against it will not be headed,
With a roasty flavor of which I am keen,
Give me my coffee each morning lest I be mean.
As coffee is so high on my nonexistent list of favorite things, I visited a plantation in Antigua to learn a little bit more about it. One may be interested to learn that coffee had quite the scandalous past. When it started to become popular in Europe and Turkey a few concerned ladies put forth a petition to make it illegal. They were concerned that there husbands were spending too much time at these “coffee houses” indulging in too much of this new “mind altering” substance. The petition, however, did not gain much traction; the good politicians of that day were also big fans of the new stimulating substance. They noticed that coffee drinkers were more productive then their drunken counterparts and one source even claimed that it helped sober Europe up starting in the 1500s! A miracle drug indeed.
The process in which coffee is made proved to be lengthy but fascinating. Starting with a red bean on a small to medium bush, the coffee is harvested mostly by women. They earn something like $8 per 100 pounds of beans picked. People please understand that this is FAIR TRADE pricing. Buying coffee that is not certified fair trade supports plantations that pay even less than this. Understanding the process of what goes into a cup of coffee has taught me that it is relatively cheap for what has to happen to produce it.
By the end of the tour I really couldn’t understand how we can buy a pound of coffee for $10 or less! First of all, it takes about one mature plant to produce enough coffee beans for 1 pound of coffee. That’s right 1 pound = 1 tree! Essentially that means I have already consumed a forest the size of Guatemala. After the beans are harvested they are sent through a machine that washes and skins them. The red cherry-like skins are then used to make Kahlua (YAAAASSSS) or fertilizer. No waste. The beans are then washed into a basin where they are allowed to shortly ferment. No wonder coffee is so great! Like many of my other favorite things, it involves fermentation. After, the beans are spread out to dry in the sun.
After drying for a few days the beans are placed in a roaster and about 2 short minutes later these little beans started crackling. The small crack sound signifies that the black crack is ready to be packed in a sack and shipped off to share its amazing gift of caffeine with the world. For those of you sharing my addiction, please note that the lighter roasts contain more caffeine than the dark! My short, crude and half educated explanation can hardly do this amazing product any justice but hopefully it has shed some light on this magical beverage and will make it taste even better.