This morning I’m drinking some coffee from El Salvador. It’s grown in the rich soil on the side of an ancient volcano, 3000 feet above sea level. It’s one of the samples Kat roasted for our loan presentation last week. Kat’s sophisticated palate describes the flavour qualities as “malty and nutty”. She’s cooked the beans to a warm, medium roast, to enhance and not overwhelm the subtle flavour qualities.
Three years ago, before Kat & I started dating, I was drinking Maxwell House. I had no idea that coffee was something other than the course brown powder in the 2 kg tin I purchased at the grocery store. Offering Kat coffee from this tin was my first official faux pas. Ever seen a look of true horror? Just try offering Maxwell House to a coffee connoisseur. I imagine she’d have the same look if I offered her a used Kleenex.
I did not understand what the big deal was. Coffee is coffee right? It’s a constant in the background of our life, straining away in the automatic drip machine, quietly cooking down for an hour or so before the element shuts off. It’s a warm, brown liquid that serves it’s social purpose: it gives you the kick you need to stay awake through work or school. Its taste is blunted with cream and sugar, preferably Baileys. I had a vague idea that coffee grew in South America, I had no clue how it got from the plant to my cup.
Kat’s life was centered around coffee. She’d been apprenticing at a small roasting company for years. She knew the secret of the green bean – the potential locked inside the little seed, waiting to be coaxed into vibrant, complex flavour if the roast master has the skill, the experience, the sheer artistic talent to bring it out.
The weekend following the 2 kg tin incident, Kat brought me three bags of coffee she’d roasted that week. Costa Rica, Peru and Ethiopia. All of them rich and mellow, each with distinct, pleasing notes of flavour: citrus, chocolate, floral. None of them bitter or acidic.
In the rush-rush city of six million people, where I, naturally a slow-riser in the morning, was required to battle for subway space and be at work as a functional accountant by EIGHT in the friggin’ morning, coffee was a necessity – it was my lifeline. I drank coffee to cope, to survive in the fast-paced, cut-throat Hogtown.
Yet here was coffee that was kind to my system. Flavours so pleasant, it actually helped me to relax, to feel like I was doing something special for myself in the morning as I rushed to be somewhere and something for someone else.
Coffee was the first of many things in my life to improve.
And here we are, three years later, drinking home-roasted El Salvador in a heart-breakingly beautiful town. We’re discussing the warehouse space we found and a second-hand roaster that’s too risky to buy. We’re anxious about moving at the end of the month, and marveling at how quickly everything is coming together. The coffee seed we planted almost a year ago is finally sprouting into life. Our life, and the coffee, is damn good.
(thank you coffeeresearch.org for the above image)