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On the rising hills of Columbia, the fastest growing cash crop in the country is cultivated. This is the coffee bean.

The seeds of this shrub, which belongs to the Madder family, are called coffee, as is the beverage made from them, produced by passing boiled water through a filter containing ground roasted coffee beans. It can be consumed warm or cold and in any of the following styles: instant, filter, cappuccino, espresso (so strong you are only allowed 5ml at any one time, and it must be served in a steel reinforced cup), mocha, latte, or any combination of these with the word 'double' attached somewhere. Some drink their coffee with cream and sugar, others with milk and sugar; but purists claim the only way to drink a cup of 'Joe' is black... with or without sugar.

Columbia is not the only country to produce fine grains of ambrosia. The hands-down best producer of coffee may be Puerto Rico1. Yucua is the name of the plant. It is grown on the mountains of the rainforest on the beautiful island. Rare and expensive, this is the coffee of choice not just for Puerto Ricans, but also for the Vatican... and the Pope knows his coffee!

Coffee Facts

  • Coffee beans grow on small trees.
  • It takes the annual yield of one tree to produce one pound of roasted beans.
  • Coffee beans are grown in subtropical regions around the world.
  • The biggest growers are Brazil and Columbia.
  • Commercial coffee crops are of two main types: Robustas and Arabicas.
  • Robusta coffee has twice as much caffeine as Arabica.
  • Arabica beans produce a smoother flavour and are the main constituent of most high-quality coffees.
  • It takes about 40 beans to make an espresso.
  • Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans are the most expensive in the world.
  • Coffee beans of several types are roasted together to produce appealing flavours.

Coffee can be used as a breakfast drink (or as just plain breakfast), with a luncheon snack, or for after dinner with dessert. Not only does it wake you up and keep you going, but the smell also invigorates the room that you are in. However, coffee does not have to be taken alone: there are a myriad of coffee snacks, which enliven the experience. Croissants, doughnuts, coffee cakes, pirulings, coffee cookies, coffee brownies, and those Belgian wafer thingies all heighten the coffee drinking experience.

And an experience it is! For one cannot just drink coffee. First one puts in the sugar (some here poison their coffee with milk or cream, but to each his own). Then you swirl and swirl until the grains are absorbed. Next, you inhale the steam stemming from the cup and softly blow on the coffee till it reaches a drinkable temperature. Slowly blowing as you lift the cup to your mouth, you quickly take a small sip, savor, swallow, smack your mouth and breathe a sigh of satisfaction. Repeat when necessary.

An Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

There are many different ways of making good coffee: percolators, filter machines, small brass pots and so on. The most elaborate method, however, must surely be the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

In Ethiopia, coffee is a sensual affair. A small charcoal brazier, in which tiny amounts of frankincense and perfumed sandlewood are burned, is placed on a brightly painted lacquered table. This creates the correct frame of mind and heightens one's senses before the coffee arrives. The beans are brought to the table, roasting in a iron pot. A little of the precious aroma is released into the air to blend with the perfumed smoke of the brazier. They are whisked away to be ground, before too much of their essence is lost. At last, the coffee is brought to the table in a long-necked earthenware pot. It is thick and dark... almost oily. It is sipped - savoured - from small cups, sweetened with coarse sugar. Fresh popcorn is eaten in order to refresh the palate.

1Fans of Ethiopian, Sumatran, or Jamaican coffee might argue the point.

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