Where Coffee Comes From - My Guatemalan Coffee Memoirs

     I moved to Guatemala at just turned 20 years old. I didn't like coffee unless it was loaded with sugar and cream. After just a few short months I learned to love the coffee made Guatemalan style. When brewing coffee, most particularly in a percolator way back then, and in any pot that repeatedly washes hot water over the grounds, the more often the washing over the grounds, the more bitter the coffee.

In Guatemala, they used tiny little pots with a filter set on top, similar in concept to those aluminum single cup mechanisms sold in the U.S., except the place to put the coffee grounds was much deeper and sat well within the pot. Over the grounds, they poured boiled water, trickling it over by tiny increments, until they extracted about a quarter cup of what they called coffee essence. They would use a very tiny amount of the essence in a coffee cup, and pour hot water over the essence until the cup was as full as desired. In effect, they reconstituted the very concentrated essence. Made this way, the coffee was not only palatable, but unlike anything I had ever tasted.

My Dad, accompanying me on my first trip to Guatemala, also came home completely enamored of this new method of making coffee. Previously, he would drink his coffee with cream and sugar, but now switched to only sugar, since the coffee tasted so much better. He brought home one of those little pots, so they could make their coffee this way all the time. Mom would also spend the time to make a larger quantity of the essence, a bit at a time, and would fill a little jar with it. Dad would take this with him to work, and by adding a little of the essence and hot water, could also have a great cup of coffee there. Just like instant coffee, but far better.

Guatemala is a coffee country and coffee is a large part of the farming that occurs there. Observing all the work that went into making coffee ready for exportation in its green, unroasted state was an amazing learning process. Coffee trees are small, and cannot thrive in too direct sunlight. To help the small trees, other taller trees are interspersed, to provide shade, such as banana, with their wide leaves, and other larger hardwoods. Migrant workers would travel to the various coffee plantations at harvest and pick the ripe, red berries. The coffee berries were then washed and tumbled repeatedly, until all the fruit was stripped away and only the seed was left. At this point the seeds were very soft and a rather pale white color.

Once all the outer pulp was completely washed away, the coffee was moved to huge drying patios. These are large expanses of concrete, where the coffee beans are moved continuously, hour after hour, during sunlight. Once the sun goes down, there are corralled in lean to type sheds where the beans rest for the night, to be brought back into the sun the next day. This is a lengthy process, and the workers tirelessly push the beans around in the sun with a wooden tool shaped like an upside down letter T. The flat bar pushes and turns the beans as they walk. Once the beans are dried to the desired state, they are loaded into burlap sacks for export. An overriding scent memory today is that of burlap. It transports me back to the coffee plantations in Guatemala.

My father in law also taught me to roast the green coffee, and gave me tips to know exactly when to stop roasting so it wouldn't burn. Using a large, blackened skillet, usually outside over an open fire, the dry beans are moved constantly in the hot pan while they toast. As they would begin to darken, and as soon as one bean could easily be crushed between two fingers, the pan must come off the heat. The beans hold enough residual heat that they will continue to roast. Wait too long and the beans are burnt, and ruined. It is a delicate balance.

These days, my tastes in coffee have been refined. I have no idea if I would still love the coffee from Guatemala. My taste these days seems to run to coffees from Ethiopia. Nowadays, good Arabica coffee is found practically on every corner, but I still recall my youthful time in Guatemala with gratefulness for all the things I was able to learn while living there.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. You will find many more recipes and helpful tips on my web site. I am on Facebook at A Harmony of Flavors and share a recipe or tip each day to the fans that have liked my site. I hope to see you there soon.

Article Source : http://www.abcarticledirectory.com

My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. Join me as I continue my journey in cooking and sharing my love of food with you. Help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Visit my Web site www.aharmonyofflavors.com my Blog at www.aharmonyofflavors.blogspot.com my Marketplace at www.a-harmony-of-flavors-marketplace.com or Facebook page A Harmony of Flavors

Posted on 2012-10-31, By: *

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