Posts Tagged ‘Ethiopia’

A Five Gun Salute to the Origins of Coffee

March 11, 2021

Coffee, red coffee cherries, originate in the cloud forests of Ethiopia.

It brings to the drinker a sprightliness of spirit and a sense of mental well-being. — Ibn ‘Abd al-Ghaffar

Within the coffee cherry, two seeds or beans (one if a peaberry, en español caracolillo), roasted, has spread around the world to become one of the most valuable traded commodities. We may pay three dollars for a cappuccino, the price paid for green coffee beans is determined by commodity markets in London and New York, the grower, if commodity coffee, lucky to see three cents a kilo of green beans.

When I visit my friend’s farm, we are in the cloud forests of El Teide. I have thought, why not coffee? But if we planted, it would be ten years before we see a crop. Coffee is grown on Gran Canaria.

The cloud forests, the trees scrub water out of the clouds, it drips from their branches. Magical to pass through.

In the podcast the arrival of coffee in Arabia quickly glossed over, too quickly. Brought in by the Sufis from Yemen in the mid-15th century as part of their religious devotions.  It would though have needed more to penetrate society. Merchants saw an opportunity, but it would not have been enough to simply bring in coffee, pile sacks of coffee in the market, no demand, what to do with it. Kiosks were established in markets to serve coffee, then coffee shops and more luxurious coffee houses, with fountains, shade of trees, often by a river.

In Arabia, coffee effected cultural change. It provided a meeting place, in addition to the mosque and the market, it was a place to socialise. Also a place to hatch plots.

Two Syrians took coffee to Istanbul, as a ready made off-the-shelf package, opened coffee shops.

According to the Ottoman chronicler Ibrahim Pecevi: (1574-1560) coffee and the coffee house was introduced to Istanbul by two Syrians Hakm and Shams around 1556.

Mocha became wealthy on coffee, in essence they held a monopoly.

In Turkey, drinking of coffee elevated almost to an art form.

In its introduction into the Middle East, coffee was never a mere beverage. It was the subject of fatwas, legal treatise, edicts, a psychoactive substance, an affront to the Koran, a commodity to speculate upon, coffee houses, places to socialise, hatch plots, exchange news, coffee shops to be closed, burnt to the ground.

I agree Dark Woods an excellent roastery but for their single origins, not their espresso blends, for espresso blends I would look elsewhere. In Sheffield they have something of a local monopoly, South Street Kitchen, Motore Coffee, Union Street.

Dark Woods is located in an old Victorian Mill, on a canal in the Pennines in the middle of nowhere.

The podcast needs an accompanying blog for each episode. With sound, one can only visualise the internal structure of a coffee cherry, a cloud forest, the terraces in Yemen.

A recent news item of Saudi genocide in Yemen (UK supplies the weapons), showed a town perched on a mountain top, cascading terraces.

Coffee from Yemen nigh impossible to obtain and until recently, no one wanted, as poor quality.

The terraces are used for growing qat (Catha edulis), a narcotic close relative of coffee, far more profitable than growing coffee, qat even has its own UN designation.

I am curious the terraces. In Tenerife, similar terrace system, water tanks store the water, channels run along the walls, distribute the water to the terraces. A stalk from banana tree used to close a channel. A complex cooperative scheme for water distribution.

Ethiopia, from where coffee originated.

Contemporary writers in Medieval Arabia saw coffee as coming from Yemen. It may also have come from Ethiopia and one writer did mention Ethiopia. Trade routes passed through Ethiopia. To reach Arabia, the coffee passed through Mocha.

One of the most influential 16th century writers on coffee, Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri (fl 1558), after speaking of the introduction of coffee to Yemen, cautions his readers:

We say [that this account pertains to] the Yemen alone [lit not anywhere else] because the appearance of coffee [was] in the land of Ibn Sa’d al-Din and the country of Abyssinians and of the Jabart, and of other places of the land of the Ajam, but the land of its first [use] is unknown, nor do we know the reason.

Of consideration to contemporary writers, was not the origin of coffee, their main focus was to establish when and where coffee came into Arabia, and equally important, by whom and for what reason it was introduced.

Contemporary Arab writers have no myth of dancing goats (introduced later by Europeans as an embellishment), they do though have a myth and treat as a myth, of Solomon using coffee for medicinal use on the command of the angel Gabriel.

Contemporary accounts agree on two points:

  • coffee came from Yemen
  • coffee used by Sufis as part of their religious devotions

Carolus Linnaeus attributed coffee to Arabia, Coffea arabica.

The mountainous terraces of Yemen where coffee was grown, were remote then, are remote today, were not the centre of the Medieval Arab Islamic world. It is thus not inconceivable coffee would have been consumed for centuries before word of coffee spread to Arabia.

Sufis were not a monastic order, they were members of the local community, part of wider society, had day jobs.  If coffee was of use in the dhikr as a psychoactive drug, would it not have its use getting through the tedium of the day, the wife or servants asked to brew a pot of coffee?

Writing in the early 16th century Fakhr al-Din ibn Abi Yazid al-Makki writes:

And as for us, qishr reached us in Rey in Mecca and other places twenty or more years ago, but qahwa made from it did not spread until the end of the ninth [fifteenth] century.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosque.

  • qishr:  husks of the coffee bean or a beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • qahwa: coffee; more precisely stimulating beverage made from the fruit of Coffee arabica.
  • qahwa bunniya: beverage made from the kernels (bunn) or from the husks and kernels.
  • qahwa qishriya: beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • bunn: coffee beans; specifically the kernel as opposed to the husk.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosques.

The spread of coffee from Yemen into Arabia, from the Sufis, to the streets outside the mosque, to the home, in public, two decades, maybe a mere decade.

Jaziri tells us:

[After the spread of coffee to Egypt and its brisk consumption in the precincts of the Azhar] the situation continued along these lines: much coffee was drunk in the quarter of the mosque; it was sold openly in a multitude of places. In spite of the long time [that it had been drunk], not a soul gave a thought of interfering with coffee drinkers nor did anyone find fault with the drink either in itself or because of factors [associate with but] external to it, such as passing the cup around and the like. All this was in spite of the fact that it had become widespread in Mecca, and was drunk in the Sacred Mosque itself, so that there was scarcely a dhikr or observance of the Prophet’s birthday (mawlid) where coffee was not present.

We know coffee was well established in Mecca by 1511 due to an edict issued by a local governor regarding  suspicious characters gathered to drink coffee. Kha’ir Beg, pasha of of the Malmuks in Mecca and muhtasib of the town, happened upon a group one night drinking coffee. As he approached they extinguished their lanterns and ran away. He called a meeting the following day of scholars and jurists to rule on gatherings to drink coffee and of coffee itself.

I may care to drink craft beer but I may object to the drunken scum in binge-drinking bars.

The activities coffee drinkers were permitting were like taverns where consumption of wine took place. Coffee was not forbidden by the Koran, unlike wine, indeed, if created by God, who was Man to decide it could not be consumed? Coffee though a grey area, not explicitly forbidden, on the other hand, if a psychoactive substance, should it not be treated as alcohol?

Such distinctions and controversies were not restricted to Mecca in 1511, coffee periodically forbidden, the prohibitions ignored, then rescinded.

The arrival of coffee and especially the coffee shop and coffee house, was to have great impact on society and economic life.

Were the clientele of a specialty coffee shop today to hop on a H G Wells time machine and pedal back to a coffee shop or coffee house in Medieval Arabia they would not find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. The main difference being the serving of undrinkable coffee.

Please obtain Coffee: A Global History from Blackwell’s. Support independent bookshops not Amazon. Or, with indie bookshops closed, order Coffee: A Global History via Bookshop.Org an on-line portal for indie bookshops. But please note on-line service by Blackwell’s appalling, long wait for book to arrive.

Checking out the farms, a good idea, but please do not direct to or promote Instagram, more data for facebook to steal and abuse.

To enjoy your coffee, need to buy fresh roasted coffee from specialty coffee shop or reputable coffee roastery. Always buy coffee beans, freshly grind each time brew.

Invest in a quality hand grinder or electric grinder, cheap grinders a waste of money.

Hand grinders in ascending price range: Rhino, CrushGrind, Knock, Comandante.

Electric grinder: Niche Zero.

To brew filter coffee: V60, swan-neck kettle, digital scales, or an Origami.

To brew espresso: 9Barista, cheap domestic machines a waste of money, unreliable, cheapest semi-pro machine La Marzocco linea mini.

Water: Cannot brew coffee with tap water, use bottled spring water or a water filter. Minimum, Brita water filter, or better and designed for coffee Peak water filter.

Once indie coffee shops reopen, please support. And please show respect for the coffee, relax with served in glass or ceramic. And if not busy, have  a chat with the barista.

Read

  • The Devil’s Cup
  • Where the Wild Coffee Grows
  • The Monk of Mocha
  • Coffee and Coffee Houses
  • The World Atlas of Coffee

Listen

A History of Coffee a collaboration between James Harper of Filter Stories podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of Coffee: A Global History.

Ethiopia Arsosala WS

September 1, 2020

A pleasantly warm afternoon. I walk around Lincoln Castle to Stokes at The Lawn, but too late, to catch the sun on the terrace.

Mike too busy to try a coffee. I have a cappuccino.

As I am leaving, he wishes to try Ethiopia Arsosala WS, an Ethiopian coffee I had picked up from Cartwheel Coffee.

I would have suggested V60, Mike says no, an espresso. He is impressed the bag lists brew ratio for espresso and filter, which gives a good starting point. Something more coffee roasteries should list.

We try espresso, or at least Mike tries espresso, for me he adds hot water a sort of Americano, though I would have preferred to try espresso. We are both impressed. Very fruity.

— to be continued —

Yirgacheffe Ethiopian coffee

August 18, 2020

Opening the box from Coffeelink two bags of coffee from Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe and a wild coffee from Zege Forest.

Aroma incredible.

A visit to Stokes at The Lawn.

As always I let Mike decide.

He chose the Yirgacheffe, as already ground for Aeropress. He noticed which I had not noticed ground for Aeropress. Why? I had specified whole beans. Maybe as complimentary bag with Aeropress to save me grinding. Always grind coffee fresh, and invest in a high quality grinder. A cheap grinder a false economy.

We decided V60.

I learnt during cupping at Taylor St Roasted roastery, no correlation between aroma and taste.

And so it proved to be. After the initial impression of the aroma, the V60 proved to be a disappointment.

Why? Maybe because not ground fresh?

We agreed maybe better as espresso.

Put beans through EK43 to get finer grind for espresso. I tried cappuccino, Mike an espresso.

An improvement over the V60 but still sadly not great.

Next, as ground for Aeropress, I will try Aeropress, Mike recommended push through fast, but first order a Hario digital scale. Using the scoop lacks accuracy and consistency and thus not recommended.

I have also picked up a bottle of spring water from M&S. No, cannot make coffee with tap water. Can try, but the coffee will be dreadful.

A visit to Madame Waffle. Miriam tries as inverted Aeropress.

  • 15g coffee
  • 140g hot water
  • stir
  • infuse for two minutes
  • extract

The coffee was not good. Hints of liquorice and fig.

Tried adding milk. Yuk.

This coffee should be far better. What is wrong? Pre-ground not fresh, grind too fine for Aeropress, poor quality beans, roast profile not good?

Opening the box

August 17, 2020

A delivery from Coffeelink, a Suffolk based roastery.

Inside the box

Wonderful aroma from the Ethiopian coffee within well designed packaging. Freshly roasted the previous week.

Contents currently at reduced prices from Coffeelink and with free delivery.

Over the next few days unpacking of the box and an exploration of its contents.

Coffee beans from Stokes on High Bridge

September 19, 2017

Last week I had been recommended at The Lawn, try our Ethiopian beans.

Unfortunately, and somewhat perversely, roasted at The Lawn, but not on sale at The Lawn, have to trek down to Stokes on High Bridge which is a coffee shop in both senses of the word.

I looked through what was on offer, maybe half a dozen coffee beans.

I settled on Ethiopian Hunda Oli, which I think is what I had been recommended.

I asked of the roast date. The girl serving apologised and said she did not know, as she was only a trainee.

Not a problem, and I offered to explain why roast date was important.

We were rudely interrupted by a lady who said she does the training here.

She checked and told me April, I cannot recall was it 24 or 28 April.

I was astounded, especially when the lady who was in charge of training told me  that it was not a problem.

I could not be bothered arguing with her level of ignorance on coffee, and asked of a different Ethiopian coffee, not what I wanted, but on the other hand, I did not want old beans ether.

I settled for roasted in August, 18 August 2017, which the helpful trainee kindly wrote on the bag. Not ideal, but better than April.

I noticed they still had on sale the second edition of The Northern Independent Coffee Guide, not the latest third edition with the new title  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, as now includes Wales.

I did not ask why they did not have the latest edition, when other coffee shops in Lincoln have the latest edition, but at a guess, Stokes is featured in the second edition, have been relegated to footnotes in the third edition.

Sadly it is all to easy to see why. Lack of knowledge of importance of roast date, best by is meaningless, does not bode well. Nor that the last time I had  cappuccino from their house blend it was undrinkable.

It was then to Madame Waffle where an excellent cappuccino and a bag of Keyon Mountain  beans from Square Mile Coffee roasted 28 August 2017.

In a supermarket you will not see roast date. The reason why, old beans.  Which is why always buy coffee from either the roaster or a reputable indie coffee shop

Waitrose is the rare exception, beans from Union have a roast date, but all too often past their best.

A coffee shop may have old beans, they may miscalculate their turnover, though they should rotate to avoid selling old beans.

There is no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans either in stock or on sale.

As I write, the coffee is on the table, aroma wafting by, both bags are in a brown paper bag, the Stokes also wrapped in a plastic bag.

With the Square Mile, a heirloom variety, I am getting a subtle aroma of chocolate, toffee or fudge, maybe vanilla.

With the Stokes, an overpowering aroma of roast coffee, no subtly.

I would though hasten to add, aroma is no indication of taste, as I learnt a few weeks ago at a cupping session at Taylor St Roasted.

I will learn more when brewed over the next few weeks.

To put the roast dates in context.  Last week, from Madame Waffle a Red Brick espresso blend from Square Mile roasted 10 August, from Coffee Aroma Has Bean espresso blend roasted 5 September, from Makushi a single origin from Costa Rica roasted 9 September, from The Little Tractor Coffee Shop a Kenyan single origin roasted 7 August.

When coffee is roasted, leave for about a week for the oils to adjust, then at its optimum for the next three weeks. 

A reputable coffee roaster will generally roast to order, then ship either that day or the next. 

A reputable coffee shop will order to demand, try to rotate the stock in order that no old beans are sitting on the shelves. 

There can be absolutely no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans on the shelves for sale to customers. 

Old beans, lack of understanding of the importance of roast date, undrinkable house blend, it comes as no surprise to see Stokes relegated in the latest indie coffee guide to more good cups and more good roasters. 

Stokes are a fourth generation coffee business that has unfortunately lost its way. Are they suppliers of catering supply coffee in a race to the bottom with Lincoln Tea and Coffee (suppliers of bagged low grade commodity coffee)? Or are they suppliers of speciality coffee?

At the very least, Stokes need to form a separate speciality coffee division, Stokes Speciality Coffee, have on sale at The Lawn with its own unique branding, the coffee shop as their flagship coffee shop. They have the skilled baristas, have invested in top of the range equipment, a pleasant environment, pleasant staff, all they now need are quality beans, hand-roasted, with a Q-grade of at least 84.

Ethiopian Coffee Roasters

May 1, 2017

The London South Bank Street Food Market is held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and a Monday if a Bank Holiday.

On this market there are two coffee stalls, one a battered old Citroen van, the other .

When a coffee stall adulterates its coffee with syrups, cannot be bothered to grind coffee fresh for each cup because it is too much trouble, then it is best avoided.

Which is why I had a coffee off . The other reason because I know they will serve me excellent  coffee.  I had actually been looking forward to this coffee since the day before.

Coffee off this stall is probably the best coffee in London.

I had a chat with the guy about their beans, but a girl from Brazil also was asking questions. I said would pop back. Sadly when I did, he had gone home.

But before the girl interrupted, as you are one of our regulars, would you like to come on a coffee trip to Ethiopia?

I had to say, no I am not a regular. I have chatted to the guy twice before, and once had a coffee, and that was over a year ago. But each time he recognises me, hence the regular.

The beans available on the stall: Yirgacheffe,  Sidamo and Harrar.

My cappuccino was excellent, a blend of two of their beans, Harrar and Sidamo Guji.

I took away a bag of coffee beans, Sidamo.

I then had hoped to visit Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, but found they were closed for the Bank Holiday.

 


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