As a child, my mom made coffee through something that looked like a sock tied to a stick. She’d scoop beans into an electric whirring blade grinder then pour the grounds into the cloth tube, pounding the bottom of the grinder for the last few grounds like a the last drop from a reluctant ketchup bottle. She’d then pour water through the cloth tube, lifting it up and down, coaxing the coffee along into a mug half filled with cream and sugar. My first sips of coffee were my mom’s creamy and sugary brew.
Some years later we visited Puerto Rico and spent a couple of nights in a small inn, perched high in the coffeelands and deep in the jungle. At breakfast the server brought me a French press of black coffee. It was my first true taste of unadulterated coffee. It grabbed me then and still hasn’t let me go.
This morning I’m thinking about coffee in Ethiopia – about stopping for breakfast on the road to Yirgacheffe in 2009. We found a spot specializing in fresh yogurt, donuts and turmeric chicken before bumping and weaving along pitted roads into the Yirgacheffe region (we blew out 9 tires on our trip). There we tasted a one-of-a-kind coffee. Like orange and jasmine and green Gatorade all at once. Unfortunately, it was completely sold out.
In Ethiopia, stopping for a cup of coffee can often take an hour or more. First, the raw coffee is roasted in a wok-like pan over coal or wood. The pan and beans are handled with unique metal tools. During roasting, the smoke from pan is wafted around so that the guests can smell the aroma of roasting, somewhat more acrid than the smell of ground or brewing coffee. The roasted coffee is pulverized in a mortar and pestle, then poured into a clay pot. Nearly boiling water is poured directly over the grounds (think cowboy coffee), then a few minutes later the brew is poured without filtration into tiny and delicate porcelain cups. Everyone drinks 3 cups because, well, it’s good luck.
In 2014 I tasted several samples of coffee from Ethiopia and one of the samples – the aroma took me straight back to that farm in Yirgacheffe in 2009. The aromatic and primal memory of orange and jasmine and green Gatorade – it was pre-linguistic. We bought the coffee (it came from a Farm called Suke Quto), submitted to The Good Food Awards and won a gold medal! We have been fortunate enough to work with this farm several times since then, including this year. In fact, that coffee is available right now.
Here’s to good luck. Here’s to your health. Here’s to 3cups.