Coffee: What it takes to Make A (Good) Cup of Joe

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I was sent this article by request.  It is written by a friend of mine, Rose Tosti.  She has a plethora of knowledge in the arena of coffee and espresso creation and is a great writer to boot.  It puts “you get what you pay for” in perspective.  And, given the following insight, it seems we don’t pay much for coffee.  Not to mention, most coffee is not what I deem “good quality” or “good tasting” – thus the reason we cover it’s taste with immense amounts of sweeteners.  But what if we couldn’t do that?  Would you still like coffee?  I think you would if you had good quality and properly roasted coffee.  At least, that’s been my experience.

In the following excerpt from “Doing the Math at Kirkland’s Cafe Rococo”, Rose Tosti is writing about an espresso cafe in Kirkland, Washington, during which she educates the reader on the roasting of coffee beans:

Through the windows behind the espresso bar, the roasting room is visible, a 5-kilos-at-a-time operation. It always strikes me how little 5 kilos of coffee is, especially when weighed against something like the stream of customers walking in and out of this particular cafe this morning. But then again, from a different perspective, it seems like a nearly incomprehensible amount

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.

Consider this: The average arabica coffee tree (the coffee varietal on which the entire independent coffee industry rests, along with comparatively massive companies like Starbucks) produces about 1 pound of green coffee per year. If healthy and ambitious, it might produce 1.5 pounds, but for the sake of simplifying the math, I’ll stick to 1 pound. Since it is extremely dangerous for me to be discussing math at all.

5 kilos translates to about 11 pounds. Green coffee, in roasting, loses between 15% and 20% of its weight

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. So if one coffee tree produces one pound of green coffee, which after roasting weighs only about 85% of a pound, it takes somewhere in the rough vicinity of a dozen healthy arabica trees, growing in optimal conditions (without too much rain, or too little water, or late-season frost, or landslides, or fires, or poor soil nutrients, etc.), an entire year to produce 5 kilos of coffee . . . one roast at a tiny little roasting company like Rococo
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.

I find this awe-inspiring, particularly considering that, whereas a roaster the size of Rococo roasts under 1,000 pounds per week, it is only one coffee roaster (A company like Starbucks roasts more than this amount per day). Which means there have to be a lot of really hardworking, healthy little arabica trees growing between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn

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to keep this industry supplied. A lot of trees.

This is what’s known as a tangent, however. And coming back to the coffee at hand, I have to say that Rococo is unique. The espresso keeping me company this morning is bold and winey, with smokey hints of raw cacao and a piquant, herbal finish that lingers on the palate. Very little citrus or nuttiness breaks through the flavor profile, and I can’t actually remember the last time something made me remember the word “piquant.” Nor can I remember the last time I sat down with an espresso and discovered that it didn’t taste like this familiar food or that familiar food, but actually had a flavor profile exclusively defined by adjectives instead of nouns (Granted, except for the “hints of raw cacao”).

So, I leave you with this thought: Does your Coffee have hints of cacao, herbs, or wine?  Do you enjoy it with no sweeteners?  If not, you’re missing out on an entirely different level of coffee and the culinary art of roasting coffee.

I have always encouraged people to raise their standards of food.  The standard in which it is made, the standard in its ingredients, the standard in its purpose and place in our lives.  Now it’s time to include coffee as one of the foods for which you raise the bar.  You’ll drink less, probably (and most of us should) but you will savor it more and earn an appreciation for its process.  And that is a good thing all around.

For Rose’s full article visit: Rococo Review

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