(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 15, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Coffea arabica. The most widely grown species for the production of the worlds coffee. It will grow in full sun or partial shade, but really prefers light shade, and is suitable for growing as a houseplant. If left unchecked it will grow to heights exceeding 15 feet, but for ease of crop picking should be pruned back to a more manageable height. Coffea likes its water, the soil should be kept damp, but not waterlogged. A plant will take 7 years to mature fully. It will not tolerate a frost and prefers an average temperaure of 68F. It produces small, highly fragarant flowers that have been compared to Jasmine in scent. After flowering, the berries begin to form. They are ripe when they turn a deep red. These berries are edible as well, with a sweet flavour. The coffee, which is the true crop, is produced from the bean inside. In perfect conditions, coffee can be harvested year round. Oddly enough, the Latin American countries that produce coffee are the ones that drink the least amount. Europeans drink the most, although Americans and Canadians are catching up fast.
The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is get a pot of coffee brewing. Even the dogs understand that they do not get let out until this most important task is done. I don't even wait for the brewing to finish, as soon as I return from dog duty, I stick a bowl under the dripper and pour myself that first, strongest, best cup of coffee.
When I was a kid, my parents used one of those old fashioned, on the stove percolators. Remember those? Dad would perk the coffee the night before, then, in the morning, perk it again. This was the coffee I learned to drink, at a fairly early age, and I have been striving my entire life to duplicate it.
The quest for the perfect coffee maker continues. After the untimely death of the last one, coincidentally, as soon as I started this article, I now boil the tea kettle and pour the boiling water over a basket filter filled with grounds directly into my cup. It is as close to perfect as I have tasted, although not very time friendly, it takes forever to fill the thermos. The dogs, however, appreciate the fact that the morning coffee ritual now only involves turning on the kettle.
Doesn't everybody have a favourite brand of coffee? Mine is Folgers. Extreme panic sets in when I can see the bottom of the can. The only thing I have ever knocked on a neighbours door for, is a cup of coffee grounds. After Hurricane Katrina, there was a severe shortage of this brand in my area and I found myself travelling far and wide in search of it. It was akin to a treasure hunt, and when discovered, usually in some tiny little general store in the middle of nowhere, I would gladly scoop up all they had in stock. Since then, I now keep an "emergency" supply of a few cans buried deep within the freezer in the garage.
I have yet to find a restaurant of any kind that makes decent coffee. Southerners have their Starbucks, Canadians have Tim Hortons. Country Style is a close second. I plan any trip around the location of these coffee shops. No trip to town goes without a stop for a coffee. Even if just taking the critters to the vet. It was a grand day in the town of Brockville, Ontario when they put a Tim Hortons coffee shop right IN the Walmart store. Coffee on the way in and coffee on the way out for the drive home, life couldn't get any better than this!! I have been seen digging under the seats of the car for loose change. I have even used my debit card for the whopping $1.25 for a cup of coffee. Of course, everybody has their preferred coffee ingredients, be it black, double double, cream only. Ahh, the creamer!! After using half and half in my coffe, I can never use milk again. The same panic sets in when I begin to run low on creamer. The lady who owns the little store up the road keeps a larger than normal supply just for me. This household can go through 2 litres a day, almost 9 cups, of cream, just for coffee. I figure I don't have to drink milk, I get my recommended daily intake of dairy in my coffee.
Is coffee good for you? Some studies have shown that drinking coffee reduces the chances of liver cancer, and chronic liver diseases. Japanese researchers have recently reported that drinking 3 or more cups of coffee a day can cut a womans chance of developing colon cancer in half. Coffee is said to reduce your chances of developing Parkinsons disease, reducing the risk of Diabetes. Research is showing coffee to be more healthy than it is harmful.
So go ahead, enjoy your coffee, don't be afraid. Although I will drink a cup or two of tea in the evening, coffee is my beverage of choice. It would probably be in my best interest to erect a greenhouse and start production. Maybe not, coffee is still one of cheaper drinks on the market.
Coffee connoisseurs unite!!
Thanks go to bigcityal for his cup of coffee and the motivational nudge to write this article. Dinu is to be thanked for his photo of coffee beans and floridian needs to be thanked for his coffee flowers....