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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coffee and where it comes from

I am one of the rare people. I hate coffee, the smell and the taste of it. It's true. But as I know so many people who simply could not live without this substance, I thought I'd give you my take on it. I saw it growing on my father's property and asked about it. Well, my parents had a lot to say about the coffee plant. They would as they grow all the coffee they consume--or should I say all the coffee my father and his guests consume. My mother is strictly a tea drinker now.

Coffee plant likes the shade.
So, I spotted this lovely plant with lustrous dark green leaves and asked my mother if this was the coffee plant and sure enough it was. I recognized it from the many times I had seen coffee plants sold as house plants through garden catalogs. Now I know why. Coffee plants are rather easy to grow in indoor conditions. It prefers the shade so a sunny window isn't required. All the Coffee plant needs is a shower to keep dust off those leaves and make them as glossy and pretty as can be. Yes, you can place the entire potted plant into the shower and spray it for a bit with slightly warm water.

Coffee plants are used to high humidity as you would find in the rain forests, but they also do well in bone dry conditions. Summers are brutal in the Dominican, hot and dry. In the house environment a Coffee plant would do fine just as long as you pamper them a bit with a quick shower every once in a while.  They love that! Most plants do. Also, placing the pot on a tray of pebbles full of water will help keep humidity levels up. Just do not allow the pot to sit in water.
The coffee beans before they are ripe enough to pick
I would have loved to have seen a coffee plant in flower so I could have taken a photo of it, but I'll have to get my parents to do that for me. It may be I'm never in the Dominican when it's flowering time. I did, however, get to see the beans on the plant in various stages of ripeness. My father had only just harvested a bunch too. I should say, Paolo did the picking. He's my father's hired hand and he pretty much does everything that needs to be done on the property from planting, weeding and picking fruit to tending to fences and feeding the chickens.
Coffee beans drying in the sun
A great deal of work goes into that cup-a-joe you have every morning. First you have to grow it in just the right conditions, then pick the beans when they are ripe, then they are set out in the sun to dry. Next they are put through a contraption that strips away the outer casing, the flaky, papery part of the bean. This leaves the nut-like part or seed and again this is washed and set out in the sun to dry. Then the beans are roasted. My father uses " El Fogon" for this purpose, which looks somewhat like a barbeque pit made out of a naturally occurring white stone. It's actually rather pretty.
El fogon for roasting coffee beans
So, I asked my father how much coffee this harvest would yield. He said, "Oh, very much!"

"What? Ten, twenty or a hundred cups?" I asked.

"More, maybe two hundred!" he replied.

Tom and I grinned at each other and Tom said, "So, a week's worth for you then."

Everybody burst out laughing...even my father, who can barely go thirty minutes without a cup of very good, very strong, organically home-grown Dominican coffee.

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