Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Coffee's long history opens eyes

Midnight Gourmet

By Nick Tolbert
Enquirer contributor

I have a buddy who, whenever he has the irresistible urge for coffee, calls for his "java." He truly has a passion for coffee - six to 10 cups a day.

Thanks to my buddy, I now have a deeper appreciation for coffee.

Several published histories indicate the first coffee plants were discovered around A.D. 600 in a small town in Ethiopia called Kaffa, where coffee gets its name. The Ethiopians traded the plants to India, where the drink was embraced with enthusiasm.

In Mecca around 1470, the first coffeehouse opened. The concept became so popular, the shops soon were criticized as centers for immoral behavior.

In 1600, Venetian merchants were the first Westerners to import coffee from Constantinople (what is today called Istanbul). By 1635, claims were made that Oxford was the first English place to taste coffee.

By the 1700s, the French got into the coffee picture, and then a Portuguese officer from Brazil, who won the heart of a French governor's wife in French Guyana, was secretly given some coffee cuttings she pilfered as a token of her love. He left Guyana and planted the cuttings in Brazil. That began what are now the largest coffee plantations in the world.

The French, Portuguese and the Dutch began cultivating coffee in America in the 1720s. By 1793, a group of auctioneers and merchants began meeting at the Tontine coffeehouse in New York. Their endeavors eventually created the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1906, instant coffee became available. By the 1980s, coffee bars with espresso machines and exotic coffees began to make their way across the country.

I have always been enticed by the aroma of a good cup of coffee. Mysterious, seductive, dark and comforting, "Mmm, java" as my buddy calls it, has endured.

Some of us, especially like my buddy, would never make it out of the house in the mornings if it wasn't for this great brew.

Jamaican de Cafe (Jamaican Coffee)

3/4 ounces Tia Maria

3/4 ounces Myers's rum

4 to 6 ounces hot coffee

Whipped cream

Pour the Tia Maria and rum into a coffee cup or hot drink glass. Fill with your best or favorite coffee and top with whipped cream. Makes 1 cup.

Contact Nick Tolbert by phone: 362-2723; e-mail: thepulse of

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