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Coffee thoughts

I'm drinking coffee right now. I love coffee. I love going to the grinding shop and smelling the different coffees in the big round tubs. I love buying coffee in a vaccuum pack and foofing the smell onto my face through the valve on the way home.Developing coffee berries

I try to only drink one or two cups per day on work days, and one or none on non-work days. Sometimes I switch to tea for a while and give my liver and kidneys a break from all the theobromeine (sp?). If I drink coffee after midday it keeps me awake until after 11pm.Barista mystery: how do they make those patterns on the top of latte?My weapon of choice? Stove top espresso 'machine'. I found a place that sells replacement seals yesterday - New Farm Deli (next to Merthyr rd Coles). Unfortunately they were out of rings for the 3 cup aluminium model that I need, sigh.Special trick? Warm the milk in a jug in the microwave and then twirl an upright whisk in it like you're trying to light a fire. This makes lots of good milk froth fast.Favourite coffee shop in Brisbane? Black Star in West End - they use fair trade and they use a double shot in every cup. Va va voom. Killer pastries too.I made my own coffee once. Wow. At $10 an hour for my labour it would have cost $50 for 250g of ground coffee - that's a standard small brick of espresso coffee. Obviously with mechanisation it would be faster, but that's without distribution, marketing or retail mark-up. I guess I had about a third to a half a bucket of berries to produce this much coffee. A big coffee bush makes lots of berries - maybe one bucket per bush each season.Is it better to buy local coffee or support developing economies by buying fair trade coffee? I don't know. I do both. We buy Zeta's coffee through Food Connect (which is made near Byron Bay) and fair trade coffee in Coles or at Black Star.Coffee is a sub-tropical bush (2-3m tall, about 1-2 m wide) that likes medium to rich well-drained soil and filtered light or semi shade. It's drought tolerant but responds to water. Plants wilt if they are getting thirsty and recover well from wilting if you water them. Coffee is a very ornamental plant - it has dark glossy leaves, small pretty white flowers in late Winter/ early Spring, and red berries through late Spring/ Summer. In Autumn the berries drop to the ground and create a mess (which isn't a problem if you are collecting them and if not they rot down pretty quickly - but consider this if planting in pots on decking etc). Aside from this annual event they are very tidy and well behaved plants - no need to remove dead wood or old leaves etc to keep them looking nice. They are very low maintenance - you can maybe feed once a year in late Winter: a good whack of compost, some dynamic lifter perhaps. You should check their pH - if they are light green instead of dark glossy green they are either getting too much sun or the pH is too high. They like about 6.5 (from memory - I should check).Coffee grows well under taller trees and particularly likes the edges of forests. Our three are growing very happily down the southeastern side of the house where they receive filtered morning light and about 1-2 hours of overhead light at midday. Before that I had them at the edge of the poinciana up the back where they received a blast of afternoon sunlight and were sheltered in the morning; they just never grew and looked wan and yellow, so I moved them. At the moment they have lots of fresh new growth - but they haven't flowered yet. Maybe next year.These mature coffee bushes are at New Farm Park. I've also spotted some outside Jazzy Cat Cafe in West End and in the hibiscus section of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic gardens. You often see them in parks.

Ripe ones are dark red to a purple black colour but still plump.

Under the skin is a translucent pulp. To process them you need to remove the skin and this pulp. Industrially they use rollers and washers. I just rubbed them off. Slimy.

Underneath is a papery membrane surrounding both beans. Again you just scratch this open and break the beans out of the membrane.

Then you need to leave them to dry. A rack is good for this. Filtered sunshine and turning at least once a day is good to prevent mould, although I didn't have any problems on this front and wasn't particularly diligent. After about three days the beans are dry and you can have a go at the next membrane - another papery one that covers each bean. These photos are all on fresh berries, no drying, which is a bit messy and more difficult.When the membrane is dry it sort of flakes off - but it can also stick to the beans which is bad! (Maybe it needed to be drier?)

The beans are sort of grey at this stage.

Once you have nude beans you can roast them in the oven on a baking tray on low heat until they start to smell like roasted coffee beans, and go all sort of carmelised. This is how you buy them at the shops - from there it's just grind them to suit your weapon of choice and start percolating.

The coffee I made tasted pretty good, not brilliant. It sure gives you an appreciation for coffee to do all this by hand. When I was in Cuba we visited people who had coffee bushes in their gardens and it was a great honour and pleasure to be given hand made coffee like this.I tried making dandelion coffee once too. It was not nearly as good as that you can buy. It was an awfully fiddly job. I had a great deal of trouble getting all the dirt out off the roots.I'm keen for our coffee bushes to flower - I want to try it again. I think perhaps that not all of my berries were perfectly ripe last time. I guess it's probably best to collect and dry them as you go, being very picky about the stage of ripeness, and then roast them when you've got enough.cheers Scarlett
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