By Lasantha David
A long time ago, there was once a land where grew some of the best coffee in the world. Then arrived a man from the Anglo part of the world, carrying a plot and a disease. He ventured deep into the hills of coffee and let loose a virus that would rid said land of all said coffee. The man seemed pleased. Then arrived another man from the same previously mentioned region with seeds of a plant that metaphorically grew money and something that tasted good when prepared well. Many years later, the people of said land only knew tea and proud of it they were – this land is Ceylon, also occasionally known as Sri Lanka. Myth or rumour, true or folklore, it seems we did have our own beans. Coffee beans, that is. Perhaps we’d get to taste some of the best grown beans in the future.
The consumption of coffee is said to have begun in Yemen and sometime later, the Ethiopians discovered or rather, figured out how to consume roasted dry beans. Today, coffee is cultivated in over 70 countries and in different parts of the world, in different periods of time, have been used for religious rituals and even banned. But thanks to time, brave humans who didn’t fear overtly bitter or extremely sugary and ventured in to the unknown to discover different things to do with coffee, we now have many types to choose from to indulge in.
For those who have no time for brewing, there is instant coffee – simple and easy. Next on the list is espresso which simply put, is preparing by lining coffee beans again a wall and firing a water-cannon full of boiling water at them. What remains is concentrated coffee. Espresso forms the basis for most of our favourite coffee shop beverages. Add some steamed milk to it and it becomes a Cafe Latte. Add less steamed milk and top with some steamed milk foam and you end up with the common Cappuccino. Drop a small blob of foamed milk onto the espresso shot and it becomes a Macchiato.
Stepping away from the espresso base lowers the drawbridge for more variations. Cafe au Lait – if the name didn’t give it away – originated in France and is the combination of brewed coffee and steamed milk, and is best accompanied by cake. If you’re on the lookout for something similar but without the warmth, there’s the German Eiskaffe, where chilled coffee meets milk, vanilla ice cream and even whipped cream. Popular in Europe and the Levant is the Greek Frappe, which is instant coffee shaken together – literally – with milk and sometimes cream. A descendent of this is the Frappucino which in addition to the original ingredients, can be found served with strawberries or chocolate or even caramel flavouring – which is most popular in Sri Lanka.
But, if this whole affair is a bit bourgeoisie for your tastes, there’s always the brew from aforementioned land of tea’s second coming of coffee. However, if your taste buds and whatever-else-in-your-body-reacts-to-great-coffee are interested in something special, then you may throw some beans against a wall and spray them with boiling water and steamed milk and sprinkle some cocoa powder on the remains. What you end up with is a Marocchino. Yes, grasshoppa, you’re training is complete.