Rank #1: S2 Episode 2: The History of Coffee Pt. 2 – “The Favorite Drink of the Civilized World”
You are reading S2 Episode 2: The History of Coffee Pt. 2 – “The Favorite Drink of the Civilized World” from Boise Coffee. Please share it with friends!
In this follow up to The History of Coffee Part 1 I discuss how coffee made its way from Europe to the United States, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Focusing in on the 17th-19th centuries, I tell the stories of key individuals who pushed coffee forward and made it the multi billion dollar industry it is.
If you enjoyed this series, please subscribe to The Boise Coffee Podcast on iTunes and leave me a review! Look forward to a new episode in two weeks.
The Coffee Guy
The History of Coffee Part 2: The Favorite Drink of the Civilized World
By the mid 1700s there were over 300 coffee shops in London alone, which attracted artists, businesspeople, merchants, and other like-minded people of various intellects and backgrounds. As we discussed at the end of the last episode, Dutch colonists were the first to transport coffee to their villages in the New World, but it was by-far not the most popular caffeine-laced beverage.
The British love their tea, and prior to 1773 so did their American counterparts. A little incident called the Boston Tea Party changed this sentiment forever, causing a major shift in the political implications of drinking coffee.
Choosing to drink tea in colonial America was as much a political statement about your association with Great Britain as waving a British flag outside your window. Some historians see the Tea Act (and similar taxation-without-representation acts) and the events that followed as a “straw that broke the camel’s back” leading to the Revolutionary War.
Tea was out, and coffee was patriotic.
But back to the Dutch. In 1714, King Louis XIV of France was presented a gift by the Mayor of Amsterdam – a young coffee plant. The king ordered that it be planted in the France Botanical Gardens in Paris, and in 1723 a young French naval officer by the name of Gabriel de Clieu arranged to transport a seedling from this plant.
Through rugged storms, tumultuous winds, and a would-be saboteur who intended to destroy the seedling, Gabriel carried the seedling to the Caribbean island of Martinique where he planted it. According to the National Coffee Association, the seedling not only thrived, but is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island over the next 50 years. Not only that, but this seedling receives credit for being the parent of all coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South, and Central Americas.
In Brazil, the history of coffee is no less interesting. In 1727 a man named Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent by the emperor of Brazil to French Guiana in hopes of obtaining coffee seeds or plants. The Portuguese were looking for a way to undercut the coffee market, but had been unsuccessful with obtaining any viable plants due to the governor of French Guiana being unwilling to export seeds.
Francisco made his way across the border with hopes of diplomatically solving this problem, but was unsuccessful in convincing the governor. While there, however, Francisco did befriend the governor’s wife. Depending on the story, he either seduced her, or she was taken by his good looks – but either way, the result was the same. While diplomacy did not rule the day, Francisco nonetheless returned home with enough coffee seeds to successfully start the Brazilian coffee business. Today, Brazil is home to a billion-dollar industry around coffee.
In 1824 Founding Father and the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson deemed coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.” According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, he enjoyed the coffee houses of Williamsburg and Paris, and served coffee at the President’s House, Poplar Forest, and Monticello. He preferred beans imported from the East and West Indies and abhorred the “green” or unripe beans that were popular in America at the Time.
It’s estimated that a pound of coffee a day was consumed at Monticello during his retirement. To store his coffee, Jefferson kept unfrosted beans in barrels in his cellar. These barrels weighed as much as 60 pounds. Small portions of coffee were roasted and ground in Jefferson’s kitchen, then served at breakfast and after dinner. Jefferson designed and commissioned the smithing of a silver coffee urn which he would use to share the beverage with visitors to Monticello.
As you’ve heard over the last two episodes, the history of coffee is far from boring. Monopolies have been built on coffee, and smugglers have brought them down. Entire modern industries are based on coffee because one person did their job and brought home viable seeds. While some might argue that the spread of coffee was inevitable due to its characteristic caffeine buzz and the fact that its popularity almost always preceded its availability, I argue instead that it succeeded only because specific individuals pushed it forward.
Coffee didn’t succeed merely because of traders, kings, emperors, or political agendas. It succeeded because of specific individuals – people. People who believed that coffee could make them and their country better. People who believed that coffee was worth the time and effort it took to grow, process, grind, make, and brew.
In first world countries today, coffee is treated equally as a commodity and a specialty beverage. In places like LA you can find a $1 brewed cup of coffee at a diner, or you can travel to your nearest third-wave shop and drink a brew crafted to perfection for closer to $4 or $5. This wide availability and craftsmanship did not come all at once, or because of one group of people. The history of coffee spans centuries, nations, and the lives of specific people who thought coffee was worth it.
The post S2 Episode 2: The History of Coffee Pt. 2 – “The Favorite Drink of the Civilized World” appeared first on Boise Coffee.
Feb 02 2016
Rank #2: S2 Episode 1: The History of Coffee Pt. 1
I’m super excited to bring you Season 2 of The Boise Coffee Podcast, and we’re kicking it off right with a two-part season premiere. I haven’t written or talked much about the history of coffee, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a little context to the drink we know and love.
In this episode I start with the discovery of coffee in the 9th century, then talk about the overall movement of coffee from the Ethiopian plateau to Yemen, then eventually to large cities like Mecca and Cairo. Finally, we’ll trace coffee’s European origins and how it became both a source of curiosity and fear.
Don’t forget to subscribe to The Boise Coffee Podcast on iTunes, and leave a review if you like what you’re listening to!
The Coffee Guy
This is a two part episode. Check out The History of Coffee Part 2: The Favorite Drink of the Civilized world.
9th century – 17th century
As with any historical narrative, the stories range from completely apocryphal to mostly true. Regardless, we know that the outward spread of coffee happened, and that it was as much due to the slow globalization of culture as it was to luck and a few key historical figures.
The initial discovery of coffee is steeped in legend, but we know that the coffee plant has its origins in the Ethiopian plateau. To this day, the coffee trees in Ethiopia are the most ancient in the world and arguably produce some of the most delicious beans you can find. The higher altitude (compared to the rest of Africa) produces coffee that, when lightly roasted, is fruity and very bright.
Legend says that coffee was first discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. He noticed that when his goats ate the fruit off of specific plants they got jittery and excitable, so he tried some out for himself. He became so energetic that he couldn’t sleep, and his excitement prompted him to report his findings to the abbot of his town’s monastery.
The monk, as it turns out, was having his own trouble’s with sleep; he couldn’t seem to stay awake for the long evening prayers. The red fruit gave him enough energy to stay vigilant, so he decided to share his new found miracle-fruit with the other monks. Slowly, knowledge about these energy-inducing cherries spread east, eventually reaching the Arabian peninsula.
Coffee history picks back up in the 15th century in Yemen, the country that was a primary importer of beans from Ethiopia. Yemeni traders began growing their own crops, and were the first to actively cultivate the plant mainly for use in their Sufi monasteries. The Sufi monks experienced a kind of “intoxication” during their Godly chants and used a beverage made with coffee beans as a way to stay concentrated both day and night.
Coffee continued to spread throughout the Arabian peninsula, becoming popular in remote villages and big cities alike. The Yemeni port in Mocha was the primary export location for coffee, and by the early 1500s cities like Mecca, Medina, Cairo, and Baghdad became importers as the demand for coffee grew. This “wine of Araby” was brewed in coffeehouses that attracted people from all walks of life to participate in conversation about local politics and culture, prompting them to be called “Schools of the Wise”
Coffee’s journey to Europe started as legend. Travelers to the near east brought back tales of this unusual dark beverage. By the 17th century, coffee was extremely popular in Europe, but not everyone trusted these bitter beans.
Around the year 1600 Venice experienced immense conflict surrounding coffee. The local clergymen treated the drink with suspicion and fear, going as far as to call it the “bitter invention of Satan.”
One of the basis for the Venetian conflict around coffee was its popularity with Muslims at the time. It was seen as a sort of antithesis to wine, a staple in the Catholic Eucharist.
The controversy grew, prompting appeals to ban the drink. Finally the pope was asked to intervene and decide once-and-for-all if coffee was allowed, or if it was an evil to be avoided.
Legend says that upon tasting it, Pope Clement VIII exclaimed “This devil’s drink is so delicious…we should cheat the devil by baptizing it!” The controversy dissolved, and the spread of coffee through Europe continued at break-neck pace.
Until 1616 coffee was essentially a monopoly run by the country of Yemen. Merchants in Mocha were forbidden to export live coffee trees or coffee beans viable for planting. Because of this, demand for coffee across the world could not meet the bottle-necked Yemeni supply. That all changed when a Dutch merchant named Pieter van der Broecke stole some closely guarded coffee beans from Mocha and smuggled them back to Holland. He planted them in the greenhouses of the Amsterdam botanical gardens, where they were closely monitored and bore the first European-produced coffee fruit.
This one event received little press or publicity, but ended up having a major impact on the spread of coffee to the world. These few coffee trees adjusted well to their new home and ended up producing many healthy Coffea Arabica plants. In 1658, nearly forty years after van der Broecke’s coffee heist, the Dutch transported coffee plants from Amsterdam to begin cultivation in their settlements in Ceylon – present day Sri Lanka – and later in souther India.
Within only a few years these Dutch colonies, including Java in Asia, became the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. The Yemeni monopoly was broken.
The idea of coffee houses was not unique to the near east – European consumers quickly found them as a way to share ideas, and they drew people from all different backgrounds. Cities in England, Holland, Germany, Austria, and France were epicenters for coffee houses. In England you could go into a coffeehouse and pay only a penny for a drink and stimulating conversation prompting the nickname “Penny Universities.”
In the mid-1600s coffee received its next big push forward, thanks to the Dutch once again. Dutch colonists were the first to bring coffee to their little colony called New Amsterdam – which would later have its name changed to New York by the British.
Feb 01 2016
Rank #3: S1 Episode 3: Home Brewing
Episode 3 of the BoiseCoffee Podcast centers around the five essentials for home brewing:
- A high quality burr grinder
- Freshly roasted, delicious coffee beans
- A way to brew
- Some type of water kettle
- A kitchen scale that reads in grams
While there are many other elements and things to consider when brewing coffee at home, getting these five things right will set you up for success and get you a great cup of coffee.
The Coffee Guy
Jul 20 2015
Rank #4: S1 Episode 6: #KillTheKCup Pt. 1
This installment of The BoiseCoffee Podcast continues a long tradition here on the site: talking about all the reasons you should avoid Keurig coffee makers and the brew they produce. This is the first of a two-part episode, and I focus on the history of Keurig and the math behind why it is an extremely expensive way to brew coffee at home.
If you’d like to go deeper, check out my short diatribe called “It’s Time to Kill the Keurig” here. I updated it in March, and it succinctly lays out why I think Keurig is poisonous to consumers.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my podcast on iTunes here. If you like what you hear, I’d greatly appreciate a rating and review there as well! Have a tremendous rest of your week.
The Coffee Guy
Aug 13 2015
Rank #5: S2 Episode 8: The AeroPress
Alan Adler founded his company, Aerobie, around his flying disc by the same name. He essentially perfected the Frisbee, then went on to sell 1.4 million of them in just two years. Not only that, Alan’s flying disc broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s farthest throw. Alan has three parts to him: he’s an inventor, an entrepreneur, and most importantly for us, a coffee fanatic.
While he started with flying discs, Alan went on to invent something completely different. His invention took the coffee community by storm, and is now the basis for international coffee competitions. Not only that, it’s a staple in third wave coffee shops and cafes around the world. It’s simple, inexpensive, and a little alien looking. It’s unlike anything the coffee community had seen before, or has seen since. It’s called the AeroPress.
The Coffee Guy
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Over time, however, humans have proven that they define “necessity” in many different ways.
You know those big popcorn tins that you can buy around the holidays? Those have been around for a while. In fact, in 1937 Fred and Lucile Morrison were enjoying popcorn from exactly that kind of tin. They noticed that the lid, a circular metal lid, could fly a good distance when they tossed it. They had an idea – but first they needed to find a cheaper object to throw to each other.
A year later, Fred and Lucile made their way along the Santa Monica beach in California with a stack of cake tins in tow. People on the beach, as it turned out, were more than willing to pay 25 cents to buy a cake tin and toss it to each other for a little fun. Fred and Lucile’s new business, aptly titled “Flyin’ Cake Tins,” became the first flying disc company.
Their business continued to thrive until WWII, when Fred left to fight as a pilot. Fred flew P-47s and was shot down over Italy. Subsequently he was captured, and taken as a prisoner of war for 90 days. During his time in the Army Air Force, Fred sketched a new, more aerodynamic design for his and his wife’s flying disc idea. By 1957 he had a patent for the design, a successful company, and a new name: Frisbee.
The frisbee is now the most iconic toy flyer in the world – many people have gone on to iterate the design, and even make improvements. One of the most famous individuals to do this was Alan Adler. Alan has three parts to him: he’s an inventor, an entrepreneur, and most importantly for us, a coffee fanatic. While he started with flying discs, Alan went on to invent something completely different. His invention took the coffee community by storm, and is now the basis for international coffee competitions. Not only that, it’s a staple in third wave coffee shops and cafes around the world. It’s simple, inexpensive, and a little alien looking. It’s unlike anything the coffee community had seen before, or has seen since. It’s called The AeroPress.
I’m Colin Mansfield, and this is The Boise Coffee Podcast.
–Boise Coffee Theme–
Alan Adler got his start as an engineer, working on things like submarines, nuclear reactor controls, and aircraft instruments. He’s a curious person at his core; always learning and finding new hobbies to delve deep inside. Case in point: as an amateur astronomer in the early 2000s, Alan invented a new type of paraboloid mirror. Not only that, he wrote a computer program called Sec that assisted the way astronomers select secondary mirrors.
Later, Alan became interested in sailing. But, true to form, he didn’t settle for merely learning the craft – he wanted to excel. Alan designed a boat that competed in the Transpac race – a sailing race that goes from San Francisco to Hawaii. His boat took first place.
But back in the 1970s, Alan wasn’t dreaming about sailing or astronomy – he was dreaming about flight. He set out to design a flying disc – something that was “easy for the average person to throw with very little effort.” By 1978 he had gone through dozens of iterations, and had finally finalized a design that he called the “Skyro.”
Alan Adler created the Skyro around a fundamental principle of aerodynamics: a flying ring requires an equal amount of lift in the back and front. In order to keep the ring from dipping or lifting too far while in flight, he fine-tuned a donut shaped disc with a large hole in the middle, and thin edges. Later, Alan altered the design to create an airfoil for his flying disc. This required a molded spoiler lip around the outside of the rim.
Upon testing his new airfoil design on Stanford’s campus, he remarked that the disc flew “as if sliding on an invisible sheet of ice.” He dubbed the new design the “Aerobie Pro.” This finely crafted product sold 1.4 million units worldwide just two years into production. Its success has stood the test of time: it is still on-sale today and popular on college campuses and in parks nearly everywhere.
Alan’s company, now called “Aerobie,” has gone on to design flying discs and toys of all shapes and sizes: there are flying triangles, yo-yos, frisbee golf discs, and two sizes of the original flyer among others.
The Aerobie was, and still is, a massive success. But after 2008, it was Alan’s second best-selling product.
Alan Adler had long considered himself a “one cup kinda guy” when it came to coffee. His home coffee maker yielded 6-8 cups per brew, and this frustrated him to no end. The rest of us might have let it go, or simply brewed less coffee. But Alan? He’s not like the rest of us. He set out to invent a better way to brew a single cup of coffee in the best way he knew how: engineering.
By 2005 specialty coffee was already becoming a trend in modern culture. Alan noticed that while most people were fine with automatic drip coffee pots, the hardcore coffee fans preferred manual pour-over methods. Alan started his coffee engineering journey by testing these various methods, and he noticed something key: manual-drip coffee takes time. By his estimate, the Melitta cone, one of the popular pour-over coffee cones, takes about 4-5 minutes of steep time – or “wet time” as he called it. In his opinion, the longer the wet time, the more bitter the cup of coffee.
Alan considered this a problem: bitter coffee, as far as he was concerned, is bad coffee. To him, the solution was simple: shrink the wet time, shrink the bitterness. His first step in achieving this solution, however, is probably not what most people would jump to. It struck him that air pressure was the key to shortening brew time, and achieving a naturally sweet cup of coffee. And after only a few weeks in his garage, he had a working prototype.
The design was straightforward: a plastic tube, a plunger device, and a paper filter. Put the coffee in the filter, attach the filter to the tube, pour in hot water, and insert the plunger on the opposite end. Then, press.
After brewing his first cup of coffee, Alan knew he had made something special. He immediately called his business manager, man named Alex Tennant. Tennant came over, tasted the coffee, and took a step back. “Alan,” he said, “I can sell a ton of these.” They called the new coffee brewer The AeroPress, but as it turned out, the road ahead wasn’t nearly as easy for Aerobie as Alan and Alex seemed to think it would be. More on that after the break.
–This episode’s sponsor is Audible.com–
Today’s episode is brought to you by Audible. With over 180,000 titles to choose from, Audible is the best way to listen to audiobooks wherever you are. I recommend the Red Rising Trilogy – if you cross the Hunger Games with Game of Thrones, you’re getting close to Red Rising. I recently spent an entire international flight immersed in book 1, and I think you’ll really love it. Audible is giving listeners a free 30-day trial, as well as a free audiobook of your choice if you sign up today. Visit audibletrial.com/BoiseCoffee to get your free book and support my podcast. That’s a-u-d-i-b-l-e-trial.com/boisecoffee. The best part? If you don’t want to stay signed up, audible will let you keep your book, no questions asked. Again, visit audibletrial.com/BoiseCoffee
The AeroPress debuted at Seattle’s Coffee Fest in 2005 where it was well received by coffee aficionados. The price didn’t hurt it’s reputation – at only $29.99 it was an impulse buy for many people who just wanted to try it out.
To this day, the AeroPress has only three main components: the filter basket, the tube, and the plunger. In their recommended brew recipe, Aerobie says you should use about 2-4 scoops of coffee grounds, and water heated to 165-175 degrees. Since then, people have created their own methods of making coffee with the aeropress with all different varieties of brew ratios.
One great feature was unintentional – the AeroPress is self-cleaning due to the tight seal that the rubber plunger creates. No coffee residue is left in the tube after the brewer completes their press. Instead, a single puck of coffee grounds remains after pressing. It’s easily disposed of by removing the filter basket and holding the AeroPress over a garbage can. From there, you give the plunger a final press to release the coffee puck.
Despite its low price point and great features, the AeroPress was not an overnight success. Tennant still recalls pleading with one sales rep group not to drop the product due to low sales. Adler himself said,
“Aerobie spent over 20 years establishing distribution for sporting goods, and all of a sudden we were confronted with creating distribution for kitchenware. We didn’t leap into this lightly.”
The AeroPress had a hard few years ahead of it. At one point in 2007, the company was receiving even lower sales than they had gotten the previous year. It appeared as though their revolutionary product might fizzle and die. The fact that this weird-looking coffee maker was being made by a toy company wasn’t helping. Bent on succeeding, Adler decided to try a grass-roots approach to selling the device.
Aerobie began leaning into its products biggest asset: it brews amazing coffee. In that vein, they attended coffee trade shows to get more exposure to the specialty coffee community, and sent free products to coffee experts and food writers to try. Finally, in 2008, sales began to climb.
Adler believed that his product’s eventual success was due to one main thing: the way people viewed coffee changed. More and more individuals were becoming less interested in standard $30-$50 coffee pots – they wanted something that would brew good coffee quickly and well.
2008 was also the year that the World AeroPress Championship was conceived. Three Norwegian friends brewed coffee in their AeroPress’ competitively to see who’s coffee was best. In 2009, the competition had 22 competitors. Last year, in 2015, the competition was held in Seattle and boasted 35 competitors and an audience of 500 spectators. This annual event alone has boosted international sales of the AeroPress to 38% of Aerobie’s overall revenue.
Today the AeroPress is sold in 56 countries worldwide. It’s especially popular in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland where the average individual is incredibly serious about their coffee. The AeroPress is also Aerobie’s best selling and fastest growing product. Since 2005 Aerobie has sold over one million units, and it’s not slowing down.
It’s easy to get the AeroPress confused with the French Press due to the naming similarities. The two brewing devices, however, could not be more different. While the French Press usually uses a metal mesh filter to strain coffee, the AeroPress relies on air pressure and a paper filter. You can expect to get a full-bodied, oily, rich cup of coffee from a French Press, while AeroPress coffee is bright and clean, with individual flavors easily distinguishable. AeroPress coffee is akin to drip coffee in many ways, although the shorter steep time usually makes for a sweeter cup. Because of the many possible brew methods that the AeroPress is capable of hosting, however, it’s hard to nail down what an average “AeroPress coffee” tastes like. Some people even claim that with enough coffee, the AeroPress can even create something very similar to espresso.
Many consider the AeroPress to be a hackable product – its design and craftsmanship make it easy to think up new and interesting ways to brew coffee. One popular method, the inverted method, allows coffee to steep longer in the AeroPress before pressing.
To accomplish this, the plunger is inserted in the tube just enough to create a seal. The AeroPress is then placed on-end so that the portion of the plunger that you would normally hold is flat against your table or countertop. From there, coffee and hot water is put in the tube, where the brewer can let it steep for any length of time before attaching the filer and flipping the device on top of their mug to press. While Adler himself is not a big fan of the method (after all, he created the AeroPress to get away from long steep times), it is nonetheless very popular.
Other alternative AeroPress brew methods include using multiple paper filters, after-market metal filters, and various coffee-to-water ratios. After the World AeroPress Competition every year, the winners publish their recipes online. This makes it incredibly easy to try a variety of methods, even for the casual coffee lover.
The AeroPress is one of my favorite coffee products. I believe that it contains the heart of the specialty coffee community, mostly because it contains the heart of Alan Adler. Alan’s creativity and explorative personality ooze out of this product in surprising ways – everywhere from its endless brewing possibilities to its eye-catching design. I recommend the AeroPress to everyone – whether you’re a lifelong coffee expert or simply someone looking to get a better cup. The AeroPress is still available for $29.99, and you can buy it from Aerobie’s website, Amazon, or your local specialty coffee shop.
Thanks for listening to The Boise Coffee Podcast. I’m your host, Colin Mansfield, and I really appreciate your support. You can check out more episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, or my website – BoiseCoffee.org. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can reach me on Twitter – my handle is @BoiseCoffee. Earlier this week I launched the Boise Coffee store. Shirts, mugs, hoodies, and more are on sale there with sleek coffee designs and sayings. Check it out at BoiseCoffe.org/store.
A big thanks this week to Audible – my first podcast sponsor. You can listen to Audible on your phone, tablet, or kindle using their app – it’s really a great experience. Visit audibletrial.com/boisecoffee to get a 30-day free trial and audiobook of your choice.
Thanks for listening, and have an awesome rest of your week.
Apr 26 2016
Rank #6: S2 Episode 5: The Five Attempts to Ban Coffee
Coffee brings people together. It encourages conversations, stimulates thought, and provokes epiphany. Everyone seems to agree with this – or do they?
It turns out that throughout history, not everyone has supported coffee or even believed it to be healthy. Sometimes these people have been motivated for political purposes. More often than not, however, fear of coffee, its effects, and those who popularize it, has been the chief reason people have attacked it.
In this episode, I talk about five instances where state and religious leaders fought to outlaw or ban coffee.
(Episode Transcript Below)
The 5 Attempts to Ban Coffee throughout History
Coffee brings people together. Whether it’s 2016 and estranged friends meet at a coffee shop to catch up on each others lives, or its 1780 and American revolutionaries are sharing political opinions over cups of coffee, that one fact seems to be irrefutable. Coffee encourages conversations, stimulates thought, and provokes epiphany. Everyone seems to agree with this – or do they?
It turns out that throughout history, not everyone has supported coffee or even believed it to be healthy. Sometimes these people have been motivated for political purposes. More often than not, however, fear of coffee, its effects, and those who popularize it, has been the chief reason people have attacked it.
In this episode, I’d like to talk about five instances where state and religious leaders fought to outlaw or ban coffee. We’ll start in Mecca in the early 16th century, and we’ll end at the end of the 18th century.
Attempt 1: Mecca, 1511
In the early 1500s, Khair Beg, the young governor and chief of police of Mecca, learned that satirical verses were being written about him at coffee houses and shared openly. He, along with more conservative Muslims, pushed the idea that coffee was as much an intoxicant as wine – a beverage that is banned by the Koran. Khair Beg, a politician in every sense of the word, saw an opportunity to stop this sedition and undertook a campaign to show the destructive capabilities of coffee. Beg convinced two well known Persian physicians, as well as a host of coffee drinkers, to issue pronouncements about coffee’s intoxicating and dangerous affects to an assembly of jurists representing various schools of Islam. The jury ruled in Beg’s favor, and the young governor sent a copy of the findings to his boss, the Sultan of Cairo. In 1511 Beg outlawed coffee and coffee-houses within Mecca.
At that time, coffee was widely used by Muslims to prepare for and stay awake during late-night prayer vigils; some even believed that the heightened sense of awareness brought them closer to God. Some of these Muslims were present during Beg’s coffee court and even went so far as to defend the drink on the record – but to no avail.
After reading the results of the jury’s findings, Kansuh al-Ghawri, the Sultan of Cairo, was furious. Kansuh had appointed Khair Beg, and insisted that no ban could be instated without his prior approval. The sultan was likely a coffee drinker himself, and was surrounded by some of the best physicians the Arab world had to offer – none of whom agreed with Beg’s findings.
History is a little unclear as to what transpired next; some reports indicate that the sultan lifted the coffee ban, charged Khair-Beg with embezzlement, and put him to death. Others say that the sultan simply replaced Khair-Beg with a new governor in the following year who wasn’t averse to coffee. Regardless, the world’s first recorded coffee ban didn’t last long.
Attempt 2: Venice, 1600
While muslims in the early 1500s outlawed coffee on the basis that its effects were similar to wine, a century later Italian Catholics tried to outlaw it because it was seen as the opposite. Wine, in the catholic tradition, is a staple of the Eucharist – one of the sacraments that the church holds as a rite with particular religious significance. In 1600, catholic clergymen in Venice knew that coffee was popular with Muslims, and they saw the drink as a sort of antithesis to wine, even going so far as to call it the “bitter invention of Satan.”
The political goals of the clergymen are unclear to us now – what we do know, however, is that suspicion and fear are powerful motivators. They saw their religion being threatened by outsiders, and coffee was an easy target. Like-minded catholics issued appeals to ban the drink within Venice, and the controversy grew to a breaking point. Finally, the pope was called in to settle the dispute.
Upon tasting coffee for the first time, Pope Clement VIII is said to have exclaimed “This devil’s drink is so delicious…we should cheat the devil by baptizing it!” Many historians believe that coffee’s spread through Europe over the next century was encouraged most because of this single papal endorsement.
Attempt 3: Constantinople, 1623
Murad IV was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1623 to 1640, and he took the throne at the age of 11. Shortly after becoming sultan, Murad made it his goal to clean up the corruption that had plagued previous sultans. As a part of this campaign, Murad banned alcohol, tobacco, and coffee in Constantinople – going so far as to order executions for breaking this ban.
Some records indicate that Murad’s punishments started less severe – beatings, and casting violators into the waters of the Bosporus: a strait that connects the present day Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Other records say that he was truly without mercy; there are stories of Murad IV disguising himself in commoner’s clothing and prowling the streets and taverns of Constantinople late at night, looking for violators of his decrees. Upon finding someone sipping coffee under cover of darkness, he would reveal his identity and behead the law-breaker on the spot.
Murad IV died in 1640 from cirrhosis and was replaced by the sole surviving Ottoman prince, Ibrahim. Murad IV had killed all four of Ibrahim’s brothers and sisters during his reign of terror, and Ibrahim lived in constant fear that he would be next. Nonetheless, he ascended the throne, but proved to be more interested in harems than in enforcing the coffee ban of his predecessor.
Attempt 4: Sweden, 1746
In 1674 coffee arrived in Sweden for the first time, but wasn’t truly popular until about 100 years later. By the 18th century, it was a staple beverage for the wealthy worldwide, and Sweden was certainly no exception.
Unfortunately, this popularity didn’t diminish the power of fear and suspicion surrounding coffee for certain individuals in Sweden – namely King Gustav III. He was convinced that coffee, for all of its wonderful benefits, had to contain negative drawbacks that hadn’t yet been discovered. To his benefit, he decided to go about this with a scientific mind – though his methods remain in question, to say the least.
In 1746 Gustav issued a royal addict against “the misuse and excesses of tea and coffee drinking.” He commanded the state to levy heavy taxes on consumption – if someone bought coffee and didn’t pay the tax, they were heavily fined, and their coffee paraphernalia – including cups and dishes – were confiscated by the state. Later, Gustav banned coffee completely, though this simply drove consumption underground.
It was at this point that King Gustav III decided to prove once and for all that coffee has negative health effects that could be scientifically proven. So, he decided to hold an experiment.
Gustav III used two identical twins for his coffee experiment. Both twins had been tried and condemned to death for crimes that they had committed previously, but Gustav promised them mere life imprisonment on one condition: one of the twins had to drink three pots of coffee every day, for the rest of their life. The other had to drink the same amount, but of brewed tea. The twins agreed.
Two state-appointed physicians were given the task of supervising the twins and providing accurate and detailed reports to the king on their findings. Unfortunately, both physicians died of natural causes before the experiment was completed. Even more unfortunate, Gustav himself was assassinated in 1792 before either of the twins met their end.
The twins, it would seem, were the only ones to survive, and perhaps benefit from the experiment. The tea drinker was the first to perish at the ripe age of 83. The coffee drinker lived even longer, though his exact age at death has been lost to the history books.
While Sweden continued to try to ban coffee until the 1820s, none of their attempts were successful. Ironically, today Sweden has some of the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world.
Attempt 5: Prussia, 1777
Frederick the Great of Prussia was a brilliant military leader, politician, and proponent of the arts and the enlightenment in Prussia. He achieved some of the greatest military victories of his country’s history, including victory against great odds in the Seven Years’ War. He was also well known for his love of beer.
In 1777 Frederick noticed that beer consumption in Prussia was declining. In an effort to combat this, he issued a manifesto calming that beer is far superior to coffee, and that the country’s coffee consumption was interfering with their beer consumption.
An excerpt from the manifesto:
“It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.”
In 1781 Frederick the Great made coffee a royal monopoly. He commissioned the help of disabled soldiers and employed them to spy on citizens, sniffing in search of illegally roasted coffee. It may come as no surprise that the general population was incredibly annoyed with this.
Interestingly, in his later years Frederick the Great was known to rise before dawn and consume six to eight cups of coffee before attending to state business. Perhaps his positive relations with the newly formed coffee-loving United States of America had some influence on his preferred morning beverage later in life.
As interesting as these five examples are, my hope is that they illustrate a larger point: coffee, throughout history, has been as much something to be enjoyed as it has been something to fight for. Over time, leaders of powerful nations have made it their work to snuff out coffee consumption and sales, yet all have failed. Perhaps this is simply because coffee is well loved – it provides energy, and it’s tasty – but I think it goes deeper than that. We, as humans, for whatever reason, are tied to coffee. Nearly every culture that has come into contact with it has fought to integrate coffee into their daily routines and rituals – and when threatened, have risen up to support and defend it. Often, coffee is tied to nostalgia – it reminds us of home. It brings us together, and it gives us an excuse to talk and share ideas.
Coffee may not speak to our hearts with the same level of passion as ideas like freedom and justice do, but it does speak. And history has shown that when it speaks, people of all demographics and backgrounds listen.
Mar 14 2016
Rank #7: Episode One: Japanese Coffee
In this first episode of Coffee Canon, we take a look at Japan: a culture rich with history and tradition. Today, Japanese people love coffee – they’ve invented entire brew methods that the rest of the world adopted – but it wasn’t always this way. We study how and why Japan went from rejecting coffee outright, to embracing it completely. We discuss the people, companies, and timeline that pushed Japan to becoming a leader in specialty coffee – and we hear from some coffee experts along the way.
Episode One Sources:
- A commentary on coffee history in Japan: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/japanese-coffee/
- A paper discussing Japan’s coffee history, along with imports and sales of coffee: http://coffee.ajca.or.jp/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/coffee_market_in_japan.pdf
- Wikipedia Articles:
- https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ダッチ·コーヒー (with help from Google Translate)
- Specialty coffee in Japan: http://boutiquejapan.com/coffee-in-japan/
- A comparison between third wave coffee and Japanese Kissaten: https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2015/09/third-wave-coffee-japanese-kissaten-more-similar-than-you-might-think/
- Citizens of Humanity James Freeman interview: https://mag.citizensofhumanity.com/blog/2016/09/28/james-freeman-blue-bottle-cofffee/
- History of the Hario v60: https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2015/07/hario-v60-the-history-brewing-guide/
- Japanese Iced Coffee
- Thread where Peter Giuliano explains why he calls it “Japanese Iced Coffee:” http://www.coffeed.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3950
- Peter Giuliano makes his case for Japanese Iced Coffee over cold-brew: http://petergiuliano.tumblr.com/post/22177089634/why-you-should-stop-cold-brewing-and-use-the
- Fresh Cup Magazine article by Peter Giuliano, “Discovering Japanese Iced Coffee:” https://www.freshcup.com/discovering-japanese-iced-coffee/
- Interview with Hidetaka Hayashi: http://www.beanscenemag.com.au/articles/view/hidetaka-hayashis-japanese-journey
Episode One Transcript:
There is perhaps no better place to start talking about coffee’s journey from obscure plant to modern necessity than Japan. In many ways, Japan is a case-study in how coffee can spread from small import to national obsession in just a few centuries. Japan isn’t the only country that experienced this, but its story is unique in that for about two hundred years and of its own leaders’ volition, Japan was cut off from the rest of the world. Today, Japan is a leader in the specialty coffee world – it’s home to companies that make equipment used in barista competitions and it’s the source of brew methods that people all over the world use to make their coffee every day. How did this happen?
I’m Colin Mansfield, and welcome to Coffee Canon.
To understand Japan’s coffee history, you first have to understand Sakoku: Japan’s period of national isolation. This was the time period where relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely limited – foreigners weren’t allowed in, and citizens weren’t allowed out. I’m only giving a partial history due to the complexity involved in Sakoku, but it should provide enough context for our purposes here. Sakoku began from 1633-1639 and continued for the next two centuries, ending in 1853 after the famous treaties with Commodore Perry.
Some believe the rationale behind Sakoku was religion-based: colonials from Spain and Portugal had increased Catholic conversions in southern Japan – this may have been seen as a threat to the stability of the shogunate.
Other scholars believe competing religious ideologies to be only part of a larger political reality. Regardless, Spain and Portugal were seen as genuine threats to the Japanese ruling class.
While social, religious, and political factors provide the backdrop for Sakoku, the trigger was the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-1638. This uprising consisted of 40,000 mostly Christian peasants, and as is true of many rebellions, was due to drastically increased taxes and religions persecution. The shogunate dispatched over 125,000 troops to quell the uprising and besieged the rebels at Hara Castle. Eventually, the rebels fell. The Catholic leader of the uprising, Amakusa Shiro, was beheaded and the prohibition of Christianity became strictly enforced under penalty of death. Additionally, all contact with the outside world, including trading, became strictly regulated by the shogunate.
If you want to know more about this dark period in Japanese history, check out the film Silence that came out last year. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson, this film dives headlong into 17th century Japan and the dangers Catholics and Christians faced – it’s really an amazing film.
It is under this backdrop that coffee first made its way to Japan. The year that this first happened depends on which accounts you read – some say it was as early as 1609, while most estimate it to be after Sakoku was established, towards the end of the 18th century. Everyone agrees, however, on who first brought coffee to Japan – the Dutch. The Dutch, in fact, pop up often in coffee history; we have them to thank for most of the big moves in coffee’s spread around the world.
Apparently Japanese people didn’t to the drink at first – they felt coffee was bitter and unpleasant, especially compared to tea. According to some sources, the tiny island of Dejima in Nagasaki had a small coffee culture in these early years due to this being the only area in Japan where European merchants were allowed entrance.
The next big date in Japanese coffee history falls after the end of Sakoku, in the year 1888 when the first European-style coffee shop opened in Tokyo. It was called Kahi Chakan, but it only lasted about 4 years before closing due to a lack of interest from Japanese consumers. Still, coffee imports increased and demand began meeting supply. In the early 1900s coffeehouses finally began experiencing success, and by 1930 there were over 30,000 coffee shops across Japan. In 1937 imports peaked at 140,000 bags of coffee beans. Then, World War I and World War II happened. Coffee availability in the wartime and post wartime periods dropped to nearly 0, but at the conclusion of the wars they again rose to normal numbers.
The introduction of instant coffee had a profound impact on European and American consumption of coffee during and after both World Wars. In Japan, it was no different. The availability and abundance of freeze-dried coffee and canned coffee in the post-WW2 era was making the entire world into caffeine junkies, including the Japanese. This created a market where people were willing to spend money, and franchises quickly picked up on it. Doutor Coffee was Japan’s first large-scale coffee franchise and began opening stores across the country starting in 1980. In the mid 1990s Starbucks branched into the Japanese market as well and quickly expanded across the entire country. Today there are more than 1000 Starbucks locations in Japan.
More recently, McDonalds impacted Japanese coffee culture in a big way. They established standalone “McCafe” shops in 2007, and in just 7 years had spread to nearly 100 locations. This is in addition to the 3,000 standard McDonalds locations. The standalone McCafe locations try to appeal to the more sophisticated coffee drinkers with a pricier menu and higher grade of coffee. Some locations even have the ability to deliver coffee.
Besides huge coffee franchises like Starbucks, Tullys, Doutor, and McDonalds, Japan has a rich history of smaller, local shops called kissaten. Kissaten literally translates to “tea-drinking shop” and was originally a place for business people and the older generations to gather for light meals and discussions. As coffee began to be standard in Japanese culture, kissaten evolved and began to serve the beverage as well. They are a popular place for breakfast, serving thick toast, eggs, and a piece of ham or bacon along with a morning cup of coffee. In Japanese culture, kissaten are distinctly different from cafes. While cafes usually feature a more trendy and modern look and feel, kissaten are older and more classically furnished. Another huge distinction is in tobacco use. Smoking is still a large part of Japanese culture, and kissaten are havens for people to sit down and light up a cigarette to accompany their cup of coffee. Many larger cafes and coffee chains prohibit smoking.
It’s difficult to nail down exactly when specialty coffee began becoming popular in Japan, but it’s important to note that at least some elements of specialty coffee culture as we know it today were actually inspired by Japan. James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee – a popular, large specialty coffee chain – visited Japan as a teenager. In an interview with Citizens of Humanity he said that it “blew me away.” He went on to say, “I’ve really been inspired by Japanese coffee houses, called kissaten. They’re dowdy and unfashionable, but they’re deeply personal.” He also discussed the Japanese concept of kodawari, or the devotion to even the most mundane details in the pursuit of excellence. “All of these kissaten have a deep kodawari” he said.
This idea of kodawari really shines through in Japanese-made specialty coffee equipment – most notably, the Hario v60 manual coffee brewer. The Hario v60 is a fundamentally important brew device in specialty coffee circles. It’s more touchy to brew with than a Chemex or similar drip cones – altering small details can change an entire cup of coffee. In that sense, paying attention to mundane details is essential.
Hario, the company that created and manufactures the v60, was founded in Tokyo in 1921. It started by producing and selling glass products to be used for physical and chemical purposes. After nearly 30 years of research, they produced an environmentally-friendly heatproof glass. In 1949 Hario launched a glass coffee syphon as their first home product, followed by a cloth filter version in 1957. In the early 2000s Hario launched the v60 – its name means “vector 60,” referencing the 60 degree angle of the cone. The v60 was first launched with glass and ceramic variants, but now has plastic, metal, and copper variations. The copper version, while expensive, has awesome thermal conductivity resulting in a better extracted cup of coffee. The v60 is used everywhere: specialty coffee competitions, coffee shops, and in homes around the world. I use my v60 for both hot and iced coffee nearly every day.
2015 was a big year for specialty coffee in Japan. Blue Bottle Coffee opened its flagship shop in Tokyo to much media fanfare, resulting in 2-hour lines just to get in the door. In an article from PerfectDailyGrind.com the author references several other foreign-based specialty coffee shops as being successful in Japan; namely, Oslo’s Fuglen and New Zealand’s Allpress Espresso. These quality shops have played a big role in cementing the demand for third wave coffee in Japan.
An ongoing discussion in the Japanese coffee scene is whether specialty shops and kissaten can co-exist. Kissaten, it seems, are beginning to lose popularity as older generations die and younger coffee drinkers look for a more modern take. Some people seem to think that the more local specialty coffee shops have taken a page out of kissatens’ book with a focus on details and a more relaxed, classic Japanese aesthetic. Others say that kissaten will inevitably die, making way for the next generation to fill the void. While I’m certainly no expert on Japanese culture, it seems to me that their cultural focus on details and doing things well opens the door for kissaten and specialty shops to coexist – but it remains to be seen if the market will support that. If people pick one place to get their coffee from, where will they choose? Only time will tell.
There’s one aspect of Japanese coffee culture that we haven’t discussed yet, and that’s Japanese Iced Coffee, sometimes called flash brewed coffee. The history of iced coffee in Japan isn’t completely clear – but what sets the method apart from other iced-coffee brewing techniques is. Japanese Iced Coffee uses the same principles and methods for brewing hot coffee, but then replaces 50-60% of the hot water for ice. Basically, you brew hot coffee as you normally would, but the hot liquid is immediately cooled when it comes into contact with the ice. Then, as the ice melts, the coffee remains properly extracted. The science behind Japanese Iced Coffee is solid: when you brew hot coffee, the amazing smells that come off of the fresh cup are actually aromatics that are escaping the beverage. You get to smell them while you brew and for a short time after, but the actual cup loses these aromatic compounds. By immediately and quickly cooling down a cup of brewed coffee, these aromatics get trapped in the beverage. When you’re ready to drink it, these smells can escape into your nasal cavity, combining the taste of your iced coffee with amazing smells that might otherwise have been lost. This is one reason why Japanese Iced Coffee captures the dramatic, fruity, and acidic notes that other methods like cold brew have a harder time holding onto.
Japanese Iced Coffee has probably been practiced in Japan for a long, long time. It’s introduction into the U.S., however, is more recent – by my research I estimate Japanese Coffee started being recognized as a unique brewing method about 10 years ago, and almost entirely because of one important figure in U.S. Specialty Coffee: Peter Giuliano. Giuliano was the coffee director and co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee out of North Carolina. Since 2012 he’s been director of the Specialty Coffee Symposium for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Peter Giuliano is one of the people in the coffee world where when he talks, people listen.
At least since 2009, and probably earlier, Peter Giuliano has been preaching the good news of Japanese Iced Coffee to just about anyone who will listen. He discussed it with a journalist from Imbibe Magazine for an article in 2009, he wrote about it in his blog, Pax Coffea, in 2012, and he wrote an article about it for Fresh Cup Magazine in 2014 to name just a few instances over the years. In the Fresh Cup article, Giuliano explains a little bit about why he’s so passionate.
“In 1994, I visited Japan for the first time. There, iced coffee (called aisu kohi) was ubiquitous. Every pastry place served iced coffee, in a tall chimney glass with a tiny pitcher of liquid sugar on the side. Japanese coffee drinkers would sip it in the afternoon, chatting and eating sweets. I ordered one just to explore. I was expecting the battery-acid flavors I’d become accustomed to back home, but instead I discovered a completely different drink—clear and crisp, multilayered and transparent, refreshing and complex. Aisu kohi opened my eyes.”
In the piece he wrote on his blog titled, “Why you should stop cold-brewing, and use the Japanese Iced Coffee Method.” he explains further saying, “I puzzled over it for years. Finally, I developed a relationship with Hidetaka Hayashi, who is a kind of specialty coffee idol in Japan. One of the first questions I asked Mr. Hayashi was how iced coffee was different in Japan. He taught me a lot over the years, but the thing I figured out was this: many of the iced coffee processes I liked the best brewed coffee hot, then chilled the coffee INSTANTLY by brewing right onto ice. The dilution from the melting of the ice can be taken account in the brew recipe, leading to proper strength and maximum happiness.”
Calling Hidetaka Hayashi a specialty coffee idol is actually putting it modestly – he’s credit as being the individual who brought true specialty coffee to Japan in the first place. He’s worked in bringing quality beans to Japan since the early 1960s. In one interview I found, Hidetaka gives insight into why the Japanese prefer the brewing methods they use. He said that in the 10-year period between 1963-1972 “Japan was considered a new market, therefore we were given very low quality coffee at very low prices, far lower than what traditional markets or Annex-A countries paid, and with no guarantee of quality.” Japan was given low-altitude, low-quality coffee, and due to this Japanese people looked for ways to get the most out of their sub-par beans. They turned to using paper filters for pour-over and siphon brewing methods – both methods are still mainstays in Japanese coffee culture.
At one point in July 2015, Peter Giuliano addressed the name – “Japanese Iced Coffee” – by posting a short thread on coffee forum coffeed.com. It’s actually really interesting to take a look at, several big players in the specialty coffee world like Nick Cho from Wrecking Ball and Jay Cunningham from Intelligentsia stopped by to write their opinion. Giuliano wrote, “I think I understand the reticence to call it “Japanese” iced coffee. I’ve had people tell me it seems fake, or misleadingly exotic, or inauthentic, kind of like Chinese Chicken Salad or English Muffins. I don’t agree, and here’s why:” he goes on to list three main reasons: first, he thinks its important to recognize and acknowledge the origin of the technique. Second, he believes that one of the great things about food is exploring cultural diversity. Third and finally, he doesn’t think there’s a better term for Japanese Iced Coffee. As he put it, “ “Flash brewing” sounds to me like someone is opening a raincoat just before making coffee.”
In recent years cold brewed coffee has gone mainstream – so to speak – with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts offering their versions for sale during summer months. Cold brew stands diametrically opposed to Japanese Iced Coffee – it steeps coffee grounds in cold water for extended time periods to try and capture the maximum amount of flavor compounds in the final product. The problem, as we looked at earlier, are those aromatics – cold brew just has no way to get them into the drink. For this reason, while cold brew seems to get more popular with the masses each year, Japanese Iced Coffee is typically hailed as the tastier, more captivating iced coffee by specialty coffee enthusiasts. And here’s another interesting fact about cold brew – in Japan, the term they use to refer to it literally means, “Dutch Coffee” despite the fact that there’s really no connection between the method itself or cold-brew equipment with the Netherlands. If there’s one name that needs to change, it’s not Japanese Iced Coffee, it’s this one.
Like all coffee culture, Japanese coffee culture follows the path of the country’s history. Over time, coffee in Japan has shown itself to be resilient and able to bounce back after cultural shifts and entire wars. While Japanese people were at first resistant to coffee’s bitter taste, today they are one of the world’s largest coffee consumers. You can find instant coffee on every corner in places like Tokyo, along with coffee chains. Kissaten, while once a ritual mainstay in Japanese culture, have begun to give way while specialty coffee shops are flourishing. Where in 1888 the first coffee shop in Tokyo closed after just four years, today Blue Bottle has an incredibly successful flagship store. Japan is the home of world-class businesses who manufacture excellent coffee equipment. And beyond physical products, Japan has forever influenced global coffee culture by inventing and perfecting the Japanese Iced Coffee brew method. Today, Japan is undoubtedly a leader in the world of coffee.
Thanks for listening to Coffee Canon. I’m your host Colin Mansfield, and I hope you enjoyed this first episode. If you want to take a look at any of the sources I used to write this episode, head over to the blog post on BoiseCoffee.org. If you’re interested in getting previews for upcoming future episodes and other premium content, join the Coffee Canon email list. Just go to BoiseCoffee.org/coffeecanon and enter your information.
Coffee Canon will have a new episode every two weeks. Until then, go find a cup of Japanese Iced Coffee to enjoy before it gets too cold outside. Don’t worry, Pumpkin Spice Lattes will be here all autumn.
Oct 16 2017
Rank #8: Episode Two: Italian Coffee
Episode Two of Coffee Canon focuses on Italian coffee. We often associate Italy with espresso, but the truth is that true espresso didn’t exist until about 1950. Developing It took the work of key inventors, businesspeople, and visionaries who saw coffee not for what it currently was, but for what it could be.
Enjoy the episode, and feel free to reference the sources below if you’d like to read more. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Coffee Canon email list if you haven’t already.
Episode Two Sources:
- ‘A History of Espresso in Italy and in the World’ by Jonathan Morris. The primary source for this episode: http://www.academia.edu/262226/A_History_of_Espresso_in_Italy_and_in_the_World_2008_
- Jonathan Morris and Laurie Taylor radio interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tz8v
- How transatlantic exchange shaped Italy’s coffee culture: https://qz.com/992879/the-curious-tale-of-how-italy-became-the-world-capital-of-coffee/
- Wikipedia, History of the Moka Pot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_pot
- ‘The Romance of Coffee and Aluminum’ by JT Schnapp, a great source for more on the Moka pot and Italian culture: http://earlymodernconversions.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Schnapp-The-Romance-of-Coffee-and-Aluminum.pdf
Episode Two Transcript:
Everything has an inventor. This is sort of an obvious statement on its face – the fact that crafted things – manufactured things – really everything from modern conveniences to primitive technology has a person or a team behind they’re invention – we know this.
But how often do we actually stop and think about these people? There’s the big names, sure, like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Elon Musk – people who have famously taken huge risks with their companies or ideas. Risks that worked out for them and shaped the world into what it is today.
But for every Thomas Edison there were 1,000 inventors and creators who’s names we’ve never heard. People who have shaped our world in just as powerful ways, but without the name ID.
Coffee is no different. Every single device and method used to harvest, process, roast, grind, and brew coffee beans has a person or group of people who pioneered that technique or invented that product. Last episode we talked briefly about the Hario v60 and how it reflects both Japanese culture and values. This week we’re going to discuss another country; a place that has its history deeply tied to coffee.
For half of the 20th century inventors, fortune-seekers, and businesspeople tried their hand at creating a machine that made coffee in less time, with better taste. The basic idea was that each customer could have an individual coffee brewed expressly for them, and quickly. The country is Italy and the device, of course, is the espresso machine.
I’m Colin Mansfield, and welcome to Coffee Canon.
I’ll confess that up until researching for this episode, in my head Italian coffee has always been espresso. The two are somehow synonymous to me: Italy and espresso. But the reality is that true espresso wasn’t even invented until about 1950. Venice was one of the first European ports to import coffee in the 1570s, and the first recorded coffee house didn’t open in Italy until 1683. This means that for about two and a half of the last three centuries, espresso didn’t even exist in Italian culture. It didn’t exist at all. In these early years Italian coffeehouse owners brewed coffee using infusion based methods that were popular across Europe at the time.
In 1901 everything changed. Luigi Bezzera, an inventor from Milan, patented a steam-powered coffee machine that forced hot water through a coffee cake at about 0.75 atmospheres of pressure. In 1903 Bezzera’s patent was acquired by a manufacturer named Desidero Pavoni who used it to produce the first commercial espresso machine in 1905. He called it the Ideale.
The concept of fresh made-to-order coffee is almost expected from coffee shops today, but in the early 1900s it was a novel concept. Being able to quickly and easily make individual cups of coffee for specific customers meant faster service and better drinks. This new espresso was marketed as a futuristic beverage – in one advertisement, an Italian artist used a steam locomotive to make a visual play on the idea of an express train.
These steam machines created a very different kind of espresso than we’re used to today: temperatures in the group head of the espresso machine rose to 250 degrees F and higher, causing the final drink to appear jet black and taste burnt. Crema – the thin, delicious layer of oil that sits at the top of a modern well-pulled shot of espresso, was never present in these old drinks. The pressure that these steam machines created was just too low, and the steam itself often contaminated the drinks as well. By modern standards, these first generation espresso machines created something closer to drip coffee than actual espresso. Still, the ball was rolling and the way Italians began to think about coffee was changing. In fact, these quick machines started something in Italian culture that remains to this day: standing cafe bars.
If you visit Italy today, there are two basic ways you can order coffee. The first way is to sit at a restaurant, order from a waiter, and be served your drink. This is fairly standard the world over, but the difference in Italy is that you actually end up paying more on your check for table service from he wait staff. The more affordable way to get your espresso or cappuccino is to visit one of the many standing cafes that line the streets of urban Italian cities. Getting your coffee this way means you’ll pay much lower prices – usually one or two Euros – and you’ll find yourself leaning against the bar, brushing shoulders with locals while you sip.
These standing cafe bars came around at the same time the first generation steam-powered espresso machines were popularized. The large machines stood on the counters and would serve dozens of urban Italians that came by to socialize, conduct business, or just for a quick jolt. The interesting thing about these cafes is that they were originally called “American bars” because of the saloon-like layout of the cafe. There were no tables, just one long bar. The first American bar in Italy was Caffé Manaresi in Florence. It was nicknamed “Caffé dei Ritti” by locals – ritti means upright in Italian.
Between the new bars and new coffee machines, Italians were drinking coffee more. Both the consumption of coffee per capita and the number of new cafes increased slowly between 1900-1930 – though it was still mostly the upper and middle classes who could afford coffee. It was still seen as a luxury beverage by many, including the Fascist regime. That’s probably why Italy’s increasingly hostile leadership started taxing coffee imports during the 1930s. This, in turn, made consumption drop.
Nonetheless, the 1930s proved to be an important decade for the development of espresso. Coffee industry leaders knew that the current machines produced bad coffee, and they wanted to fix it. One of the main issues was the contamination and burning of coffee because of steam. Francesco Illy, founder of the Illy caffe and roastery, came up with a compressed air solution to this problem in 1935 that he dubbed the Illetta. Unfortunately, it never saw production. In 1938 two different Italian men – a Milanese engineer named Cremonese and a bar owner named Achille Gaggia, patented a piston solution that pushed water through coffee at higher pressures. But with demand for coffee low and import prices high, producing these machines was just not a viable or financially responsible solution. Then, WWII began and coffee was on the back burner, so to speak.
In 1947 espresso changed forever. Achille Gaggia registered a new patent that year for a lever operated piston incorporating gearing and a spring. This machine was dead-simple to operate by hand, and it’s main function was to take water directly from a boiler, and force it through a compressed cake of coffee. Using a piston meant more pressure – more than 9 times more than the first generation espresso machines. This bump in pressure resulted in a thin moussey layer of tasty coffee oils sitting on top of the extracted end-product. Today, this crema is the defining characteristic that sets espresso apart from all other coffee methods. But in late 1940s Italy, this brand-new take on coffee was seen as an entirely different beverage. It was renamed caffe crema or cream coffee, to distinguish it from the darker, less-tasty standard coffee everyone had grown used to. Sometimes its difficult to let go of the past, even when it tastes like a mixture of burnt rubber and charcoal.
This new take on espresso further drove a wedge between the two places Italians most commonly drank coffee: the home, and the bar. Back in 1933 an Italian inventor named Luigi De Ponti patented a stove-top coffee brewing device that used steam to force water through a valve, through a coffee puck, and up into a serving chamber. If this sounds familiar, it’s because espresso machines at the time worked in much the same way. So just take a second and imagine what this invention would mean for Italian households in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s: you could make coffee in your home with the exact same quality as the cafe down the road. The man who formed the manufacturing company that produced this coffee maker was named Alfonso Bialetti. He called the device the “Moka Express” and in the economic boom of the 1950s, it found its place in nearly every Italian home. This was thanks, in large part, to Alfonso Bialetti’s son Renato. Renato returned from the war in 1946 after spending several years in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Renato brought an entirely new sensibility to Bialetti’s Moka Express; he knew they had something special on their hands, and he focused a huge advertising budget on this fact. He started national campaigns, placing advertisements on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and once TV became widely available, there too. Renato’s focus was on building a strong brand around the distinctive coffee maker. One example of Renato’s intense focus on advertising is this: each year, Italy held a massive trade fare in Milan called the Fiera di Milano. Renato used this as an opportunity: year after year, the Bialetti company purchased every single billboard in the city Milan, plastering images of the Moka Express literally everywhere. Perhaps Renato’s largest contribution to the brand, however, was a distinctive mustachioed cartoon man with his right finger held aloft as if ordering an espresso. This logo still adorns every Moka Express manufactured by Bialetti.
So, here we are in the late 1940s early 1950s with two distinct approaches to coffee: on one hand, you have new engineering breakthroughs with espresso machines that allow cafes to produce truly great tasting coffee for the first time in history. On the other hand, you have Bialetti’s Moka Express that promises to bring the cafe into the kitchen, but with a more, well, traditional coffee taste. This difference in location and taste remains to today; about 90% of Italians have a personal Moka Express for at-home use, yet everyone still gets espresso from their local cafe.
In 1948 Gaggia released his first manufactured lever-driven espresso machines. With slogans like “Natural cream coffee” and “it works without steam,” it’s obvious that Gaggia knew that he had something special on his hands. And he was right – the market shifted at an alarming rate over the next 10 years. Milan proved to be the epicenter of change, with many of the ideas that shaped the future of coffee originating from Milanese people and companies. Updates to the Gaggia concept were rapid fire: the Cimbali company replaced the spring-loaded piston with hydraulic levers, making it easier to physically operate the machine. Pavoni, the same manufacturer who had acquired Luigi Bezzera’s original espresso machine patent way back in 1903, had the idea of turning the tall boiler on its side, creating a longer horizontal machine that allowed baristas to interact with customers. Ernesto Valente, who split from Gaggia in 1950, introduced an electric pump to his machine in 1961. It was operated by a simple switch – no need to pull any levers. To accomplish this, the machine pulled water directly from the water mains, pressurized it, and heated it before pushing it through the coffee puck. This meant that the barista only had to control the parameters associated with extracting coffee (grinding, time of extraction, etc) but didn’t have to provide the physical power for the process. This type of machine was dubbed “semi-automatic” and became the standard tool for cafes not only in Italy, but all across the world in years to come.
An interesting note about coffee in Italy – not every region has the same tastes. Broadly speaking, southern Italy prefers espresso blends with higher quantities of Robusta beans – the cheaper, bitter alternative to Arabica beans that are standard today. Southern Italy also prefers darker roasts. This was true in 1960, according to a report on the coffee trade for the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. The report stated that coffee drunk in southern Italy and Sicilly was lower quality and would not be acceptable in other parts of Italy. This is still true today – Illy, a premium roaster who sells only one espresso blend using 100% Arabica beans, even Illy sells a darker roasted version specifically targeted for Italy’s southern market.
So far, most of the information and facts that I’ve discussed in this episode have stemmed from the well-documented and researched work of one man: professor Jonathan Morris from the University of Hertfordshire. He works as the Research Professor of Modern European History, and he self-identifies as a historian of consumption, specializing in the history of coffee. Fortunately for us, Professor Morris has written a few wonderful papers about coffee’s spread from Italy to the rest of the world (as I said, one of these essays is the primary source for this podcast episode). Not only that, but Professor Morris has appeared on several documentary films, he’s spoken at specialty coffee events, he’s been interviewed for podcast episodes, and he’s appeared on live radio. Someday, I hope to have him on this show, but until then I’d love to share with you a clip from a radio interview he conducted back in 2007 with Laurie Taylor, an English sociologist and radio host. In this clip, Laurie and Jonathan are discussing how Italian espresso impacted coffee culture in England between about 1970-1990.
It’s here that Italian coffee starts to become the world’s coffee. Espresso spread like wildfire with Brits and Americans putting their own twists on and creating larger versions of Italy’s classical sized espresso drinks. A little roaster opened in Seattle in 1971 serving gourmet beans, but was re-invented as a coffee shop chain in 1987 by a guy named Howard Schultz. Initially, Schultz actually tried to take elements from Italian coffee culture and implement them into Starbucks. In one interview Schultz talks about this saying,
“In that first store, we were determined to re-create a true Italian-style coffee bar. Our primary mission was to be authentic. We didn’t want to do anything to dilute the integrity of the espresso and the Italian coffee bar experience in Seattle. For music, we played only Italian opera. The baristas wore white shirts and bow ties. All service was stand-up with no seating…the menu was covered with Italian words. Even the décor was Italian. Bit by bit we realized many of those details weren’t appropriate for Seattle. People started complaining about the incessant opera. The bow ties proved impractical. Customers who weren’t in a hurry wanted chairs. Some of the Italian foods and drinks needed to be translated.”
Starbucks proved that while Italian coffee culture didn’t work in the U.S., espresso-based beverages did. Americans may never drink straight espresso while standing up, but a carmel macchiato with extra whip? Sign us up. It’s also interesting to note that currently, Starbucks is nowhere to be found in Italy. That’s slated to change next year in 2018, with hundreds of Starbucks locations planned for the Italian market. I guess we’ll have to see how they do.
One Italian company in particular did benefit from Starbucks’ immense growth: La Marzocco, based out of Florence. La Marzocco was founded in 1927 and manufactured quality espresso machines for decades. In 1970 the company came out with a new type of machine that utilized two separate boilers: one for pulling espresso shots, and one for steaming milk. The steaming power was attractive to the American market, what with our love of milky, frothy drinks, and in Starbucks’ early years of growth La Marzocco espresso machines were imported to Seattle for use in their coffee shops. As Starbucks grew, so did La Marzocco, and eventually they opened a US factory in Seattle to meet this demand. In 1999 Starbucks transitioned to an automatic machine, causing La Marzocco to close their U.S. subsidiary, but the company remains incredibly lucrative. Over 90% of La Marzocco’s high-end espresso machines are exported abroad and they remain a name associated with quality in specialty coffee circles today.
Today, Italian coffee culture is more similar to the 1950s than it is different. People still visit their local stand-up cafes to drink an inexpensive shot of espresso. People still use their Moka Express at home. At first glance, this might make it seem like Italian coffee culture is static, or even stuck. But what’s actually changed? Well the rest of the world has. You might say that while Italian’s have known and loved espresso for over 100 years, while the rest of us are just now getting into it. We’ve got a long way to go.
Thanks for listening to Coffee Canon. I’m your host Colin Mansfield, and if you’re interested in learning more about the history of Italian coffee and espresso’s spread to the rest of the world, check out the sources I’ve linked to in the show notes. Namely, check out Jonathan Morris’ paper titled “A History of Espresso in Italy and in the World.” Really, anything that Morris has written or been a part of is interesting and worth checking out. If you want more Coffee Canon between the bi-weekly episodes, head over to boisecoffee.org/coffeecanon and join our email list. This week I’ll be sending out a link to an article that explores the possible flavor benefits of harnessing the power of fermentation with coffee. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, sign up!
As always, thanks for listening, and have a great rest of your week.
Oct 31 2017
Rank #9: S2 Episode 3: Coffee Flavors and Aromas
In this episode of The Boise Coffee Podcast I discuss coffee flavors and aromas, and how you can use the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel to put words to what you experience when you try a new coffee. You can see all three versions of the wheel below.
In January 2016 the SCAA came out with an updated wheel, as well as a full description of how and why they changed it.
If you like this episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave me a review on iTunes! Thank you and have a great rest of your week.
The Coffee Guy
The original SCAA Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel:
The 2014 Counter Culture Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel:
The 2016 SCAA updated Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel:
Feb 12 2016
Rank #10: Episode Four: Holiday Drinks
Today on the podcast we’re bending the rules a bit and not focusing entirely on coffee. Instead, in the spirit of Christmas, we’re broadening our scope and looking at Holiday drinks as a whole, and the traditions they come with.
We’re focusing on three drinks in particular: the Pharisee, the Tom and Jerry, and Irish Coffee. All three are steeped in Christmas tradition, and the stories surrounding each are as interesting as they are surprising.
If you’re interested in making any of these drinks at home, here are some recipes I recommend:
Need last minute gift ideas? Check out the Coffee Canon 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, available as a free PDF here.
Episode Four Sources:
- Pharisäer (Pharisee)
- Der “Pharisäer nach Originalrezept” (Translation: The “Pharisee according to original recipe”), anwaltseiten24. Link: http://www.anwaltseiten24.de/rechtsgebiete/kuriose-gerichtsurteile/1/news/der-pharisaer-nach-originalrezept.html
- “Amtsgericht Flensburg – Wieviel Rum macht den echten Pharisäer?” (Translation: “District Court Flensburg – How much rum makes the real Pharisee?”), Wikisource. Link: https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Amtsgericht_Flensburg_-_Wieviel_Rum_macht_den_echten_Pharisäer%3F
- “Zeitreise: Der Pharisäer-Streit” (Translation: “Time travel: The Pharisee quarrel”), NDR.de (only accessible via web.archive.org). Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20161103213817/https://www.ndr.de/fernsehen/sendungen/schleswig-holstein_magazin/zeitreise/Zeitreise-Der-Pharisaeer-Streit,zeitreise1238.html
- Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisäer_(Getränk)
- DM conversion tables: http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/projects/currency.htm#tables
- Converting 1981 US Dollars to 2017 US Dollars: http://www.in2013dollars.com/1981-dollars-in-2017?amount=13.82
- Tom and Jerry
- Egg Nog: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggnog
- Tom and Jerry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_and_Jerry_(drink)
- “The Forgotten Christmas Cocktail.” The Atlantic, by Sarah Elton. Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/12/the-forgotten-christmas-cocktail/32226/
- “A Regional Oddball, Resurrected for Chilliest of Days.” The New York Times, by Robert Simonson. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/dining/the-tom-and-jerry-an-odd-ephemeral-drink.html
- “About Those Tom and Jerry Bowls.” PUNCH, by Megan Krigbaum. Link: https://punchdrink.com/articles/about-those-tom-and-jerry-drink-recipe-bowls/
- Irish Coffee
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_coffee
- “Delaplane honored where he ate, drank and finished his columns / Old friends hang his typewriter in North Beach bar.” SFGate, by Carl Nolte. Link: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/SAN-FRANCISCO-Delaplane-honored-where-he-ate-2557750.php
- “The man who brought Irish coffee to America.” SFGate, by Carl Nolte. Link: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/The-man-who-brought-Irish-coffee-to-America-3185886.php
- “Irish Coffee.” Ireland Whiskey Trail. Link: http://www.irelandwhiskeytrail.com/irish_coffee_history_and_recipes.php
- BBC Episode about Stanton Delaplane: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ydsdx
- “The Irish Coffee Story.” The Buena Vista. Link: http://www.thebuenavista.com/home/irishcoffee.html
Episode Four Transcript:
In Germany, they take Christmas seriously. Every year, starting in late November and continuing all throughout December, most German towns have giant pop-up outdoor Christmas Markets. They’re complete with small shops, delicious foods, and – of course – warm drinks. The Christmas markets are an old tradition, with history dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and their popularity over the years has turned them from a uniquely German custom into something most of Europe participates in. You can find Christmas markets everywhere from Paris to Copenhagen – but the biggest ones are still in Germany.
The most popular drink at German Christmas Markets is called Glühwein – it’s a hot mulled wine that can be served with or without a shot of brandy. As you walk around the markets you’ll see shop owners ladling out cupfuls of Glühwein from giant vats. It’s customary to pay for the drink, along with a deposit for the decorative Christmas mug it comes in. After finishing the drink you can choose to keep the mug, or return it and collect your deposit back.
Today on the podcast we’re bending the rules a bit and not focusing entirely on coffee. Instead, in the spirit of Christmas, we’re broadening our scope and looking at Holiday drinks as a whole, and the traditions they come with. The origins of some of these drinks, like Glühwein, are straightforward: wine tastes good, so hot wine with spices tastes even better when it’s cold outside. Other drinks have a more interesting backstory – like the Pharisäer, another Germany Christmastime alcoholic beverage. The name literally translates to “Pharisee” – yes, a reference to the Biblical sect of Jews who strictly adhered to ancient laws. But the drink is made from sweetened coffee and a shot of brown rum. So what’s with the name?
I’m Colin Mansfield, Merry Christmas and welcome to Coffee Canon.
It was the early 1870s in Nordstrand, Germany – an island that was home to a pastor named Georg Bleyer. Pastor Bleyer hated alcohol, and the local townspeople knew this. To keep the peace, people abstained from drinking while he was around.
On one particular day, Pastor Bleyer had come to the home of a respected local farmer named Peter Johannsen to baptize his new child. Pastor Bleyer finished giving his blessing to the baby, but decided to stick around for a while and enjoy the cozy home. The other guests weren’t pleased with this – they wanted to start drinking in celebration. Suddenly, farmer Johannsen had an idea. He asked one of the young ladies present to prepare cups of coffee, but to put a nice shot of rum in as well – for everyone, except the pastor. Then, to cover up the smell of liquor, he asked that a nice dollop of whipped cream be placed on every drink.
As you can imagine, a few rounds in everyone was starting to feel very cheerful. But then, misfortune struck and Pastor Bleyer discovered that the other cups contained rum. It’s not clear if the tipsy kitchen staff accidentally added rum to the pastor’s drink, or if he was simply suspicious at how everyone seemed to be getting happier. Regardless, the gig was up and the pastor was angry. After tasting the rum he stood up and shouted, “Oh, you Pharisees!” The name stuck.
Now with stories like this, usually I advise taking them with a grain of salt. Time has a way of shifting the names of people and the particulars of how events happened, but in this case, the story seems to have happened the way its told. One article I found was written in German by the great-great-grandson of Pastor Bleyer. He traveled to Nordstrand last year and met the descendants of the Johannsen family. He even went to the farm where the Pharisee story is said to have taken place – it’s since been turned into a cafe. Each person he talked to told the story the same way – how it was passed down to them from their parents.
The Pharisee became a staple menu item in German bars and cafes – and no wonder: its sweet, slightly bitter, and has nice punch of rum – or at least it’s supposed to.
In 1981 a German dentist named Arnold Rothmaler and his wife entered the Fährhaus restaurant in Holnis on the Flensburg Fjord in far north Germany. He and his wife took a seat, then saw a folded up card advertising the Pharisee drink. The card said that the drink was made, “according to the original recipe.” Mr. Rothmaler ordered two Pharisees, but after taking a sip he noted that the drink was weak – he complained to the wait staff, asking how much rum the drink contained. At this point, the restaurant owner, Mr. Wolfgang Wree, got involved, and he replied that the drinks contained 2 centiliters, or about 4 teaspoons, of rum. Mr. Rothmaler pushed back, stating that the original recipe for the Pharisee required more rum, but the restaurant owner wouldn’t relent. The disagreement escalated, and Mr. Rothmaler refused to pay for the drinks, electing instead to take the restaurant owner to court.
Now to put this in context, each drink was priced at 3.50 DM, or Deutsche Marks. In 1981, 7 Deutsche Marks converted to $13.82 US. Taking inflation into account, that’s $37.22 today.
Arnold Rothmaler got his day in court. The presiding judge, Peter Jacobsen, determined that the only way to know for sure whether or not the Pharisees made with 2cl of rum were weak, was to taste them. The judge ordered several variations of the drink be made, then tasted them with the defendant (Mr. Rothmaler) and the plaintiff (Mr Wree, the restaurant owner). In the end, the judge sided with the defendant – Mr. Rothmaler. I was able to dig up the transcript from the court proceedings – it’s hilarious to read the judge’s verdict in official court documents. Here’s an excerpt. It’s translated from German, but I think you’ll get the point:
“…the plaintiff had rejected the rectification by adding more rum. The fact that the defendant had the opportunity to order more rum in order to make the drink more alcoholic is certainly correct, but here it is insignificant; the defendant would then have accepted the defective performance and would have been additionally charged with a further purchase price claim. The served “Pharisees” were deficient . They have deviated significantly in their quality from what characterizes the “Pharisee” according to the original recipe. It is known to the courts that there are other recipes for this drink that originated on the island of Nordstrand. The original recipe, to which the folding card refers, is based on a drink that is “highly alcoholic” and therefore clearly tastes the rum additive. Because the drink is due to the “hearty” and “decent shot of rum” as “delicious drink warm body and soul.” This is not the case with two centiliters [of rum]. The court has determined by taste that the “Pharisee” tastes bland and expressionless with a rum addition of two centiliters. The rum is barely visible; It is a coffee beverage with a low alcoholic taste, but not a delicious, high-percentage alcoholic beverage. It remains to be seen whether the preparation of a proper “Pharisee” requires four centiliters of rum; In any case, an addition of two centiliters is too small.”
The ruling dictated that Mr. Rothamler did not have to pay back the 7 Deutsche Marks. I guess that’s one way to get free drinks.
In September of last year, 35 years after Judge Jacobsen made his ruling, a German magazine brought the dentist, the restaurant owner, and the judge back together for a reunion at the same restaurant where the infamous drinks were served – they all agreed that “Pharisee peace” has been established.
Each year in October or November, local supermarkets begin carrying a drink that’s closely tied with holiday cheer – egg nog. It’s one of those beverages that people either love or hate, but calling it ubiquitous is probably an understatement – to many people it defines the transition from autumn to winter. Egg nog the beverage dates back to as early as the 17th century, but the name itself likely came about in 1775 – “nog” referring to “strong ale.” One account I read stated that the first US President, George Washington, served an egg nog-like drink which included rye whisky, rum, and sherry.
But while I was doing research about egg nog, I discovered another drink – a close relative to egg nog that was extremely popular around Christmas time in the US for over 100 years. The drink is called the Tom and Jerry. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. Many people now refer to it as the “forgotten Christmas cocktail.”
The Tom and Jerry likely got its name in 1821 from British journalist Pierce Egan. He invented the beverage to help publicize his new book called “Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom.” So no, it’s not associated with the cartoon cat and mouse – if anything, the cartoon, developed in 1940, may be a play-on-words from the drink.
Essentially the Tom and Jerry is a hot version of egg nog that uses milk rather than heavy cream, as well as a significant portion of brandy. It became a well-loved Christmas beverage in both popular culture and homes across the United States. President Warren Harding even served Tom and Jerries at his annual Christmas party. In 1932 writer Damon Runyon wrote a short story called “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” which prominently features the Tom and Jerry. In it, he writes,
“This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.”
Obviously, the drink was delicious. Most recipes call for 12 egg yolks to be combined and beaten with 1 cup of sugar. From there, the egg whites are whipped in a separate bowl, then folded into the stiff yolk mixture along with a healthy glug of brandy. Put a small portion of this mixture in the bottom of a mug, then add hot milk and more brandy to taste, topping with nutmeg and cinnamon or whatever Christmas spices you desire. The finished product should be hot, creamy, and alcoholic.
Although it’s kind of a pain in the butt to make, the drink became so popular that you could buy Tom and Jerry sets, complete with a bowl to hold the batter and matching mugs with “Tom” and “Jerry” inscribed on them, often in fancy lettering. The first appearance of a Tom and Jerry bowl in writing was in an 1864 New York Times article about a bar fight ending in death. “When deceased ran and jumped over the bar; as he went over he struck a ‘Tom and Jerry’ bowl and fell.” Today, original Tom and Jerry bowls are antiques and collectibles.
But then, somewhere in the mid 20th century, around 1950 or 1960, the drink almost completely disappeared. There’s no definitive reason why, but there are theories. A popular one is that the rise of commercially-produced egg nog, available in supermarkets around the country, dis-incentivized people from making the time-intensive Tom and Jerry at home. The interesting thing is that the Tom and Jerry disappeared from bars and pop culture everywhere except Wisconsin. From what I can tell, the drink somehow solidified itself as a tradition in this cold corner of the US, even while it faded from people’s minds everywhere else. To today, you can buy pre-made Tom and Jerry mixes in local Wisconsin grocery stores.
Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz, authors of “Bottoms Up,” a published survey of Wisconsin’s historical taverns, posit two possibilities for why the Tom and Jerry remained popular in their state: first, it’s a dairy drink, and Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. Second, Wisconsin is cold about nine months out of the year. John Dye, owner of a Milwaukee cocktail lounge agrees with the weather sentiment, adding also, “Trends just move a little slower here. They have their traditions and they stick to them.”
Over the past decade or so the Tom and Jerry has seen a slight resurgence in bars and restaurants looking to add something classic, yet new to their holiday menu. Whatever the reason for the Tom and Jerry disappearance, my hope is that this hot, delicious holiday beverage sees a revival in American culture. I mean, at this point let’s be honest: store-bought egg nog isn’t doing anyone any favors.
It’s the 1930s in Ireland. A man named Joe Sheridan decides to apply for a chef’s job at an airport in the city of Rineanna. It’s a small airport – a flying boat terminal, in fact, but it’s significant. The airport is named Foynes, and it becomes the first place to host transatlantic flights between Ireland and New York City. Joe Sheridan soon becomes well known as a great chef in this new international hub.
In 1943 a flight departs Foynes headed for New York with dozens of passengers on board, when suddenly a bad storm hits. The pilot is forced to turn the plane around and land back in Foynes, and, as you can probably imagine, the passengers are rather scared.
Legend says that after the flight landed and the cold, shaken passengers got back into the terminal, chef and bartender Joe Sheridan decided to whip up something special. He brewed dark coffee, tossed in some sugar cubes, then added a splash of Tullamore Dew whisky. Finally, he topped the drink with a layer of cold, thick cream.
As he passed the drink out, one of the passengers took a sip, then asked, “is this Brazilian coffee?” “No,” Sheridan said, “It’s Irish Coffee.”
Irish Coffee is pervasive now in the same way that mulled wine or a hot toddy is, and it can be tempting to assume that well-known mixed drinks like these spread in the same way as a viral video online. Somebody, somewhere tastes the drink, enjoys it, then tells their friends. Those friends, in turn, try the drink, enjoy it, then tell their friends. Rinse and repeat.
This might be true for some drinks, but Irish Coffee owes its spread to one man. And while Joe Sheridan invented the drink, he wasn’t the person that transformed Irish Coffee into the fixed icon that it is today. That honor belongs to a man named Stanton Delaplane.
Delaplane was an incredible reporter who worked for the San Francisco Chronicle for 53 years. In 1941 he won the Pulitzer Prize for articles about “the Free State of Jefferson,” a group of four Northern California counties and one Oregon county that threatened to break away and form a 49th state in a dispute over highway construction in the gold and copper mining areas. He also won National Headliner Awards in 1946 and 1959. Delaplane wrote a column five days a week for years and years, and in 1944 and ’45 he served as a war correspondent in the Pacific theater of World War II.
According to a SFGate article written about Delaplane in 2008, he was a perfectionist who enjoyed writing on whatever he had laying around – like old air mail letters – then going through every line carefully, ensuring he wrote exactly what he wanted to say.
Starting in 1953 Delaplane began writing a syndicated humorous travel column called “Postcards.” He used short sentences in a staccato style, which he said was for the benefit of San Francisco Municipal Railway riders who had to read the paper while commuting on the shaky train.
After learning about his death, British commentator Alistair Cooke did a segment on BBC radio about Stanton Delaplane. Here’s a clip from that show, though honestly the entire thing is worth listening to.
“Stanton Delaplane wrote like a young and happy and wholly successful pupil of Hemingway. he rarely wrote sentences of more than six or seven words and he could go weeks without calling on an adjective. His peculiar magic, which I often probed into and never discovered, was to keep these bare sentences rollicking along in the most effortless way, running as clean as spring water over the bed of a brook. He could not help being an entertaining writer and that is a gift that very few writers indeed can legitimately claim from the double-domed philosophers to the light-weight journalists.”
Stanton Delaplane was a tremendous writer, but he was also the man that brought Irish Coffee to the United States – and through that, into mainstream culture. It all started with a trip to Ireland in the 1950s.
By that time the old Foynes flying boat terminal had closed and been replaced by Shannon International Airport. Joe Sheridan – the chef who invented Irish Coffee on that cold, stormy night nearly 20 years prior, had moved to the new airport as well, and he had made Irish Coffee a regular part of his menu.
Delaplane ordered an Irish Coffee, and immediately fell in love. After returning to the states, he took the recipe to his friends Jack Koeppler and George Freeberg, the owners of a San Francisco bar called the Buena Vista Cafe. Delaplane asked for Koeppler’s and Freeberg’s help to re-create the magical drink he had tasted in Ireland, and on November 10th, 1952 they got to work.
On its face, Irish Coffee has an incredibly simple recipe: coffee, whisky, sugar, and cream. But as with any recipe, the ratios of ingredients and the timing of when to add them can turn making a simple drink into a time-consuming affair – especially if you’re a perfectionist like Stanton Delaplane. That night with Jack Koeppler became a study in trial-and-error; the two of them would mix drinks, sip judiciously, and then record the faults. Over time, they acknowledged two recurring problems:
The first problem was that the taste just wasn’t quite right based on Delaplane’s experience at the Shannon Airport in Ireland.
The second problem was that strangely, they couldn’t get the cream to float on top of the beverage. Each time they poured it in, it sank to the bottom.
That night of testing resulted in dozens of failed experiments, and a lot of whisky consumed over several hours. After drinking several Irish Coffees in a row, Stanton Delaplane nearly passed out on the cable car tracks outside the Buena Vista Cafe.
Stanton was heartbroken at their failed evening of experimentation, but Jack remained undaunted. He doubled down, deciding to pilgrimage to Ireland himself and learn the secret of the elusive Irish Coffee. After his return, they were able to solve both problems they had experienced on that hangover-inducing coffee binge.
To solve the problem of taste Stanton and Jack used the same whisky as Joe Sheridan: Tullamore Dew. The problem with the cream, however, was less-easily solved. They brought their sinking cream problem to the mayor of San Francisco, George Christopher, who also happened to be a prominent dairy owner. It was here they discovered that if the cream was allowed to age for 48 hours, then frothed to a precise consistency it would float neatly on top of their drink just as it had in Ireland.
With the drink perfected, the only thing left was to advertise – a task perfectly suited for Stanton Delaplane. He started mentioning the drink in his travel column, which was widely read throughout the US. Irish Coffee and the Buena Vista Cafe quickly grew in popularity, attracting both local Californians and tourists from all across the United States. Everyone wanted a taste of Irish Coffee. Once Irish Coffee became popular, consumption of whisky at the Buena Vista went from 2 cases a year to about 1,000 cases which equated to almost 10 percent of the United States’ whisky consumption at that time. It’s said that the Buena Vista bartenders made 2,000 Irish Coffees daily, for many years. Meeting that amount of demand required that they become both fast and accurate at making their drink. The bartenders created an assembly-line method for making several, sometimes dozens, of Irish coffees at the same time.
According to one article, the busiest day the Buena Vista has ever seen was the Super Bowl in 1982, 49ers vs. Miami. Three bartenders served 109 bottles of whiskey between 8am and 5pm, and the night crew served another 104. With approximately 29 drinks per bottle, that means the cafe served over 6,000 drinks that day.
By the Buena Vista’s own count, they have served more than 30 million Irish Coffees total.
In 1952 the Buena Vista Cafe took on a new employee; an Irish chef named Joe Sheridan. The very same man who invented Irish Coffee on that fateful stormy night in 1943. Sheridan was asked to come and work at Buena Vista, which he did for ten years. It’s not often that an inventor gets to watch his creation become famous, but Joe Sheridan got that honor. Today, he’s buried in Oakland, CA.
About Irish Coffee, Joe Sheridan offered this advice on what ingredients to use in his famous beverage: “Cream as rich as an Irish brogue; coffee as strong as a friendly hand; sugar sweet as the tongue of a rogue; and whisky smooth as the wit of the land.”
I hope you enjoyed this special holiday drink episode of Coffee Canon. As always, I’m your host Colin Mansfield and I appreciate your support. I recently created a coffee holiday gift guide for listeners of the show. It’s a short PDF complete with pictures and links that outlines some coffee gift recommendations, from brewing devices to grinders to actual coffee. Whether you need a last-minute gift idea, or you just want to pick something special up for yourself, this gift guide is a great resource. You can download it for free now at http://boisecoffee.org/giftguide.
May your Christmas season be filled with warmth and love. Oh yeah – and great coffee.
Dec 24 2017
Rank #11: S1 Episode 4: Cold Brew
In this 4th installment of The BoiseCoffee Podcast I talk about cold brew coffee – what it is, how you make it, and why it’s suddenly become a cultural phenomenon this summer. For a quick guide on brewing, check out this post from earlier this summer.
I recommend using the Toddy Cold Brew system, available on Amazon here. Alternatively, you can use the French Press method or simply a mason jar with cheese cloth.
To read more about the $9 million that Bulletproof Coffee scored to launch their brick-and-mortar stores, check out this report from Fox.
The music used in this podcast is from the Free Music Archive. The songs are Strong Black Coffee by Jared Mees & The Grown Children and Loaded by The Losers.
The Coffee Guy
Jul 27 2015
Rank #12: S2 Episode 4: Family Coffee Break
In this episode of The Boise Coffee Podcast I take a breather from the normal routine to have a conversation with my wife and my parents about our coffee roots. Thanks to my mom, Susan, my dad, Dennis, and Hannah – my beautiful wife!
If you’d like to get in touch with my dad, you can find him on Twitter, his website, or his publisher’s website. Check out his newest book, Cocoa The Blind Dog: A Daily Devotional About Devotion!
At the end of the episode I feature four individuals from the Anchor community who responded to my request for personal accounts/stories having to do with coffee. Thanks to Brandon, Eric, and Seth!
Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave me a review!
The Coffee Guy
Feb 29 2016
Rank #13: Episode Five: Season of Giving (ft. Nate Westwick from Wild Goose Coffee Roasters)
You are reading Episode Five: Season of Giving (ft. Nate Westwick from Wild Goose Coffee Roasters) from Boise Coffee. Please share it with friends!
Around this time of year we hear stories of people giving back to the less fortunate in their communities. Whether it’s Ebenezer Scrooge from a Christmas Carol forgiving debts, or your local church donating money to a worthy cause, there’s something about the Holiday season that propels people to give.
Last week, just before Christmas, I got the opportunity to interview Nathan Westwick from Wild Goose Coffee Roasters. I wanted to do an episode highlighting Wild Goose because they place a huge emphasis on giving back to their community – but not just during the Holidays.
All year long, for every pound of coffee Wild Goose sells, they donate 10 pounds of food to a local food bank. Purchase coffee here to support their mission. Use the hashtag #1equals10 and let them know you’re taking part.
Through their commitment and actions, the folks at Wild Goose remind us that we each have the power to positively influence those around us in practical ways at all times of the year – and what better time to be reminded, than this Holiday season?
Happy New Year! May your 2018 be filled with love, generosity, and excellent coffee!
Episode Five Sources:
- Interview: Nathan Westwick, founder/owner of Wild Goose Coffee Roasters.
The post Episode Five: Season of Giving (ft. Nate Westwick from Wild Goose Coffee Roasters) appeared first on Boise Coffee.
Dec 30 2017
Rank #14: S1 Episode 5: Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade
Episode 5 of The BoiseCoffee Podcast centers around two very different, yet connected ways of sourcing coffee: Fair Trade, and Direct Trade. In this installment I outline the history of FLO, and give my reasons why I believe that Direct Trade – as outlined by Intelligentsia here – answers many of the questions and fills many of the holes inherent to Fair Trade.
The two main sources I used for this podcast are this and this. I pulled additional information from here, and I found Intelligentsia’s video at Google SMO in 2011 very enlightening. It’s a long one, but well worth the watch.
The PBS clip that I use at the beginning of this episode has some great graphics to go along with it. Check out the full clip here.
What do you think? Is Fair Trade good as it is, or do you agree that it was flawed since the beginning? Does Direct Trade fix enough of the gaps created by Fair Trade, or do we need to go a step further to help farmers? Drop me a line in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter: @BoiseCoffee. Have a great week!
The Coffee Guy
Aug 03 2015
Rank #15: S1 Episode 8: Social Networks and Coffee ft. Gilles Brunner from Algrano
You are reading S1 Episode 8: Social Networks and Coffee ft. Gilles Brunner from Algrano from Boise Coffee. Please share it with friends!
A lot of firsts on this week’s episode of The BoiseCoffee Podcast! First week live-streaming the entire podcast – if you missed it, be sure to tune in next week on Meerkat and Periscope (follow me at both @ColinMansfield and @BoiseCoffee). More importantly, this was the first week where I interview someone.
Gilles Brunner is a co-founder of Algrano, a social network that connects coffee producers (farmers) with coffee buyers (roasters, coffee shops, etc). He was kind enough to grant me an interview and let me pick his brain for the better part of an hour.
To support Algrano, follow them on twitter and keep an eye out for some sort of surprise from them in the coming weeks. Listen to this week’s episode to get some context.
Have a great week!
The Coffee Guy
The post S1 Episode 8: Social Networks and Coffee ft. Gilles Brunner from Algrano appeared first on Boise Coffee.
Sep 30 2015