I live in the tropics: humid, green, mosquitoed coffee-growing tropics.
Coffee-drinking tropics too.
I live in El Salvador. Even though we are well known for our coffee, most of us don’t really know what’s so special about it. Truth is, the average Salvadorian ignores its growing, toasting and extraction process. We only know about coffee machines and instant coffee recipes.We are coffee people — yet the best of its taste remains unknown to our taste buds.
Specialty coffee is a term most of us don’t handle. Even though tradition in El Salvador takes us back to a well brewed “café de olla”, we have now transitioned towards a more “modern” coffee experience involving lots of caramel, milk, chocolate, and sometimes even spices!
What’s the fuss with specialty coffee anyways?
It first strikes you as an overpriced product sold abroad. It then strikes you as a superfluous ritualistic drink — all that heating, measuring, grinding and pouring for a little bit of coffee? Really?
One could never imagine how much content a well-brewed coffee cup could hold. It’s pretty eye opening, and here’s how I like to see it:
Every coffee bag has its own story.
It makes each cup one of a kind.
The taste, like wine, speaks of the many variables influencing the growing process. You can taste rainy seasons, mild weather, hints of fruit, honey or nuts. They all come from the story of the coffee: the region where it grew, the hands that picked the fruit and opened them until they dried.The export and import, the toasting, and the selling.
Each time I’m about to open a coffee bag I like to hold it and think of the many variables that prepared my next brewing experience. For a salvadorian, thinking about the story is amazing.
We grew up thinking drinking coffee should be fast. It should be fast, cheap and not amazing at its taste.
It’s ok if you like to consume coffee in a rush. Nonetheless, consuming specialty coffee is all but rushed.
Brewing specialty coffee is part of a bigger process composed of steps, and that process as a whole takes time. Yes, brewing specialty coffee takes time, and it’s a good thing. It makes brewing coffee a special ritual. Making each step as important as the ritual itself.
So if you have 15 minutes to spare, go ahead and brew your next coffee: it’s what makes it special.
That’s the part where it all sums up.
Taste speaks of the brewing itself. It speaks of the method, grinding style and water to coffee ratio. It speaks of the pouring detail and patience.
We may think brewing specialty coffee is a finicky ritual. For some it may be. Nevertheless, it’s also finicky because every time you’re about to brew your next cup, you’ve been presented with a challenge of how good of a cup you’ll brew. How the taste will make you wonder and say: “wow, is that coffee!? Really?”
When you’re done you have to clean up — and while you’re at it, something makes you want to go ahead and start brewing another cup again. I realized part of my specialty coffee devotion relied on its quality of taste, and the other part on the experience as a whole.
It’s a much bigger journey than only grinding and extracting coffee, and you get to be part of it. It’s the excitement buying the bag, the calm while opening and grinding, the steadiness while pouring, the serving and sharing with your friends. It’s the experience that woes you into the drink.
Falling in love with my coffee morning ritual or the education of the coffee growing process has convinced me that more people should learn of the drink. I’m now working on a project called De La Región — feel free to visit and to learn what we’re up to!