When I discovered coffee

I thought I knew coffee…

Julie and I had just finished lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant. We were in Jalapa, Mexico for a little Christmas getaway and wanted to have a non-Mexican meal. After our lunch, we walked to a place where we could catch a taxi back to our hotel. That’s when I spotted a stairway leading up the side of a hill to a restaurant called Cafe Las Animas. We couldn’t see the building (just the sign), but I was still intrigued about this little hilltop eatery. I asked Julie if she would be game for taking a quick look. She was not so keen on trekking up a hill with stomachs full from lunch, and a 6 month old in tow…but eventually she caved. We reached the top of our assent and were surprised to see a rather industrial, concrete building. This was not the type of cafe I was expecting. There were few windows with a nondescript door on the other side of the building. As we entered, I realized my linguistic mistake. Duh! café is Spanish for coffee. The business was not a food cafe; it was a coffee processing plant. We decided to see if we could get a tour, but the place was empty. After looking around a bit, we found a trailer behind the plant that turned out to be the main office for Café Las Animas. The office manger told us that everyone was on break, but that if he could get ahold of someone, we could have a tour.

Eventually, he got ahold of someone who would retrieve us from the office. As we waited, the kind gentleman offered us a cup of coffee. I said “sure”. I wasn’t expecting much more than a Folgers-like brew, since the coffee was served from a common, glass coffee pot that you see in many offices…sitting on a warmer all day. I asked him if they had cream and sugar, which was how I always drank my coffee. He said they didn’t…total bummer, yuck! black coffee. Since he had already poured a mug, I felt obliged to drink at least some of it. The first sip was totally surprising. I tasted coffee flavors I’d never experienced — berry flavors. It wasn’t super bitter and burnt like black coffee I’d had in the past. It was amazing! Eventually, our guide fetched us from the office and gave us a tour of their coffee roasting setup. He also showed us the coffee plants that were growing nearby. They were beautiful, with bright red, orange, yellow, and green fruit. I’d never realized that coffee was a berry. It was all coming together; the revelation of the office coffee now made perfect sense.

Since that day, I’ve continued to discover that coffee is more than a flavoring for cream and sugar. It can be a wonderful medley of sweet, fruity, roasty, slightly bitter, and chocolatey — all at once. I also learned that coffee originated in Ethiopia and that a cup of black, natural processed, fruity, Ethiopian coffee rocks!