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Full of Beans

india Updated: Aug 17, 2008 20:57 IST
Highlight Story

It’s the era of ‘coffee drinking’ and hip-hop young people who love lounging in the special little bistros enjoying the brownies, cookies and sandwiches with colourful conversation over freshly brewed coffee…and why not, as coffee lends its popularity to the fact that just about all flavours mix well with it.

Coffee is not just a western culture for those who just cannot wake up in the morning. Fact is that coffee drinking is an old tradition that has been around in Kannad and Tamil cultures since centuries with the kaapi or filter coffee being served in a stainless steel tumbler with a katori with lipped walls.

Sip sip sip
Espresso: extremely strong and a rather bitter Italian coffee resulting from brewing finely ground, dark roasted coffee with steam.
Cappucino: espresso topped with steamed milk foam, sometimes garnished with a dusting of sweetened cocoa powder or cinnamon.
Café au lait: coffee with an equal amount of scalded milk.
Cold coffee: chilled milk highly flavoured with coffee and sugar.

Around the world
The world can now be divided into nations of coffee drinkers and nations of tea drinkers. Coffee comes from the Arabs. In fact the Europeans in fact knew it as Arabian Wine. In the last 300 years, nearly 90 per cent of all people living in the western world have switched from tea to coffee.

Espresso came more than a hundred years later. Italians drink their espresso with sugar, Germans and Swiss with equal parts of hot chocolate, Mexicans with cinnamon, Belgians with chocolate. Moroccans drink their coffee with peppercorns and Ethiopians with a pinch of salt. Coffee drinkers in the Middle East usually add cardamom and spices. Whipped cream is a favourite amongst Austrians. The Egyptians are extremely fond of pure and strong coffee.

Drink up
Coffee trees produce highly aromatic, short-lived flowers producing a scent between jasmine and orange. These blossoms produce small coffee cherries. It takes four to five years to yield a commercial harvest. Coffee beans are similar to grapes that produce wine in that they are affected by the temperature, soil conditions, altitude, rainfall, drainage and degree of ripeness when picked.

There are two main species of the bean
:
Arabica: It is full bodied and aromatic.
Robusta: Somewhat acidic and suited to dark roasts.
Roasted coffee beans start to lose small amounts of flavour within two weeks. Ground coffee begins to lose its flavour in one hour. Brewed coffee and espresso lose their flavour within minutes. So drink up!

Caffeine content
Coffee clears the cobwebs and gives you courage to go through another day. But remember that a cup of coffee contains roughly 70-80 mg of caffeine. And caffeine as we know it, is the compound...credited with contributing the stimulating effect of the beverage and also giving a touch of bitterness. If it is of interest to you a cup of tea can give anything from nine to 20 mg of caffeine, cocoa 10 mg and cola drinks 12-18 mg. Large amounts of caffeine can be harmful for one’s health.

Four secrets of good coffee:
* Fresh coffee of the grind appropriate for the pot being used.
* Water with a pleasing flavour that is not hard.
* A clean coffee maker
* Controlled heat (optimum temperature range for brewing coffee is 85-95°C).
* Brew it directly after you grind it. Drink it directly after you brew it. Drink it straight. Sugar or milk or cream is personal choice though a coffee connoisseur will tell you that you are ruining the flavour of the coffee.

(The writer is a master chef, author and television host. Mail him on inquiry@sanjeevkapoor.com )