by Karen Foley, courtesy of Fresh
Ah, to prepare an intoxicating cup of coffee (or
tea, of course). Brewing methods are the means to enjoying our beguiling
brewsthe artistic side of Coffea arabica and Camellia
sinensis. Certainly, we're all familiar with the craft of pulling
shots from a gleaming espresso machine or dropping loose tea leaves
into a decorative infuser, but remember: Brewing coffee and tea was
an art in its own right far before the invention of espresso machines
and fancy infusers. Take the Ethiopian coffee ceremonya ritualistic
ode to coffee born long before the idea of brewing coffee even entered
into the consciousness of much of the world.
These rituals, whether as elaborate as a Japanese
tea ceremony or as simple as using a French press, place coffee and
tea in a much broader cultural context and remind us that the drinks
we rely on to hoist us into cognizance every day extend quite a history.
Here are some of the more romantic ways to show your affection for
coffee and tea.
An early-nineteenth-century invention, the dramatic vacuum pot is
more complicated than most brewing methods, but unquestionably more
entertaining. There are many variations on the traditional design,
but it is usually a vertical unit incorporating two bowls and a heating
element. The lower bowl contains the water and has a wide opening
to hold an upper bowl and a filter (often glass, sometimes cloth or
paper).Beneath the lower bowl sits the heating unit.
To use, heat the water in the lower bowl to a boil.Then place your
coffee grounds (a medium-fine grind) in the upper bowl, attach it
to the lower bowl and return everything to medium heat. The water
will rise into the upper bowl, at which point you should stir the
coffee and reduce or turn off the heat. This will create a vacuum
in the lower bowl, which will then draw the coffee through the filter
into the lower bowl to produce brewed coffee. Remove the upper bowl
and serve the coffee from the lower bowl. If used properly, a vacuum
pot can brew a clear, rich coffee.
Plunger, or French Press
This apparatus as we know it today has graced the tables of the French
for years. Some people argue that a French press produces a richer
coffee than any other brewing technique. Whether that's true or not,
it undoubtedly makes great coffee. Part of this is due to the fact
that coffee in a French press is steeped rather than filtered.
Using a French press is fairly simple. First, the grind must be coarse
to keep the coffee grounds from seeping through the wire mesh strainer.
Rinse the carafe with hot water, add your ground coffee and cover
it with boiling water. Allow the coffee to steep for about five minutes
and push the strainer through the water so the grounds rest on the
bottom of the carafe. Serve immedately to prevent overextraction of
the brewed coffee.
apparatus, the chemex brews coffee through filtration. Chemexes are
usually made of glass and essentially look like lab beakers. The original
design sported a wooden band bound with leather string around the
"neck" of the beaker. Some newer models, however, instead feature
glass handles. Using a chemex is fairly basic. Special circular or
square filters are used to hold the coarsely ground coffee at the
base of the neck, and heated water is poured over the grounds. The
beaker can then be placed directly on a stove to keep the coffee warm.
The coffee produced from this method can be quite good, and the filters
prevent under extraction.
as the café filtre, the napoletana or the macchinetta,
the flip-drip pot is perfect for brewing a small amount of coffee.
It basically looks like a pot and a cup sitting on top of one another.
Its shape is cylindrical, and it consists of three compartmentsone
to hold the coffee, one to hold the water and one to serve as a filter.
First, fill the lower chamber with water and bring
it to a boil. Then, turn off the heat and flip the pot upside down,
allowing the water to filter through the coffee grounds. The water
will filter completely through after a few minutes, and once it has,
stir the coffee to evenly distribute the flavor.
Many flip-drips are made of stainless steel, but
unfortunately, some are made of aluminum, which can make the coffee
taste a bit metallic. In addition, the oil from the coffee can sometimes
interact with the metal and become rancid, so you should clean these
Pot, or Stove-Top Espresso Maker
Visit any Italian household and you're bound
to find a moka pot teeming with freshly brewed coffee. Like the flip-drip,
the moka pot contains an upper and lower unit, with a filter in between.
The moka pot, however, features a tube in the upper chamber from which
the brewed coffee flows. The grind for a moka pot should be medium-fine
to allow the water to filter through the coffee well.
Fill the bottom compartment with cold water and
pack the filter with ground coffee, tamping it lightly. Attach the
top chamber and place the pot over medium heat. Before long the pot
will begin to hiss, and you'll start to see coffee trickling out of
the tube, then steadily flowing. Once the coffee starts to spew rather
than flow, remove it from the heat. Then detach the upper chamber
and serve the coffee.
coffee has been an integral part of Turkish culture. Men and women
have used it to ponder life issues and engage each other in intellectual
conversations, giving it the reputation as "the milk of chess players
and thinkers." Today, Turks still adore this enticing elixir, and
the Turkish brewing method is enjoyed by people around the world.
Turkish coffee is a very fine grind, often containing
cardamom, and it is brewed in a decorative pot called an ibrik,
or cezve. To make the coffee, fill the pot two-thirds full
of water. Add as much sugar as you like, and then top that with a
spoonful of coffee. As the coffee heats up, it should start to foam,
but you don't want it to foam over the edge of the pot. The foam (kaymak)
is key in Turkish coffee, and an absence from the top of the coffee
can be an embarrassing faux pas for the person brewing. After letting
it foam up three times, pour the coffee, foam first, into small demitasse
cups. Pour slowly so the grounds settle to the bottom of the pot rather
than slipping into cups.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
is, of course, where it all began. This is where people first fell
in love with coffee and decided that merely brewing it wasn't enough.
Coffee, to the Ethiopians, deserved its own amorous ceremony in which
natives revealed a deep respect for Coffea arabica. The ceremony,
which can last up to two hours, is usually performed by women, and
it's a time for friends and family to gather in daily celebration.
First, flowers and straw are laid out on a rug
or mat on the grounds. A lovely earthenware coffee pot is heated over
hot coals, in addition to the green coffee beans, which are carefully
roasted in a pan. The beans are then crushed with a pestle-like instrument
and placed in the clay pot of boiling water. After the coffee has
steeped it is poured into small cups and the youngest child present
often serves the coffee, first to the eldest person, then to the other
family members and friends. Sometimes incense is burned and food,
such as bread, is served as well.
The covered teacup known as a Guywan, was
developed by the Chinese for brewing green teas, and it exemplifies
simple, utilitarian design. It consists of a small cup with a lid
and saucer. To use it, place some tea leaves in the cup and cover
them with hot water, pouring around the leaves rather than directly
over them. Then replace the lid and allow the tea to steep. Use the
lid to stir the leaves and hold them back while you sip the tea. Always
keep the saucer with the cup, using one hand to manage the lid and
cup and the other to hold the saucer. When you have finished drinking
the tea, add more water to the cup for another infusion or keep the
leaves moist to allow for later infusions.
intended for brewing oolongs, the centuries-old gong-fu ritual (meaning
"to do things well") now extends itself to other tea varieties. The
set-up usually consists of a small Yixing pot, a few handleless thimble
cups and saucers, a pitcher, a tray/drainer, and some utensils, such
as bamboo tweezers and a scoop. Everything in gong-fu service is small
and delicate, revealing the elegance of the tea it promotes.
You first want to pour hot water from your pitcher
over the cups and teapot (the water will fall into the holes in the
tray). Then fill the pot about two-thirds full of leaves and rinse
or awaken them with boiled water. Immediately pour out the water and
take in the aroma of the leaves. Refill the pot with water and replace
the lid. Pour more boiling water over the top of the pot and allow
the tea to steep. After the tea has infused to your liking, pour it
into the cups, doing so without lifting the pot upright. Makes sure
each cup contains an equally strong infusion by filling the cups halfway
first, then finishing them off in the opposite direction (usually
left to right, then right to left). Enjoy the delicate essence of
Japanese Tea Ceremony
ago, Buddhist priests developed a ceremony based on their belief that
tea was spiritually linked to the peaceful ideals promoted by Buddhism.
With passing generations, the Japanese tea ceremony, known as chanoyo,
became a more elaborate tribute to tea and established itself as an
important component of Japanese culture. But unlike many other forms
of serving tea that focus mostly on the drink itself, this ritual
is really about the ceremonyeverything that leads up to the
brewed tea. The objective is to purify the senses and cultivate harmony
and unity between the surroundings, the people, the utensils, the
tea, and anything else involved in the ceremony,
A full ceremony is usually preceded by a traditional
Japanese meal, but the ritual is often performed without such a prelude.
It takes place in a small room (about 9' x 9') lined with several
tatami mats. Usually an empty corridor or garden pathway leads
to the room, and as guests enter, they wash their mouths and hands,
remove their shoes, and bow down beneath a low doora sign of
humility and equality. Upon entering, they should admire the arrangement
of the roomand observe the host (or tea master), who will light
a charcoal fire and begin handling the utensils with carefully choreographed
grace and tranquillity.
The host fills a kettle with water and boils it
over the fire. Then, one by one, he scoops some powdered green tea
(matcha) into ceramic tea bowls and whisks it with the boiled water.
The tea becomes thick and frothy, and the host passes the bowls around
for each guest to sip from. Small sweetmeats (usually made of bean
curd) are often passed around as well, and compliments are exchanged.
Then the host smothers the fire, and a second bowl of thinner green
tea is usually made, indicating the conclusion of the ceremony.
tea is as ubiquitous as vodka. Russians drink it throughout the day,
and nearly everyone owns a samovar. While this decorative urn
is actually a Chinese invention, it has become identified with Russian
tea drinking. Samovars are usually made of bronze or copper, and though
many people think they brew tea, they are actually only used to boil
Basically, water is boiled in the samovar and
poured from the urn's spigot into a teapot filled with tea (usually
black, like a Lapsang Souchong). The tea is brewed strong and poured
halfway into cups. In order to balance the strength of the tea, more
water is added to the cup from the samovar. Then, as is customary
in Russian tea, something is added to sweeten the drink whether as
simple as a lemon slice or sugar cube or as fanciful as a spoonful
of jam. Sometimes people even hold the jam or sugar cube in their
mouths as they drink the tea. Whatever the method, tea time to Russians
is no time for timidity.
British Afternoon Tea
tea" is a permanent part of the British lexicon, and even if you've
never actually experienced it, the phrase surely conjures up mental
images of porcelain china and cucumber sandwiches. Afternoon tea usually
occurs at 4 p.m., and in addition to tea, it includes an assortment
of finger foods, such as sandwiches, pastries and scones.
The tradition stems from the early nineteenth
century, when a typical day's dining for English aristocracy consisted
of two meals per daya late breakfast and a late dinner. Unfortunately
one aristocrat, Anna, Duchess of Bedford, had a heartier appetite
than such a diet allowed, and she would often become weak and hungry
by afternoon. To hold her over, she began inviting friends over for
afternoon tea and snacks, and before long, the idea became an accepted
Today the ritual has remained true to its original
intent. Porcelain china and silver is used, and it's a time to sit
and relax with friends. It can last for up to two hours and often
takes place in living rooms, where there are cozy chairs and several
tables on which to place the various trays and dishes. Black tea is
the drink of choice, and traditionally, the loose leaves are placed
directly in a pot of boiled water. The tea steeps continuously, and
after all the cups are filled, more water is added to the pot. An
alternative is to use a tea ball or a pot with an infuser so you can
remove the tea at the proper time.
This is merely a sampling of the many rituals
practiced around the world for brewing coffee and tea. Each of these
techniques, however, reminds us that coffee and tea are much more
worldly than people sometimes think. They reside around the globe
and reinvent themselves in a multitude of ways, and without these
ceremonies, we might not think of coffee and tea as more than something
to keep us warm or quench our thirst. The idea is to combine the practicalities
of the drinks with the beauty of our inventive serving methods. In
doing so, you not only pay tribute to these age-old beverages, but
you enlighten and hopefully enliven the people you're serving.
Foley is the editor of Fresh Cup
She can be reached at email@example.com.
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