Coffee at Home-- an article on growing and making coffee in Nicaragua from the 1894 Los Angeles Times

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The Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1894, p.16:

COFFEE AT HOME.
The Berry and the Beverage on Native Plantations.

Beautiful as a Peach Orchard in Bloom--
The Only Good Boiled Coffee--
Parisian Coffee Essence--
A Sure Test for Adulterated Coffee.

    HACIENDA DE LA ESPERANZA (Nicaragua,) Feb. 25, 1894.--(Special Correspondence.) The coffee plantations in the department of Matagalpa, on the table lands of Central Nicaragua, are year by year nearing perfection, and give great promise of profit. Any one visiting the haciendas of the American colony will admit that a well-kept coffee plantation in full flower is as beautiful a sight as a peach orchard in blossom.

    The coffee trees naturally grow twenty or thirty feet high, but are generally kept trimmed down to twelve feet, so that the crop may be conveniently gathered. The leaves are oblong in shape, dark and glossy, and form a beautiful background for the dainty white blossoms. The coffee first resembles the cranberry, but when fully ripe it is somewhat darker colored. It is, at the time of picking, juicy and pleasantly acid.
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    The first step toward preparing coffee for market is to remove the pulp of the fruit, generally done by machinery, although it can be done simply by soaking the berries in water for several hours and washing them until the seeds, the coffee beans, are free.

    Each berry contains two seeds, each inclosed in a light, papery shell. Underneath this is another shell; gossamer and tissue like. This second shell has to be removed with great care, for if the slightest bit remains the coffee will have a bitter, unpleasant flavor.

    The sorting and grading are done by machinery able to separate the berries accurately into classes uniform in size and perfection. After a little experience it is easy to determine in what locality coffee is grown simply by the appearance of the bean. Coffee from Java is of medium size, rather light in color. The Mocha is decidedly smaller and of dark, bluish green. Rio has a distinctive size and shape. The coffee grown in Central America is of higher grade than the Brazilian, and, indeed, it has been pronounced by New York importers to be equal to the best in the world. It is somewhat smaller than the Java, but larger than the Mocha bean, which it is like in color.

    Native Nicaraguans do not make the most of the possibilities within reach, for there is "coffee, coffee everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" because of the bad way in which it is prepared. It is generally roasted until it is fairly black. At that stage it has parted with all life and flavor. It is then ground into flour and put on the stove to boil and stew indefinitely.
    In this, however, the Nicaraguans differ little from the natives in other coffee-growing countries. The Turks and Arabians think a thick, muddy paste is the best form of coffee. Whenever they have an opportunity to try the clear, amber nectar which Europeans and Americans delight in they invariably declare for their bitter paste.

    There is a point in regard to coffee which should be known and acted upon. It is easily injured in flavor by its tendency to absorb surrounding odors. It is as susceptible as either butter or milk. Though this effect may be partially counteracted by the process of roasting, yet enough of any unpleasant odor remains to destroy the natural flavor of the volatile oil or caffeine.

    For this reason coffee when roasted should never be put in a wooden box or chest. A tin canister is better, but best of all is an air-tight glass or earthen jar.
    Nor should freshly-roasted coffee be left exposed to the air while cooling, for the caffeic acid, which affords the greater portion of the flavor and peculiar properties of coffee, is set free by the heat, and if the coffee is placed at once in a closed jar much of the aromatic vapor will be reabsorbed.

    Most discussions on the best way of making coffee are between the advocates of decoction and infusion.
    The truth is that it depends entirely upon roasting and grinding whether coffee should be boiled or not.
    When it is roasted until it is a very dark color and is then ground into a fine powder, it should never be allowed to boil, even though one takes the precaution of putting it in a muslin bag.
    If, on the other hand, the roasting and grinding are not carried to the extreme point boiling becomes really necessary.
    The "drip" coffee-pots, although in great favor, have never been able to entirely displace the old-fashioned kind, which, however, all should understand, were never intended for finely-pulverized coffee which is now in large demand.

    For the coffee-pot of our fathers allow for each person a heaping tablespoon of coffee roasted until it is a rich chestnut-brown--not black--and ground only moderately fine. Add another spoonful for good measure.
    Put this amount in a bowl and break into it an egg, adding enough cold water to thoroughly moisten the grounds, and then beat with a fork until the mixture become creamy.
    When this is in the coffee-pot add a cup of boiling water to each spoonful of coffee, and let it boil from three to eight minutes. The time allowed for boiling must still depend entirely upon the fineness of the coffee--the coarser it is the longer the time needed to bring out the full strength. This is rich, satisfactory coffee.

    In Paris one frequently sees coffee which resembles the ordinary cafe noir, but is prepared in an entirely different way, and is in reality the essence of coffee.
    One teaspoonful is all that is needed to pour into the cup, which is then filled with boiling milk. It is perfectly delicious and seems to have a distinctive flavor, entirely different from coffee prepared in any other manner.
    If one would try the experiment, and is unable to obtain one of the coffee-pots used in the Parisian distilling, take an ordinary with-mouthed bottle, fill it two-thirds full of coffee, which has been coarsely ground, and add as much cold water as the bottle will hold. Let it stand for three days, shaking it frequently thoroughly. Then strain and it is ready for the table. It can be served with the hot milk, as I have described, or it can be heated. In this care must be taken that it does not boil. This form of concentrated coffee is commended to travelers, as it is easily transported.

    In these days of adulteration the purity of coffee can easily be settled.
    Put a spoonful of good coffee in a glass of cold water. If there are any foreign substances the water will become discolored almost immediately. If the coffee is pure it will require considerable time to tinge the water.
CATHERINE CHARLTON.
 
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Classic Coffee Articles:
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Coffee Growing in Guatemala 1888
Coffee in Nicaragua 1894
Coffee Culture in Mexico 1898
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Coffee Planting in Brazil 1899
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Tea Growing in Ceylon 1888
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