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Growing and brewing good coffee – it’s not the same

During the year my husband (who is equally infected with the coffee virus) and I travel quite a bit to different countries, and what strikes us the most is that in some of the countries where they grow the coffee the coffee served in restaurants and hotels is often really bad.

Last week my husband was in Brazil and several people he met were proud to tell him that the best coffee in the world is Brazilian coffee. “Well”, as my husband responded, “that may be, but why is it wasted by over-roasting it?” And as he explained to me, in the hotel and in restaurants he consistently got coffee that had lost its typical coffee taste due to over roasting, therefore reducing it to dark and bitter water. Or at least, that was the case in Rio de Janeiro.

However, the most shocking experience we once had was in Mexico were we visited a distributor of green coffee to see if we could convince them to export some of it. They were not unwilling and invited us to come and taste some coffee in their office. So we went, and we got served an extremely watery coffee (the colour of green tea!) in a disposable foam cup. We told them that in order to be able to taste the coffee we would at least need to have something resembling coffee and asked them to make it as strong as they could. They claimed they way they made is is how Mexicans like it but they made it stronger and so we ended up having something more or less the strength we drink at home, but still in a foam cup.  Now two remarks here: first of all, though Mexicans are generally not into strong coffee, they for sure don’t drink it thát watery. Secondly, the cup! If one receives potential buyers of your coffee it should be served in either a ceramic or glass cup. I can live with a plastic cup or even a cardboard disposable one, but not thick foam! That kind of cup kills any mouth-feeling and therefore any joy in drinking coffee.  Fortunately, later that trip to Mexico we got a lot better coffees…

Fortunately we also see positive developments. A while ago we received a message from an association of coffee growers in Ecuador who had learned that we import their coffee. They explained that over the many years they had lost the knowledge of roasting their own coffee and wanted to know from us how we do it. So we explained…. That’s something that we support: people that not only know how to grow coffee, but also know how to roast it and preferably can also prepare it…

Now you may wonder in what countries we like the coffee that we get served. Well, I first have to mention that we’re mostly espresso drinkers and not so much filter coffee drinkers. But with that we like the espresso in most mainland Europe countries with Spain and Italy being our favourites.  Outside Europe, well, of course Argentina. We were also not disappointed with the espressos we got in Peru.  Maybe we’re just picky, we shouldn’t rule out that possibility either.  But don’t get me wrong, almost any country where one enters an espresso bar one can get a descent to very good espresso. I’m now just talking on what one gets in a normal restaurant or hotel…

Fortunately there are still lots of both coffee growing and non-coffee growing countries where I haven’t been yet. So there is still plenty of possibility that I have to change my mind that the best espresso is generally made in countries where they don’t grow coffee. Who knows?


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