Breath in the steam, and HONEY, you got yourself one HELL of a ....
I'm a daily reader over at havecoffeewillwrite, and in light of one of his recent postings, I realize as much as anyone that there's a fine art to making a good espresso. Plus, we all know, good coffee never, ever comes out of a machine.
This weekend, The Poet and Crazy Hair invited me over to their house to take part in one of their family traditions. Though black tea is the main drink of this country Somewhere in Asia, coffee is grown in the northern highlands. Crazy Hair makes of a point of going to the market to buy the hand-picked coffee beans that come dry and unroasted in large burlap bags at about seventy cents a pound. As long as they're kept in a cool, dark place, they last for a good, long while.
Every fortnight, Crazy Hair turns on his outdoor gas stove, and heats up the skillet. When it has reached the right temperature, he spreads on a layer of coffee beans. For 12 to 16 minutes, he turns the beans until they are brown and black. If he were inclined to make espresso beans, he would roast them with butter, which makes the beans shiny, but they are also more likely to get rancid in this hot and humid weather.
I stood out there on the patio, chatting with Crazy Hair and slowly but surely, I started talking a mile a minute. As time went on, I found myself becoming more and more animated. My heart was beating, and I had the general, overall feeling of good will that comes after one has had a really strong cup of coffee. But I hadn't had a cup. Was it the psychological, Pavlov's dogs conditioned reflex: I smell coffee and therefore I get a caffeine kick? Crazy Hair promptly informed me, in his professor's voice, that the oils from the coffee bean dissipate into the steam that rises, and therefore, I was breathing in 45 minutes of caffeine! Who knew?
After the beans are roasted and cooled a bit, they're put in a basket and thrown in the air so the chaff (husks) blows away, leaving a rich, dark bean that smells delightful.
The Poet then made us all coffee from the just-roasted beans. As someone who's had coffee made by baristas all over the world, I must say that that was the best cup of coffee I've ever had.