My grand ma and her coffee beans

Coffee, one of the most consumed beverages on the face of this world, is derived from the coffee cherries; also called coffee berries. I remember, there was a huge coffee tree in front on my granny’s house where my friends and I used to play. When one of us is out of the game, we would climb the coffee plant and pluck the red fruits that were always in clusters and always invaded by the black ant colony. We pull off the red skin using our nails and put a handful of the seeds into our mouth and suck it’s sweet flavor. The ripe fruits are slimy inside and the coffee bean is green.


Green and red coffee beans

   A cluster of bushes with drooping leaves and long chains of flowers sits in a clearing, surrounded by forest.    

Illustration of a single branch of a plant. Broad, ribbed leaves are accented by small white flowers at the base of the stalk. On the edge of the drawing are cutaway diagrams of parts of the plant.

My neighbor (my friend’s granny) was known for making the best coffee powder. The lovely red cherries were carefully chosen. The berries were plucked and dried on a straw mat under the hot tropical sun. This process will blacken the skin. Then after a few weeks the blackened coffee berries were slightly pounded. This will crack the hardened skin and separate the coffee beans. The dry coffee bean is slightly brown in color. The dry skin will be normally blown away by the wind.

Whatever kept to dry under the sun; mango for the pickle, biling fruit for salting or coffee beans to roast, is always kept in double quantity. Reason being the place where I live is a small village where everyone knows everyone. Every house is connected by a small gate in the back yard. So every time of the day, your neighbors rabbits are hopping in your garden, our hens are digging our neighbors soil, my aunts cows are resting on our grass, ducks quaking everywhere and the most important of all, the annihilating gang of children with voices loud as ambulance sirens and hands well stealthy as a thieves are all over the village. The children can be compared to a swarm of locusts eating everything in its way. After a month of drying mangoes or biling only half the initial amount is left. That’s the wisdom behind double quantity. Remember that a child or too from every house is a member of this gang and they even help the others steal these pickles from their own house. Of course the children get shouted at and scolded, but the ever growing gang of little brats survives and the drying products are all 16 photo


Back to the topic…so the red cherries are dried for over a month, the granny of the house does the job of laying the mat and spreading the beans in the morning and collecting them back in the evening. The resulting light brown beans after a month are ready to get a roasting. A big fire is built in the backyard, bricks are gathered around it in the shape of a stove, firewood collected from the jungle in the village is laid in-between the bricks, a huge wok with a long ladle is placed on the brick stove in the backyard and a low stool is placed beside it. This is where my granny, the roasting chef sits. Then a small fire is built and my granny blows through her pipe into the fire coaxing it to grow and engulf all of the firewood. If one child sees this taking place ah……..the siren goes out and in a couple of seconds there are children swarming in you backyard, waiting impatiently for their ceremony to begin.


                                           Raw and roasted coffee beans


The dried coffee beans are put in the wok and the secret ingredients follow it. Spices and aromatic condiments are added and the chef goes to work. The beans are turned and turned and turned; stirred continuously till it is black in color and the aroma wakes up your sleeping neighbor, now standing near the gate in-between both houses and asking that he be given some fresh coffee powder.

The roasting takes some time, how long I cannot say. Well….it takes so long that the children start getting bored and are moving out of your back yard. By the time the coffee beans are black the notorious gang has disappeared. The beans are roasted to the correct consistency as roasting too little dims the flavor and over roasting gives your coffee a burnt flavor. The beans are roasted to get maximum flavor and now it’s stored till the next day as the grinding process is too long to take place in a day’s time.

The next day an ayya is hired. Strong men from the hill country come looking for household work like cleaning the roof which is packed with your mango trees leaves, washing the house after pulling out ALL the furniture’s, pulling out the weeds from your big garden and double that sized backyard, washing all your curtains by hand (remember that houses are huge here) and so on. These men are referred to as ayya (Brother in Tamil).

The next day the roasted beans are put into a huge mortar batches at a time and the ayya goes to work, pounding the coffee beans and sieving them, pounding again and sieving again until all the coffee beans have turned into aromatic powder that cannot result from switching on your blender. Of course a handful of coffee bean chips that are too coarse to be pounded again is thrown.

Now the coffee powder is ready. Usually up to 5 kilos are made, about half a kilo is kept in the kitchen top bottle, about a kilo is distributed; the sleepy neighbor included and the rest are packed to be stored in the cupboard. This much of coffee powder doesn’t last a life time not even 2 months. Considering the families are big and there are always visitors in the evening.

Now this aromatic powder goes into a steaming pot of water. The family sits in the hall sipping their wondrous coffee!

I felt like I am in an English class writing the biography on a coffee bean. At least if you are a teacher (mothers too are teachers!) you can get your class to do this roasting and grinding. It will be a good lesson for English biography essays, home economics and also science.

Here is an awesome recipe to make coffee powder. This recipe belongs to my friend’s mother and I love coffee made according to this recipe. What make me crave for it is the cocoa seeds added in the coffee. It’s delicious.

I am accustomed to telling “TRY THIS OUT” in my recipe articles. I am not sure if you are able to try this out the same way (roasting in the open with firewood fuel etc.) but if you do you will not be disappointed. Besides you can always use your stove or the blender as substitutes.



DID YOU KNOW.........

  • Coffee was found in Ethiopia by a shepherd named Kaldi.
  • Coffee tasting is known as coffee cupping.
  • Have you heard of white coffee? That’s when we use milk or cream in our coffee. Also known when the coffee beans are lightly roasted giving the coffee a mild flavor and a lighter color.
  • A cup of coffee contains 125 mg of caffeine.
  • The alertness from coffee lasts for about 2-4 hours.
  • The Ethiopian church had banned coffee as it was connected to other religious ceremonies.
  • Coffee was cultivated in Arabia first.
  • Coffee is certain languages are qaha, qahwa meaning ‘no appetite’ as coffee reduces the craving for food.
  • Brazil cultivates the most coffee.
  • 140 liters of water is needed to produce coffee beans to make a single cup of coffee.
  • Coffee trees lifespan is around 60 years.
  • The best for the last: Plain coffee has 0 calories.



 Read part 2 for the making of coffee and ingredients