In The Lands Of Coffee
|Photo by Tzer Haw|
Flipping it over his shoulder, he yelled to the back of the shop, “Kopi susu DU-A! (two milk coffee)” His round belly raised proudly into the air, almost bursting the threads on his white singlet.
His powerful voice, reverberating within the four walls of the shop, came to a crescendo at the last word.
“You ain’t see nothing yet! Watch how the man there makes our coffee!” I nudged Mary to turn her head to the back area of the shop.
Without a single grimace at the mass of steam rushing onto his face, he dipped the spoon into the pot. Next, he lifted a long cheesecloth sack with a bamboo handle out of a big yellow tin mug.
The end of the sack bulged slightly with coffee grains. He held the sack high in the air and poured hot water from the spoon. The water streamed into the yellow mug without spilling a single drop. Then he rested the sack by the mug and let it soak in the hot water.
The proprietor, with the towel still on his shoulder, gracefully brought the saucers with the cups to our table. He placed them onto the table with a slight bang, spilling more coffee onto the saucers. “Liong mun (Cantonese: 2 ringgit)” He held out his palm.
There were South American, African and Indonesian coffees in a wide range of roasts and special flavors. I was treated with freshly brewed coffee and Ethiopian travel stories all day long.
Like her family, Mary couldn’t stop talking about coffee while drinking it. “Do you know that Ethiopians believe that the world’s coffee originated from Kaffa province, their most prominent coffee growing province? The Yirgacheffe people, a minority sect of Coptic Christians, grow coffee as they have for centuries, in terraced plots worked by the entire family at the extreme altitude of 8,000 feet!
“The word “coffee” is said to come from the word “Kaffa”. There’re many legends about the origin of coffee. The most popular one is about Kaldi, a farmer who noticed that his goats became noisy and naughty after chewing the bright red berries from a tree. He ate some and felt an upsurge of energy. He brought the berries back to his village, boiled them in water and fed them to his lazy sons. They immediately became restless and started to work around the farm. And so coffee spread to the rest of the country and to the world!"
Mary took a sip of the coffee, closed her eyes and let it course down her throat slowly. “This coffee tastes like heaven! Uum!”
“Everyone watched the roasting as they chitchatted. The beans were considered done when the oils were just breaking out from the skin. The hostess then carried the pan around to the group. Everyone must make elaborate gestures to smell the beans and say, “Good, good!”
by Chong Sheau Ching