Once upon a time in America there was drip or instant, milk or sugar. Folger's was the name of the game.
Then, from Australian Skybury to Kenyan Peaberry, from Kona to Barcelona, the world exploded with
options. Today there's enough variety in choices of blend, country and style to boggle the greatest coffee
Of course there is Brazil, the world's largest producer for more than a century. Not surprising considering a
third of its landmass is suitable for coffee tree growing. This South American powerhouse produces
wonderful aromatic blends from Bahia and Minas Gerais.
Colombia, perhaps even better known - even though second in volume - makes a light, sweet delight that
comes in 'supremo' or 'excelso'. The coffees made from Popayan or Narino are surpassed nowhere.
But beyond these two giants of coffee bean production there lies a world of different blends that add their
own distinctive colors to the spectrum of choices.
Mexico refuses to bow down to its better known South or Central American cousins. The small beans grown
there produce a delicate body and light acidity, giving the coffee a mellow flavor. And Cuba, with its
extremely strong cafe cubano - drunk like a shot of tequila - joins its Spanish relatives for a jolt.
Indonesia is well-known for its finely aged coffees, where the warm, damp climate slowly produces a drink
with deep body and less acidity. As the fourth largest producer it isn't likely to run out soon.
Malaysia won't be cowed by its more famous neighbor, though. The venerable practice of brewing in a muslin
bag, used to filter grounds, produces a strong cup. Even the lesser grade Liberica should be experienced at
Even tiny Thailand weighs in with a chicory-tinged blend served with ice and condensed milk, for those who
enjoy their coffee cold.
The Kona from Mauna Loa is sweet, medium-bodied and aromatic, while the Java from Sumatra is
full-flavored and rich. Even the Beanya from Kenya, grown at 17,000 feet is smooth and deep, with a slight
aftertaste that defies description.
But the practice of roasting and crushing beans then filtering through hot water, born in the 15th century, has
produced many more delights for the coffee addict.
Naturally, the Europeans won't take second place to anyone. France still favors its cafe au lait - half-coffee,
half-milk. And Austria still values the two-thirds dark, one-third regular that has been a traditional Viennese
blend for centuries.
Thanks to Luigi Bezzera in 1901 and later M. Cremonesi in 1938, there are Italian espressos to die for. And
since they contain less caffeine than others, you can have two and not feel guilty. For those for whom that's
still too strong, there are the weaker latte and cappuccino (named for the hood on a monk's habit).
But for my money, the good old American black is the coffee, the whole coffee, and nothing but the coffee.
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