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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Coffee Trail

Paul Murray - 2008-07-30

Lourensford Estate, Somerset West – Home to the Coffee Roastery

It’s in the beans! That’s the "Bible" when it comes to coffee. They (the beans) give it the crema, and the vuma. Coffee is the new energy, tea rooms are passé. Espresso is coffee made under pressure — from the mean machine. Question is: Can you take it? Blends of different types give the mighty taste, keep you awake and make you crave. It’s a brave new world! At Lourensford in Somerset West a new coffee roastery ensures the freshest in coffee, writes Lucien Verezze: “… fifteen of the highest grade speciality Arabica coffees imported from the world's foremost tropical highland coffee plantations. All handpicked fault-free grade 1 speciality grade.”

Coffee roasting at Lourensford

A special trip out to the beautiful farm at Lourensford was well worth the visit, especially for the aroma of the coffee in the roastery, even if only to excite the olfactory nerves! But there’s a lot more to it, based on the recent research attention, although it's still in its infancy. Coffee has its own special dose of antioxidant properties, very much a buzzword in health circles today. Given the increasing interest in the beneficial role of food antioxidants in health, it seems likely that their role in coffee will become of increasingly more interest. Talking of which, they say coffee aroma is perceived by two different mechanisms. It can either be sensed through the nose by smelling, or retro-nasally, which means once the coffee has gone into the closed mouth, or even once it’s swallowed, the aromatic volatile compounds drift upward into the nasal passage.

Coffee beans roasted

What’s in a bean? Caffeine! 20 mg in each bean and in a full cup of coffee six times that, making it 120 mg, enough to keep you awake for a few hours. It’s what students live on – and owls! Researchers say that caffeine in coffee increases the speed of rapid information processing by 10 percent, so beat the "post-lunch dip" by having that cup of coffee!

210 mg caffeine in a cup of coffee

"Coffee chemistry" is saying "coffee aroma" another way … it’s what tells the coffee drinker about the smell, apart from the mouth feel – sweet, salt, bitter and sour tastes which it is the tongue’s job to pick up. Some coffee experts therefore say that coffee aroma is the number one attribute when it comes to coffee! It sure gets those smell buds going, but in my books the taste’s the number one thing. Others prefer the crema!

What’s yours?

Coffee tastes much better, says Lucien Verezze (021 847 0536), if the beans are ground a few minutes before brewing in the plunger, and he has kindly shared a few hints for the aspirant bob vivant-coffee drinker:

  • Use hand-picked high-altitude-grown Arabica coffee.
  • Use coffee that was recently roasted.
  • Use 50 g to 55 g of coffee per litre of water.
  • Grind the required amount of coffee in a grinder just before brewing.
  • Use water that tastes good.
  • Heat the water to 92 degrees Celius or less.
  • Warm up the equipment and cups before brewing the coffee.
    Drink the coffee immediately after brewing.

Voila! You are assured of drinking the best in the best way!

Roasted coffee in sugar bags

Coffee roasting on Lourensford

Why handpicked beans? The beans must be ripe, like all fruit. The coffee is cherry bright but the beans ripen at different stages on the same branch, so handpicking is vital for the best in coffee. The harvest spans a few months, unlike grapes or wheat.

So, you can use machines to make coffee but not to pick the beans!

When you go out to Lourensford for the experience of drinking the best in coffee, don’t forget to take along your copy of Bruce N Waller’s Coffee and philosophy: A conversational introduction to philosophy with readings ”. It’s the finishing touch!

The beauty of coffee is that it’s found the world over. Sergiy Reminny, SCAE National Coordinator in the Ukraine, has a fascinating story. For his 40th birthday he decided to go to Tibet for a quiet and relaxed holiday trip. To get there he had to pass through China or Nepal and so took the decision to go via Kathmandu, Nepal. Two days before leaving he was surprised to find that the internet mentioned coffee in Nepal, which he found incredible (he thought it was too high up). He was therefore suitably surprised to find the coffee brand name:

Mount Everest Supreme
Fine Himalayan Highland Arabica Coffee

Produce of the Kingdom of Nepal.

So, coffee is universal – you find it up in the highest mountains, like Sergiy Reminny did.

Sergiy Reminny and his new coffee friend Ujjal in the Himalayas, an unusually high up place for coffee.

If you’re not high on coffee you can get high on coffee!

And you don’t have to go all the way to the Himalayas for the best in coffee – not with the Lourensford Roastery down the road, or the many coffee shops in and around the city.

Lucien Verrezen, owner of the Roastery, on Lourensford.

Some say crema is important, others say people go to coffee shops to be seen and actually don’t like coffee – it’s an image thing. Most agree freshly ground is nice.

Enjoy your coffee freshly ground listening to Freshlyground, a South African African fusion band that was formed in Cape Town in 2002. The band members are from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.“Freshlyground incorporates elements of traditional South African music (such as kwela and African folk), blues and jazz, as well as features of indie rock. The lead singer is Zolani Mahola whose distinctive voice contributes much to the band's unique sound.”

Cover of Nomvula, Freshlyground's second album

Alex Gottsalk said, “Remember, even if you don't love coffee, coffee loves you.”

If you’re in the Cape Town area, here are some coffee places to choose from:

Fountain Shopping Centre
Cnr Belmont & Main Roads

Aladdin Coffee Shop
Nedbank Building
Adderley Street
Tel 021 439 4428.

Alexandra’s Coffee Shop
Shop 20, The Link
Main Road

Afro Café
Church Street
(There is fresh Ethiopian coffee for the caffeine junky.)

Balducci's & Donattella’s
V&A Waterfront
(Both very stylish.)

Dulcé Continental Café
Shop 74, Canal Walk
Tel 021 555 3490
Website: www.dulce.co.za

Somerset Street , Green Point
(Giovanni's espresso bar would not be out of place in Milan or Rome, it feels that authentically Italian.)

Long Street
(Lola's is the grande dame of Long Street; still seductively sexy in that lived-in kind of way. With the linoleum countertop, and mismatched chairs that spill out onto the already crowded sidewalks of Long Street.)

Tel 021 424 5540
Fax 021 424 9053
(They are serving nice artisan coffee – to die for!)

Mugg & Bean
M4 Shop, 221 Canal Walk
Tel 021 551 4889
Fax 021 551 4889
Email: century@themugg.com
Website: www.themugg.com

Dean Street
Shop 10
Dean Street Arcade
Tel 021 686 5932
Fax 021 689 5492

Olympia Café and Deli
Kalk Bay Main Road
(This unassuming, slightly bohemian café on Main Road in Kalk Bay has a place in many a Capetonian's heart.)

De Waterkant
(Artisan roasting transforms the beans into an exquisite cup of coffee.” See which of the aroma descriptions you like — “on the nose: buttery, popcorn, boiled sweets, cooked butternut.” Once in the cup the following words come to mind – “caramelized plum, spun sugar, nuts, raisin, rich chocolate and canola pastry.)

Seattle Coffee
Canal Walk / Tyger Valley / Constantia
(Have been a regular here for quite some time now, and consistently get fantastic coffee. Cappucino you get plenty of thick foam, which is what I really like, and the coffee is consistently excellent. Espresso they serve in a proper cup, and they do know how to make an espresso with good crema.)

Vida e Caffé
All over Cape Town, the original in Kloof Street.
(Started only a few years ago, these slick and booming coffee outlets have opened all over the country, supported by the upwardly mobile trendy types and laptop-tapping creatives.)

Then there is the debate about laptops in coffee shops – some say definitely and they do a lot of work, others say people do it for the image.

Vida e Caffé gives you a kick, before you've even sipped your creamy meia de leite or foamy cappuccino. The sexy, chapéu-wearing team of male barristas have enough upbeat energy to shift the most melancholy Monday blues, yelling orders to each other to get you your coffee in record time.)

Careful not to interrupt your neighbour – s/he might just be engrossed in conversation with a visiting celebrity!

Meanwhile, order a coffee; they grind the beans every thirty minutes. It’s in the crema!

Alfonso Allais said, “ Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.”