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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roasty toasty in Puerto Rico

I am enjoying a week of teaching class in pleasantly warm Puerto Rico (consider what it’s like in Minnesota this time of year!) and their servings of thick coffee with real cream and sugar. Normally I drink it black, but here I’ve been asking for el café con leche y con azúcar. One of my students, Jorge Nieves, gave me the heads up on some good PR coffee brands. He should know from growing up on a coffee plantation. Here are Jorge’s recommendations: Garrido Expresso, Alto Grande and Yauco select. The Yauco website says that the “University of Puerto Rico scientists studying the proximity of our farms to the Caribbean Sea theorize that micro nutrients are brought from the sea to the farm by the Alisian winds.” I cannot find anything on “Alisian” winds, but they feel good wafting in on my beachfront balcony!

Jorge explains that one must pay more for Puerto Rican coffee due to the relatively high cost to harvest the beans. The cherries (like the ones I pictured at a botanical garden outside Tampa) must be hand picked. November is the peak of production in Puerto Rico.

It seems to me that for this luxury of life the premium cost may actually add to its luster. However, Puerto Rican tourism officials may be overdosing on caffeine to think that their recent initiative for promoting coffee tourism will lure visitors inland from the lovely Caribbean beaches. On the other hand, how about a "surf and turf" vacation? That sounds good. After soaking up enough sun on the sand, then head for the hills and hit the haciendas. Now you're talking! (I really should call it quits for the day on drinking coffee.)

PS. Here are some interesting stats on coffee that I read in my airline magazine* while en route to San Juan from Minneapolis:
-- Coffee is known as “Joe” due to the US Secretary of Navy who in 1914 banned wine from officer’s mess – leaving only this hot, stimulating drink as an option.
-- It’s estimated that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are drunk worldwide every day. However, because the volume of a “cup” varies, no one can say how much coffee this really is!
-- The name Coffee is derived from “Kaffa” – a region in Ethiopia where in AD 800 a goatherd noticed his flock frolicking more than usual after eating certain berries. Fill in your joke here.
-- From Ethiopia “Kaffa” became the drink of choice for Arabians and then Europeans. A Dutchman established a plantation in Java in 1696 – hence that became a nickname for this stimulating drink.
-- Brazil is the leading country for coffee production -- 36 million 60 kg bags per year.
-- The manufacturer of Barcalounger claims they introduced coffee to the American workplace about a century ago in Buffalo. Didn’t they also invent spicy chicken wings?
-- Coffee seems destined to continually rise in popularity for the USA as evidenced by an increase in consumption by 18 to 24 year olds from 2.5 cups in 2005 to 3.1 in 2007 and 3.2 for 2008. ** (Americans measure a cup as 8 ounces – that’s nothing!)
-- The average American consumes 300 milligrams of caffeine per day.
-- Does drinking coffee help you stay awake behind the wheel? A French study measured the number of times coffee-drinking drivers crossed the center line. Those who took it decaffeinated crossed the line 159 times versus only 29 by the ones who kept the jolt in their Joe. Viva la difference!

*Source: “The Power of Joe” by Nancy Oakley, Delta’s Sky magazine, November 2008 .

** To counteract this assertion, I offer this anecdotal evidence: In the population of my 5 offspring and 2 in-laws – all younger than 30 years old – only one drinks coffee. The others go for caffeinated soft drinks (300 mg at least every day, I am sure!).


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