object: coffee press

After drinking more than my share of every unholy double- triple- espresso, cappucino, yuppichino combination that Dunkin' Donuts and the Starbucks genre have produced, I have discovered that what I really want is just a strong cup of coffee.

Strong coffee and plenty, awakens me. It gives me warmth, an unusual force, a pain that is not without pleasure. I would rather suffer than be senseless."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

IF OPIUM WERE AN UPPER, it would hang out with coffee. Coffee is essentially (although not historically) Arabic, Moroccan, exotic. The Turks served it ceremonially in tiny cups and poured from brass and silver pots. Ethiopeans ate the beans wrapped in animal fat to give their raiding parties strength. Good coffee is a sunbeam and a great book on a Persian rug.

Suave molecules of Mocha stir up your blood, without causing excess heat; the organ of thought receives from it a feeling of sympathy; work becomes easier and you will sit down without distress to your principal repast which will restore your body and afford you a calm, delicious night.
- Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord

Coffee is the fuel of debate, and Voltaire drank a lot of it. So did Bach. Coffee is legal. Coffee used to be a threat: English and German monarchs restricted its consumption (briefly), and it got its own mini-temperance movement in the states.

...many tradesmen and others, do herein misspend much of their time, which might and probably would be employed in and about their Lawful Calling and Affairs; but also for that in such houses...divers, false, malitious, and scandalous reports are devised and spread abroad to the Defamation of His Majesty's Government, and to the disturbance of the Peace and Quiet of the Realm; his Majesty hath though it fit and necessary, that the said Coffee Houses be (for the Future) put down and suppressed..."
King Charles II of England, December 23, 1675
(order revoked January 8, 1676.)

NOW COFFEE PROVIDES the drugging necessary to get through an industrialized day — conveniently disguised as a tasty beverage. (Perhaps the syrofoam cup is the key in this transformation, divorcing the stimulant from its social settting.) Coffee is now the second-largest U.S. import (after oil), and short-sighted methods of growing coffee are responsible for massive deforestation in South and Central America.

Starbucks, symbol of corporate caffeination, can't seem to afford to pay the people who grow and harvest its coffee survival wages. (The price of coffee is lower than ever, but corporate coffee producers pocket more profits instead of passing their savings along to you...a Starbucks latte every work day costs nearly $800 a year while the coffee growers make about $50 a year.)

Luckily, there are antidotes to the ick of American rat-race coffee. Shade-grown, fair-trade coffee doesn't cost much more than other beans, and you'll actually be doing good for the world when you drink it instead of contributing to someone else's suffering. (Hurrah for more reasons to drink more coffee.) [Locate fair-trade coffee near you.]

IF YOU WANT REALLY GOOD COFFEE, use a French press. It's elegant, doesn't require paper filters, and consistently produces brilliant coffee. Use coarsely-ground coffee, 1.5-2 tablespoons per cup of water, nearly boiling water, and let it brew for 4-5 minutes. [Locate a french press online, new or cheap.]

Diesel Cafe in Somerville, Mass. got me hooked on pseudo-Vietnamese coffee — a strong cup of coffee with about a 1.5 teaspoons of condensed milk stirred into it. It's super-sweet and creamy and it's my favorite for evening coffee. It's also excellent iced. More recipes here.


related things

Honore deBalzac wrote about his extreme relationship with coffee in his “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee.”

National Geographic has an excellent and informative mini-site on coffee.

Journale has an good nutshell article on the history and uses of coffee.

Salon reviews two histories of coffee.

The Atlantic Review on saving the rainforest by drinking coffee.

Thanks to FoodReference.com and Outlawcook.com