Wednesday, April 09, 2008
By Lee Roversi
Slow Food Kaua'i
Sunday afternoon—perfect time for sipping coffee with friends. Slow Food Kaua'i members and some great guests got to do just that on Sunday April 6th.
Anni Caporuscio, owner and manager of Small Town Coffee in Kapa’a and award- winning barista as well, hosted us there and filled our minds and senses with coffee.
Anni started by captivating us with this fun tale of Kaldi and the Dancing Goats. . .
Long ago, in what is now called Ethiopia, a young goatherd named Kaldi awoke one morning to discover his goats missing. As one cannot be a goatherd without goats, Kaldi determinedly set off to search the hillsides for his wayward flock.
Beneath the hot sun an exhausted Kaldi looked high and low when, much to his surprise, he stumbled upon his goats frolicking about each other, dancing. Shocked and tired, the young goatherd gazed in awe at the capricious dance.
Slowly, Kaldi returned from his wonderment and noticed some of the goats eating the red fruit of a nearby shrub. Having searched all day Kaldi was tired, but he was famished as well. Without thought he began walking toward the fruit. Yet, what if this fruit was the cause of his heretofore halcyon goats' boisterous behavior? Kaldi paused. Then again, he pondered, what if the goats only appear to be dancing because of his extraordinary hunger? Throwing caution to the wind, Kaldi joined the goats' feast.
Sometime later an imam from a local monastery passed nearby the same hill. Hearing a great and raucous clamor the imam investigated. "I am over tired and have fallen asleep at prayer again, for surely I must be dreaming!" thought the imam, for before him danced a local goatherd and his goats. The imam rubbed his eyes, but the merry dancers remained. The imam pinched himself, yet still the boy and his goats spun, jumped, and whirled. Aghast, the imam pulled Kaldi away and demanded an explanation for such bizarre behavior. After many questions the imam deduced that this energetic glee must have at its root the red fruit growing about them. Seeking greater understanding, he gathered some for further testing at his monastery. It was there he at last sampled the cherry himself and became infused with a great joie de vivre. That night, the imam spent more hours at prayer than ever before. "This is no ordinary fruit!" exclaimed the imam. Realizing the spiritual value of such a gift he shared it so that all may remain energetic and pray with greater fervor.
So, legend has it, coffee became a treasured drink around the world. From places as far-flung as Ethiopia, Indonesia and Central and South America comes this beautiful berry that is second only to oil as the highest traded commodity in the world.
Anni is a connoisseur of coffee and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. Her coffee talk touched on many aspects of her obvious passion.
We were reminded that the finest coffees are shade-grown and the most conscious growers are doing so organically. The organization TransFair USA is seeing that those coffees certified by them as Fair Traded are paying the growers and workers appropriately. In the process, they are securing a livable wage for the farmers and their workers; treating those people and the planet with respect.
The enemies of coffee, we learned, are time, light, smell, moisture and temperature. Anni will not prepare any coffee beans more than two weeks from their roasting, believing that the quality of the beans is compromised after that. The beans are stored in opaque, airtight bags out of the light, without any other competing odors.
Some myths were debunked as well. The oft-held ideas that coffee is dehydrating, bad for pregnant women, over-stimulating and generally bad for your health were discussed and put into perspective. Taken in moderation, coffee actually has a useful invigorating effect and over 1,000mg of anti-oxidants in each cup.
Just what we wanted to hear as we got to sample some of the engaging, exotic coffees sold and served at Small Town. Blends from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Panama, Indonesia and Mexico were tasted and compared. The opinions were, predictably, varied, as are people’s palates. But, everyone there agreed that we were solidly impressed with the coffee we tasted that was cold-brewed. This process is lower in acid and produces a product almost like an extract. It was rich and full and simply delicious.
For hot coffee, we got to appraise the different roasts by the French Press method, Anni’s preferred method for home coffee brewing. It was during this part of our tasting, that Andrea Quinn from Kaua'i’s own Icing on the Cake patisserie offered some of her delectable cookies—coconut macaroons, Mexican wedding cookies and jasmine green tea cookies were the perfect compliment to our coffee.
And, for the finale, we moved behind the counter to watch in awe Anni’s skills on the espresso machine and try our neophyte hands at being baristas and making the espresso. The results, impressive by only one among us, did not even come close to our hostess’ talents honed over many years at her art.
Our sincere thanks to Anni Caporuscio for taking the time to be with us and further our understanding of coffee from farm to cup.
Posted by Patrick at 4:15 PM