Once the beans are ripe, they are laid out in the sun to dry, until they turn a dark brown on the outside. The bean on the inside is a light green and splits down the middle into two halves. What we traditionally think of as the coffee bean is half of this bean.
This is where Mami stepped in. She scooped up a big handful of beans and held it high in the air, pouring the beans into a bowl waiting below. As the beans dropped, the wind blew the chaff away, leaving just the green beans behind. It was amazing how well this worked. She and I then picked through the beans to remove any remaining chaff.
It was fun watching her stir the beans because you could tell how practiced she was, how she must have done this hundreds if not thousands of times. And finally, the beans were ready.
The smell of the freshly roasted and ground beans was amazing.
The next day Juan treated us all to cappuccinos. He got fresh milk from the neighbour across the street, and heated it up gently in a sauce pan.
As I drank I noticed golden fat droplets forming on the surface of the milk. It was so rich and delicious that all I could do was sit and sip. Oh my goodness that is a coffee that I will never forget.
It also made me question my relationship with coffee, my treating it like a drug, and the careless abandon with which I consume it. To know that there is this lovely family in Ecuador who go through this process to create a cup makes me realize how little I actually appreciate coffee. How I mindlessly scoop my grinds into my little french press, impatiently waiting for my morning hit.
I don't know how this experience will change my relationship, maybe I'll drink less, or drink with more care or drink with a greater appreciation? I look forward to finding out.
Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.