The Gastronomic Journey of Coffee

Picture of Jorge Cespedes

by Jorge Cespedes

Corporate Chef

For a couple hundred years the production of coffee was kept secret in Yemen until the mid-1600’s when a clever and sleek Dutch navy boat was able to sail of the port of Java in Indonesia with a couple of live seedlings.

The vessel was then off to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Amsterdam where the plant was reproduced and later used as a gift for King Louis the 14th of France. It was that coffee plant in Versailles, which became the ancestor to all other plants in the European continent. In turn, the plant was spread through the islands of the Caribbean and in the Americas by French, British and Spanish governors in control of all their territories.

Coffee has had a long journey to get to where it is today but this journey is far from over. Even though it’s one of the oldest brewed beverages in modern times, we are just now starting to discover its true potential. We are finally understanding the right way to grow it and harvest it; the right way to process it so we get the most flavor out of it. We are also now discovering the best roasting techniques and even evolving the way we brew coffee. These improvements all become apparent the moment that perfectly brewed cup of coffee is in your hands and you take the first sip and a rush of warmth, comfort, reassurance and satisfaction immediately takes over your taste buds, your rational thinking and your emotional being. And all of this happens because you just had a sip of one of the worlds best coffees.

The kind of coffee I’m talking about is called specialty coffee. It comes in small batches, from very specific regions in the world and it’s still a very small part of the overall coffee industry. In Africa, it comes from countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya. In Central America it comes from Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and other countries. South America is known for the Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian coffees. Indeed coffee needs a certain kind of atmosphere to grow at a top quality level.

A cup of coffee, just like a glass of wine, can take you on a gastronomic journey; a journey of flavors. Coffee has its own terroir and the soil in which it grows provides the natural flavors that we find in coffee. Central American coffees tend to be on the earthier side of the flavor spectrum with notes of roasted nuts, toasted bread, also the sweetness of butterscotch and even caramel. Whereas Eastern African Coffees fall into the fruit and floral side of that same flavor where with hints of berries, strawberry jam and jasmine.

For us, the determined flavor seekers, coffee can be one of the days’ first and best moments to launch us into a never-ending search for a truly gratifying taste experience.