Thursday, November 22, 2007

Coffee – A History

So, do you like coffee? Is it something more than just the morning cup for you? Does the aroma intoxicate and captivate your senses? Do you appreciate the richness of the flavor and the subtleties of the beans or is all that stuff too fru fru for you and coffee is just coffee?

My Dad used to feel that coffee was only good to be used as a means of waking up. I was too young at the time to argue with him – I didn’t know any better. I do now. The passage of time has brought with it a caffeine addiction and a deep appreciation for the coffee bean and all the wonders it can bring.

Thanks to Wikipeidia (my favorite second brain) here are the humble roots of my favorite beverage. In the 9th Century coffee spread from the highlands of Ethiopia to Egypt and Yemen. By the 15th Century it reached Persia, Egypt, Turkey and Northern Africa.

In 1511 it was deemed a forbidden stimulant from Mecca but the die had been cast; it was popular – people liked their caffeine highs. The order to have it banned was overturned in 1524 by the order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I. Cairo had a similar ban in 1532. It was soon overturned since the people stormed the coffee and warehouses containing coffee beans, sacking them in search of their acquired taste for caffeine.

In the 17th Century coffee spread to Europe. From there it reached the shores of America. Colonists didn’t initially take to it finding it a poor substitute for alcohol. By the time of the Revolutionary War people were plugged in and needing their Joe. By the time of the Civil War advances in brewing technology made coffee an everyday commodity here in the United States of America.

Today we share the cup and bask in the glow of the caffeine as it courses through our veins – warming us, keeping us alert and ready to face whatever the future may hold. Liquid inspiration. My muse starts whispering in my ear just about after the second cup. But just who has the best coffee out there? Whose brew is worth your time? Gentle Reader here are some of Evil Chicken’s favorites; granted I am only limited to the places that I haunt but rest assured I will gladly sample any suggestions that you provide. So without further ado…

Café DuMonde (New Orleans, LA). They’ve been in business at the French Market for over a century. They are open 24/7, only closing on Christmas and “for the occasional hurricane”. You will want to order a Café Au Lait (half coffee with chicory and half hot steamed milk) and a plate of Beignets. I would gleefully stop eating low carb for another visit. If you’re there – GO; you will not be disappointed.

Wawa (Delaware Valley). That’s right; I said it – Wawa. Excellent grab a cup and go coffee. I get to mix the exact chemical balance between two or three Splendas and a shot of Half & Half. Kona is my blend and 16-ounce is the perfect size. Some swear by Dunkin’ Donuts coffee – not me; I like to be the only one who touches it after it brews – most of the time I remember where my hands have been; most of the time.

Starbucks (Everywhere). Yes it’s a corporate empire but it is consistently the best game in town, or rather towns coast to coast – oh, I’m sorry; Starbucks is global. They can be pricey and one must learn the lingo on how to order a cup of coffee but it is worth the extra shekels and the time to comprehend the menu. As Number One said in Austin Powers, “…They produce a quality product.” Who am I to argue with one of Doctor Evil’s minions?

Bogart’s Coffee & Books (Millville, NJ). Not only is this one of my favorite coffee shops but it’s also my absolute favorite bookstore in the known universe. Great blends, books and, on Third Fridays, local musicians, artists and storytellers make their rounds. The place is full of characters and character. So is the coffee.

Fuel House Coffee Co. (Vineland, NJ). Try the Black Satin. Smooth, rich and caffeinated; just the way I like it. The business is also a Bain’s Deli. There’s seating and a stage in the back for musicians, comics and poetry slams. It can get real busy at lunchtime so plan accordingly. They’ve been known to close a little early too – even so, great coffee.

Crescent Moon Café (Mullica Hill, NJ). They roast their own beans. Nice. They know what they’re doing too. If you time it right or if you are lucky enough you can watch them roast the beans in their roaster/tumbler. The smell is amazing and there’s more skill and science to it than one would think. The Sumatran blend is awesome. The place is a little fru fru but worth the visit.

Brenner’s Brew (Bridgeton, NJ). Try a large French Roast. This is another fine place for checking out local musicians and artists. This place feels like Jack Kerouac has just breezed through for a cup and some conversation before hitting the road once again. Neat place.

So there you have it, my favorites. So, what did I miss? Where would you recommend? I’ll pack the Splenda and Half and Half – you tell me the spots!



mommanator said...

We used to go to this place in Smithville which made their own, I haven't been in years, don't even know if they are still there, but I do remember the coffee & the rich smells as you walked past

Bob said...

I am not much of a coffee drinker; just an espresso once in a while. Interestingly, my uncle was president of a major coffee manufacturer way back when. He poo-poos most "gourmet" coffee.

Pax Romano said...

Right there with ya' on Starbucks (have you had the Mocha Mint holiday brew??? Oh man, it is the best).

The ultimate coffee drink must be, "The Boiler Maker" which is served at The Last Drop (13th and Market, Philly). It is a large mug of very strong coffee, with a shot of espresso tossed it.

Merci said...

Wow, EC, thanks for all of the great leads on local coffee shops! You should submit this to a local paper - people would love it and the businesses mentioned would thank you.

I think it's Cooks Corner in Smithville that has the great coffee Mommanator mentioned. It's not really a coffee shop per se, but they sell brewed coffees and hot chocolate. There are other places in Smithville to get coffee, so that might not be the place Mommanator meant.

Evil Chicken said...

The Joy of the Bean.

Pax – that Mocha Mint Holiday Brew is like crack… or perhaps a mix of crack and liquefied Andes Candies. These days I can’t do the sugar but oh my, it is amazing.

I think a family trip over to The Last Drop @ 13th and Market is in order. We’ll get in some sightseeing around the city pre-Christmas as well as high amounts of caffeine. Nice.

Merci – Mommanator got my juices flowing when she mentioned the shop in Smithville and the aromas wafting out of the place. Cooks Corner is on my list for places to visit in the near future. Thanks!

Thanks to all for the suggestions – please keep ‘em coming. I need a refill.

Evil Chicken said...


I’m a Shmoe – it’s the Crescent Moon Café & not the Half Moon Café as I led you to believe, Gentle Reader. This is purely the fault of yours truly and I beg your forgiveness. I’m gonna go back and fix it in the blog itself.