Since there is very likely to be a K&Q visit in December for the William Marshal Memorial Feast, I was told it would be a Good Thing to have a small gift from the Guild. I have thought of making something, but since I was considering making Fatimid garb (the same time period as William the Marshal) as well as making more garb for my kids, I thought the best thing would be the very well known coffee.
Coffee has a lot of fanciful stories floating around about it but are hard to believe. Many of them date to a much later period, such as the dancing goat story which can only be dated to 1671. However, it is known that coffee spread from Ethiopia to Yemen and Egypt very quickly. Coffea arabica is a native to Ethiopia and the Sudan. Coffea canephora (or Robusta) is native to central Africa. Robusta has a bigger yield to arabica, having more caffeine per gram but is more bitter in flavour. Therefor it was considered the poorer cousin.
Coffee houses opened in Mecca, the holy city between 1512 and 1524. The drinking of coffee was banned, until the local sheik became a drinker and the bans were then lifted. This happened all over the Islam world, recurring in Damascus in 1530, the first coffee house opening in Constantinople in 1553 and coffee stores being sacked in Cairo in 1532 after another ban had been put on the drink. A lot of this can be found on the coffee page, if anyone is interested…
Coffee was thought to have been taken to Europe for wholesale consumption by Venetian traders. However, the coffee we drink today has changed considerably from the one people drank 500 years ago. Today there is powdered coffee as well as a huge range of blended coffee. If I wish to give a more medieval type coffee bean, I must go for a single origin coffee.
The port of Moka in Yemen was one of the biggest exporters of coffee, considered the best in the world. So I have been looking at coffee wholesalers in Australia, such as Jaspers Coffee and the Coffee Company. Specifically tracing single origin coffee from Ethiopia or Yemen. Maybe regular beans, although there are peaberries to consider as well. The coffee bean develops like a peanut, with nuts together in the fruit. A peaberry is a single nut. Peaberries occur when there is less nitrogen in the soil. Considered by some to have the flavour of two beans in one. So I will shop a couple of days before. Should I get them ground or leave them whole? Europeans grind their coffee but it is pulverized in the Middle East, creating a fine powder (which can then be mixed with spices such as cardamom).
Coffee: Its History, Cultivation, and Uses by Robert Hewitt is available to read from Google Books.