Pimp my stove

2010-04-17 00:00

COFFEE provides me with no shortage of happiness. Caffeine bliss is that pure tongue-tip numbing sensation fading into smoothness and a heightened reassurance that life is good.

Caffeine is of course a mild stimulant and theoretically it can be fatal in large doses. It is the world’s second most popular drink after water, is consumed at the rate of ­1 400 ­mil­lion cups per day and is worth a staggering R350 billion a year to the producing countries.

According to legend, in the highlands of Ethiopia as early as the ninth century shepherds were the first to observe the influence of the caffeine in coffee beans when after their goats consumed some wild coffee berries in the pasture, the goats “danced” and had an increased level of energy. From Ethiopia coffee spread to north Africa and later to Turkey and Europe, where by the 18th century “coffee houses” began to flourish. Insurance giant Lloyds of London and the New York Stock exchange both started life at coffee houses and Bach even wrote a coffee cantata in 1732.

An amusing but maybe dangerous myth is the idea that caffeine is an effective antidote to inebriation. This is simply without grounds. Time is the only remedy for excess alcohol in the blood, so coffee is an aid to the intoxicated only insofar as it takes time to drink it!

It is said that the rarest coffee in the world is Jamaican Blue Mountain, sold in only a few stores in the United States (the biggest drinkers of coffee on the planet), but I have it on good authority that “kopi Luwak” produced in Indonesia is the most expensive. This variety is made from coffee beans eaten, partly digested and then excreted by the common palm civet, a weasel-like animal (my son Tiger would love this information). The civet eats the soft outer part of the “cherry” but does not digest the inner beans and excretes them, where they are collected and roasted — a kind of mobile mammal percolator.

If I could I’d be connected intravenously to an espresso drip all day, but with customary restraint and moderation usually start my day with what in Italy is known as a “ristretto” — an intense espresso with a creamy yellow top resembling a liquid warp — nothing frivolous, no delays in rushing that caffeine summit.

•6 tablespoons of fine ground coffee (preferably 100% Arabica).

•¼ teaspoon ground coriander.

•4 cardamom pods (whole green) shelled and the little black seeds crushed using the back of a spoon.

•Sugar to taste.


•Cream (optional) or unsweetened condensed milk.


Place the coffee and spices in a coffee plunger, fill with just “off the boil” water, allow to stand before pressing down plunger slowly. You can drink it hot, but I prefer to allow the coffee to completely cool and pour over ice in a tall glass.


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