Coffee is apparently the most legally traded commodity in the world: The World Bank estimates there are some 500 million people who are involved with the coffee trade and I help support that trade!
New Zealand, until about 1940, was largely a tea drinking nation. However, the first coffee shop in Christchurch was called the Coffee Palace and was in Market Square (now Victoria Square) in the mid-1800s. Sadly, I can’t find the photo I once saw of it, beside the animal pound and a women’s prison in the early city beginings.
I knew I was going to have a long affair with coffee by the time I was 8 years old. Staying with an auntie, while my father was in hospital, I was impressed with not only her shiny pink and black tile bathroom, but the smell of the liquid coffee and chicory that she brewed. That’s when I fell in love – and have remained in love-with fabulous coffee. And, like most New Zealanders (kiwis) I only drink in locally owned cafes with our regular double-shot drinks – not international or chain shops.
Chicory was grown for coffee in the Christchurch area from about the 1870s. I was surprised to find instant coffee – which many Kiwi still drink -was started in Invercargill, New Zealand, when David Strang applied for a patent for his soluble coffee powder in 1889.
In the early 1960s, I frequented places such as the Swiss Chalet which was downstairs in Tramway Lane off Cathedral Square and also a coffee shop in Chancery Arcade, which was rumoured to serve, not only coffee but Irish coffee too! In those days I drank espresso with a little hot milk and cinnamon sprinkled on top. I not only thought but also knew, I was so sophisticated 😊 😊
With my first pay from Christchurch hospital – I worked in the pharmacy – I bought a coffee grinder. Until then our family had bought ground coffee every week. Now I knew we would have even better coffee as it would be ground as we needed it for our percolator. We bought our coffee on Cashel Street and I loved browsing and smelling, the bean bins every week to choose the coffee beans to take home. Trevor Smith, the owner started roasting beans in the 1940s and I believe his son Bernard Smith still roasts coffee beans for cafés under the name Vivace Espresso.
Some coffee history
In the early 1500s, Yemen created or found a new drink – made from the fruit of an Ethiopian plant. It was quickly popular and by the 17th century in England, France and Holland the citizens loved it. The first English coffee houses opened in Oxford in 1651 and London in 1652
Interestingly Charles 2nd thought the coffee houses were dangerous to his reign and he sent spies to hear what was being said and, in 1675 he proclaimed coffee houses to have evil and dangerous effects and tried to suppress them.
In Paris (1689) the new Café de Procope made drinking coffee more popular there and in London, the Lloyds Coffee House became the powerful, international, insurance underwriter.
Apparently, over 800 different chemical ingredients have been identified, however, the basic principal of roasting raw green beans in a rotating drum over heat has remained consistent for a couple of hundred years.
Green coffee can be stored for ages, but roasted, it immediately begins to lose its flavour – the sooner after roasting and grinding it’s drunk the better -that’s why I drink an espresso. Black coffee delivers the kick I like and the satisfying after-taste – the result of the crema – the mixture of gas oils, waters and fine grounds that sits on the top of an espresso. There is nowhere for a barista to hide any lack of skills with my ‘long black’.
The top coffee producers are Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Ivory Coast while the top consumers (by tonnes) are USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy. I think per capita New Zealand would rank highly!
Sadly, Charles 2nd was right, as poverty, violence, exploitation, environmental devastation, political oppression, and corruption have all been linked to coffee – and still are. Thinking about my time in cafés, I guess they still can be hotbeds of gossip and intrigue.