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Coffee: from Bush to Beaker

by Colin Smith

Friday 24th February 2012

Colin Smith gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the subject of coffee. In the modern world, coffee has become very much a traded commodity, sold at between £1,600 and £3,000 per tonne and imported at between £2,000 per tonne for Robusta and £3,500 per tonne for Arabica, with specialist 'estate' coffees exceeding £12,000 per tonne. Coffee grows in the tropics at elevations of between 1,800 and 6,000 feet, depending on the latitude. Coffee berries go through extensive processing in the country of origin, to separate the bean from the berry and, after importing, are roasted and blended to provide different flavours and strengths.

Much of Colin's presentation was based on a recent visit to India, with one interesting picture showing a coffee bush adjacent to a tea bush, with pepper and vanilla vines growing up trees in the background. The presentation was followed with explanations of 20 or more pieces of coffee brewing equipment. The oldest was a Russian coffee pot sold in France and England c. 1840 and the most 'dangerous' was a pressurised Atomic Espresso Machine, without a safety valve, made in Italy and sold by the Bon Trading Co., Woollahra, Sydney NSW. The evening was rounded off with the chance to sample four different types of coffee.