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Give a nod to coffee: From the bean to the cup — drink up for National Coffee Day

An amusing saying that’s shown up on everything from mugs to T-shirts to wall art is: “First I drink coffee, then I do things.” Hands up, all who can identify. National Coffee Day Saturday may be just for you.

Many countries around the world celebrate their own national coffee days throughout the year. For Brazil — the biggest coffee producer — it’s May 24. For the U.S. — the biggest coffee consumer — it’s Sept. 29.

In Columbus, roasters Daniel Symonds and Josiah Andrews take coffee seriously — as do all the aficionados who enjoy their single origin coffees and creative blends prepared for Southbound Coffee Co. at Beans &Cream in the Shops at Brickerton on Military Road. It’s one of a small number of roast-their-own facilities in northeast Mississippi. Symonds and Andrews start with green coffee beans from countries such as Colombia, Guatemala and Ethiopia. As the beans go into Southbound Coffee’s Diedrich 5-kilo roasting machine, variables including heat and air flow are controlled by Symonds or Andrews in accordance to specific profiles that bring out natural flavors. It’s a merging of nature, science, math and, ultimately, taste.

“If the coffee bean has a more berry, floral natural flavor to it, we can use the roaster to bring out those flavors with maybe a lighter roast,” said Andrews. “If it has more of a chocolaty flavor, a medium to darker roast can bring it out.”

A head for math comes in handy when inputting data for the roasting process.

“Some people cringe from math, but I was a calculus major in college; I enjoy it,” Symonds grinned. “I love this job.”

Their resulting high-grade specialty coffees are used not only at Beans &Cream but also Coffeehouse on 5th in downtown Columbus and Coffeehouse on 5th at Columbus Air Force Base. They’re also available by the bag to consumers. Symonds and Andrews accept special orders for custom roasts, too.

Coffee drinkers, as a whole, have become increasingly savvy about the beverage, said Carol Pearson, manager at Coffeehouse on 5th.

“I think there’s greater education about coffee and a lot more focus on it,” she said. Coffee buffs experimenting with flavors from different origins and of varying blends develop a coffee palate.

Andrews said, “As they come to realize how much thought and complexity can go into each cup — from the farmer to the roast to the barista — and how much flavor is really there, they tend to really enjoy the experience; it makes the coffee that much better.”

Origins, nuances

Coffee is actually the seed of a fruit referred to as a cherry. Some grow on small bushes, some grow on tall trees. There are thousands of different species, Andrews pointed out. Beans that came from the same farmer, same field, same hill may represent several different species, and new species are evolving all the time.

“This is a cherry seed, so there’s lots of fruit flavors in there,” he remarked. Which is one might see a particular coffee billed as having “lemon, tangerine and grapefruit” flavor notes.

“If you close your eyes and let it sit on your tongue, you’ll feel the flavors come alive. It can be a lot of fun,” he said.

In general, single-origin coffee is grown within a single known geographic origin. That can mean a single farm, or a specific collection of beans from a single country. Blends are mixtures of two or more coffees. One of the most popular blends produced by Southbound Coffee is Sunshine Daydream.

“Some of the beans have a flavor kind of like caramel and toffee, and one of the coffees is a very floral, berry flavor, and another has a chocolaty flavor, and when you mix it all together, it has the natural flavor with very small hints of like blueberry muffin and coconut,” Andrews said.

Helping the public appreciate the nuances is a goal of people like Symonds, Andrews and Pearson, who said she’s witnessed a shift in consumption habits in the more than two years she’s been at Coffeehouse on 5th.

“We used to see a lot of older individuals would only go with house blends; younger people would stick with espresso-based drinks,” she said. Now she sees a much more balanced ratio. “People are learning and branching out.”

Hard to believe, but coffee has had its share of foes throughout history, according to coffee.org. In 1511, the governor of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, banned coffee; he thought it stimulated radical thinking. And after Murad IV claimed the Ottoman throne in 1623, he forbade coffee and devised a system of penalties. First, a beating. Upon a second offense, transgressors were sewn into a leather bag and dumped into the waters of the Bosporus, a strait in Turkey.

Wouldn’t Murad be surprised today to know coffee is the world’s second-most traded commodity, surpassed only by oil. It’s the third most-consumed beverage, after water and tea. Now more than ever, coffee continues to satisfy, fascinate and evolve.

“You are always realizing that you think you knew something — until you learn something else,” Andrews said. “Because you love it and are passionate about it, you realize there’s so much more information you can absorb and put into that cup.”

 

By Jan Swoope

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