A warm #039;cup of joe#039;

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 26, 2004

Coffee (also known affectionately as ‘java’ and ‘joe’) is a beverage enjoyed by many. The demand for a variety of coffee and coffee-based drinks doesn’t seem likely to diminish any time soon.

In a stressful world, a boost of caffeine served in a delicious beverage is a pleasure many almost seem to find a necessity to kick start their morning, or revive them during a long and weary afternoon.

These days major bookstore chains feature their own coffee shops so readers can browse and sip; even the little South Alabama town of Brewton has its own popular coffee-and-novel spot, &uot;The Book and Bean.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Now Greenville has its own version of a coffee house, Jan and Julie’s Coffee Caf\u00E9, allowing local customers to experience real espresso, cappuccino and other delights (along with a cup of basic black coffee, of course).

So, how did this bitter black beverage become such a beloved drink?

The stuff of legends

The fact is, coffee was first enjoyed as a beverage in the Middle East somewhere around 600 A.D.

Legend has it the resuscitating powers of the plant were first discovered by a sleepy Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi.

Kaldi took notice of how frolicsome his goats were after nibbling on the beans on some nearby plants. He nibbled on the berries as well, and discovered he was feeling pretty frisky himself.

When the goatherd arrived home, his wife – surprised and pleased by this impressive transformation – suggested her husband share the discovery with a local imman, or priest.

The skeptical priest tossed the beans into the fire, preaching to the goatherd about the temptations of the devil – and soon discovered a rich aroma that quickly drew other priests, attracted by the delicious fragrance.

Well, if they attracted other holy men, the imman reasoned, the beans must be a gift from God, not the devil. The priest ground the darkened beans with a mortar and pestle and made an elixir by pouring hot water over them.

The priests all drank the brew, and not surprisingly, spent a sleepless night praising God – so the legend says. (These days, many folks still say, &uot;Thank you, Lordy&uot; for the restorative power of that first cup of coffee on an early, early morning…)

Today coffee is grown in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands – but the fact is, it all originally came from the Ethiopian Highlands, where it is reputed Kaldi once roamed with his goats.

The devil’s brew?

Centuries later, Pope Clement VIII did something similar, when faced by those who wanted coffee declared &uot;the devil’s brew&uot;. The pope, who was a quite a fan of coffee himself, decided to actually &uot;baptize&uot; the drink (thus removing the devil’s power over it and making it safe for good Christians to drink).

By the 1600s, coffee was popular throughout Europe, with the trend starting in Venice, a key port on the continent. Coffeehouses sprang up where those with common interests came together to discuss business, politics and the arts as they sipped the brew.

These coffeehouses became so popular in Britain, King Charles II tried unsuccessfully to ban them as &uot;seminaries of sedition&uot; in 1675.

Businesses grew from these specialty coffee houses, including the famous insurance company Lloyd’s of London – which came into existence at Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.

Official drink of patriots

In the American colonies, the arrival of high taxes on tea and the resulting Boston Tea Party made drinking tea seem downright unpatriotic. People turned in ever increasing numbers to coffee as a replacement. By the end of the Revolutionary War, coffee had replaced tea as the American national drink.

However, it’s only been in recent years American tastes in coffee preparation have been challenged by European traditions. American coffee tended to be a fairly weak brew in large cups, while our European cousins preferred strong, &uot;so-thick-you-could-stand-a-spoon-in-it&uot; concoctions in small cups, mellowed with milk rather than water.

Direct from the Port City

&uot;We get our coffee through Carpe Diem in Mobile. Tomi Sue Rusling started her coffee shop there nine years ago. It became such a success, she decided to become a consultant and help others establish their own specialty coffee businesses,&uot; explains Jan and Julie’s Coffee Caf\u00E9’s resident coffee expert, Julie Autrey.

&uot;Carpe Diem works with coffee brokers who recommend where to purchase the best beans from around the world, according to soil, climate, weather and geographical conditions. Then the beans are shipped to Mobile and roasted there in Carpe Diem’s own roasting room…you can visit and watch the process, which is fascinating,&uot; Autrey says.

Autrey and Newton hope in the future to bring experts on both coffee and tea to the caf\u00E9 for a special presentation and tasting. &uot;We also want to feature chefs doing cooking demos and food tastings…our hope is to bring activities that are fun, interesting and different to the city,&uot; Newton says.

So, if you want to sample a hot or frozen coffee drink that is fun and different

(not to mention one that might make you as frolicsome as those Arabian goats of long ago) – may we suggest you pay a visit to Greenville’s newest eatery, Jan and Julie’s Coffee Caf\u00E9.

&uot;Our espresso will certainly wake you up,&uot; Jan assures with a grin.