There were days gone by that are long sought to be recovered especially in the kitchen. As a little boy I can remember going to the farm where my aunt would prepare the normal Sunday dinner. You guessed it, fried chicken (butchered on Saturday) dusted in flour then dipped into buttermilk and then back in flour then into the large cast iron pan where it was fried in lard until golden brown and crisp. Today we hardly know what lard is for fear of just thinking about it will cause clogged arteries.
Perhaps the good old days are best left to memories that really can’t be recaptured in the world we live in today. But, in case you would like to try let me introduce you to the way Haitian coffee was roasted and brewed. I really can’t be sure how far back this coffee roasting recipe goes but I can tell you that coffee was first introduced in Haiti in the early 18th century. And I am sure that the French had something to say about how the coffee roasting was prepared.
Coffee Roasting Process
- First it is necessary to find some charcoal.
- Now we will need a charcoal grill.
- Next we must find a cast iron pot or cauldron.
- Oh yes, we need a sturdy clean stick suitable for stirring.
- A stool upon which to sit.
- A strong young man (You will understand this in a few minutes)
- A mortar and pestle, made from a tree trunk and one of its large branches.
- A piece of screen wire mounted to a crudely made wooden frame.
- A piece of corrugated tin similar to that used for roofing.
(Now I am not sure where our Haitian lady would have found items eight and nine in the 18th century but this is how I saw it done.)
Now that we have everything assembled to begin let us find our coffee to be roasted. Coffee is grown on a bush-sized tree where red berries grow. At precisely the right time the berry is picked, crushed, the outer portion removed so as to expose the seed. This seed is then placed, often on the ground, where it is allowed to dry. Having reached the proper dryness it would be necessary to pick through all of the seeds to get rid of any rocks stones or anything else that might have gotten mixed into our coffee bean. (Notice I changed from seed to bean as coffee is more known as the coffee bean.)
- It looks to me like we have about 4 to 5 pounds of coffee beans to begin with. It is now time to assemble the rest of our needed items.
- We need approximately 4 to 5 pounds of pure raw cane sugar.
Now we begin to place the coffee beans into the pot or cauldron which has been heating over the charcoal. Sitting on our little stool we begin to stir the beans as they roast. It is not a quick process, and it’s already hot outside. A bandanna on the head might be helpful to keep the sweat from getting into your eyes. Perhaps 20 to 25 minutes of stirring will produce a coffee bean which has been darkly roasted. The smoke from the roasted beans has penetrated the surrounding air and it is well understood that you are coffee roasting. Having completed the roasting of the coffee we will set it aside in some other container where it will continue to roast as it cools.
Step two, in the pot or cauldron it is now time to put it back onto the charcoal where we will take the sugar and put it into the pot. Again we sit on little stool stirring constantly the sugar as we cannot allow it to burn. However, we will allow it to liquefy and become beautiful in amber color dark but not burnt. Upon reaching that stage in the process we now take the roasted coffee beans and pour them back into the pot and begin to stir again until all is combined.
Having done this we now proceed to dump the beans and sugar combination onto the piece of corrugated tin. We allow it to cool so that it is almost like the appearance of peanut brittle. Now having reached the stage of coolness so that we can handle these beans we will scrape them off the corrugated tin and place them into the large mortar (this is where your strong young man comes into play) It is at this point that your helper begins to crush the beans along with the solidified sugar.
When a sufficient amount of coffee has been ground the contents are placed onto the screened box where that strong young man shakes it and then what has not gone through the holes in the screen is put back into the mortar and pestle where it will continue to be ground until uniform in size.
And now the long anticipated time has come for a freshly brewed cup of Haitian coffee. To start with you must have of course boiling water, a piece of cloth in which you will place approximately 2 tablespoons of coffee for each cup of finished coffee. Tying the cloth you will dip the cloth into the boiling water until your coffee is as you like it. Strong is the word.
The woman in the photo is who shared with me this process for roasting coffee — the old fashioned way.
Just for your information, this coffee is bold but surprisingly not overly sweet, it’s a treat to say the least.