Coffee and Tea, 1905

Courtesy of the Myrtle Reed Cookbook, some brief, terse, and not-at-all-opinionated thoughts on “the nectar of the gods”, coffee:

The breakfast beverage par excellence is coffee, at least in American households, but, rather than have coffee poorly made, it is better to have no coffee at all. The French method of coffee making has practically superseded the old fashioned boiled coffee. Cheap coffee, carefully made in the proper kind of a pot, has a better flavor than the more expensive brands can possibly have when improperly made.

The best coffee pot on the market, which publishing ethics forbid us to mention by name, is made of nickel, comes in five or six different sizes, has a close fitting cover, a wooden handle, and has inside a finely woven wire strainer which does away entirely with the questionable, and often unclean, cloth strainer. A cloth, no matter how carefully kept, will eventually become saturated with the grounds and add the flavor of reheated coffee to the fresh brew in the pot.

The nickel coffee pots having the wire strainer inside are easily kept clean with boiling water alone, and about once a month may be boiled out with a weak solution of baking soda.

Various blends of coffee have their champions, and the blended package coffees are in the main very good. It is better to buy in small quantities, a pound or two at a time, have the coffee pulverized very finely at the grocery, and keep a watchful eye on the man while he does it lest he add alien elements to the coffee. Pulverized coffee keeps perfectly in ordinary Mason jars, tightly sealed, if bought in small quantities, as suggested.

The ideal coffee blend is two thirds Mandeheling Java and one third Arabian Mocha, but very little genuine Mocha ever reaches this country, though trusting consumers often pay high prices for what the man says is sure enough Mocha. Pure Java is easier to get, and South American, Mexican, Cuban, and Porto Rican coffees are beginning to deserve consideration.

Presuming that we have the pot and a good quality of coffee, finely pulverized, we will proceed to brew the nectar of the gods. The water must be fresh and captured while on its first boil. Scald the coffee pot and put into it one heaping tablespoonful of pulverized coffee for each person, and another for the poor neglected pot. If the coffee is desired extra strong, put in another tablespoonful or even two. Pour in one cupful of boiling water for each tablespoonful of coffee, keeping the pot over steam, but never over the fire itself. Occasionally the grounds may be lifted from the bottom of the strainer with a spoon in order to hasten the process a bit. The strength of Samson may be given the brew by pouring out a cupful or two of the coffee after it is made and compelling it to go over the grounds again.

Put the desired amount of sugar in each cup, and add a liberal quantity of cream. Fill three fourths full with coffee and weaken slightly with freshly boiling water. Coffee poured into cream and afterward weakened with boiling water is an entirely different beverage from that which results when the process is reversed. Anybody knowing why please write.

Never, never, never under any circumstances use the same coffee twice or add fresh coffee to the remnant in the pot, if by chance there should ever be any left. Trim over last year’s hat if you must, and buy no books for a year except this one but do have the daily coffee right.

Our deep feeling on this subject is caused by our own cherished reputation for coffee making, which extends as much as three blocks in every direction of the compass.

Alrighty, then.

Remember, coffee was, and remains, serious business in the United States. (Coffee, in fact, is so serious that you can make a bomb out of the stuff.) Tea, on the other hand, waxes and wanes in popularity as strange and frankly unpalatable varieties go in and out of fashion in this barbaric country (my roommate, upon the occasion of trying some variety of acai-berry green tea, described it as “distinctly inferior in appearance, aroma, and flavor to used automatic-transmission fluid”) but remains Serious Business elsewhere, to the extent that brewing tea is the subject of an international standard. (No, really.)

What did the Myrtle Reed Cookbook have to say about tea?

Cheap tea contains sawdust, dried and powdered hay, grass seed, and departed but un-lamented insects. Moral-buy good tea or go without. Have the kettle boiling and take the water at the first boil. Scald out the teapot, which must never be of metal, and put into it one teaspoonful of tea for each person, and one for the pot, or more, if curly hair for the drinker is desired. Pour one cupful of boiling water for each person and another for the pot upon the tea and pour off the tea inside of three minutes. After that the boiling water busies itself in taking tannic acid out of the tea grounds. Tannic acid hardens albumen into a leathery substance of which the most courageous stomach is rightfully suspicious, and also puckers the mucous membrane of the stomach into smocking. Persistent drinking of boiled tea is quite likely to relieve the stomach altogether of its valued and hard worked mucous membrane.

If you’re going to have biases, I guess it’s good to be up-front and forthright about them.

Published in: General, History | on January 17th, 2011| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 4/1/2011 at 11:30 pm Zoey Said:

    Fascinating! Is it me, or was everything done more thoroughly in the past? I guess that’s why I minored in history in college. Looking at the post, I was enthralled not only in the authors obvious passion for coffee, but also in the language spoken with an eloquence that is sadly missed in modern times.