Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Coffee Family Tree

I've blogged before about the importance of coffee in family (See: "My One Year Old Can't Say "Coffee." Should I Be Worried?"). Coffee has always been part of my family. A pot of tea in the morning followed by a pot of coffee was always the standard when I grew up. (I've forgone the tea and go straight for the hard stuff myself.)

My mom has been sharing coffee memories with me over email and she's generously agreed to share her memories here on my blog. (Turns out Mom is a devoted follower of Coffee Llama.)

My family is from Holland and most of the post below regards an old stone coffee pot that my grandmother (Oma) brought over from Holland. I have never seen these types of pots outside of my Oma's house. I've included Mom's description on how to brew with these pots.

Take it away, Mom:

"Coffee is a very important part of everyday life in Holland and has been for many generations. Therefore, it is no surprise that I have vivid memories of your Omas, as well as my Omas, making lots of coffee. In the 1950’s, I remember coffee being made manually in a stone coffee pot like the one pictured here using the method below.

This coffee pot had a ceramic filter. The bottom of the filter consisted of two ceramic layers. Each layer had a series of evenly spaced, slender, slightly oblong slits. The layers were assembled in such a way that the slits crossed over one another resulting in narrow openings which allowed the water to drip through very slowly.

Brewing Coffee: Separate ceramic filter and coffee pot. Remove the lid from the filter and put in desired amount of coffee. Use the flat disk to stamp down the coffee, remove disk. Place disk with holes on top of filter (fits just underneath ridge for the lid). Rinse coffee pot with boiling water and place filter on top of pot. Slowly pour boiling water over the disk until water bubbles back up, letting coffee drip into pot. When dripping has slowed to a trickle and coffee grounds are completely saturated, add more boiling water if needed, make sure water does not overflow top of filter. To serve, pour coffee cups 3/4 full, add boiling milk, add sugar to taste.

When electric percolators and drip coffee makers came out, Oma Mol was quick to put manual coffee making behind her. Oma Venema, on the other hand, continued with her old faithful method until she moved into an assisted living home at the age of 84. When Oma Venema lived in California, her ceramic filter broke but by then those filters were no longer being made. Oma Mol came to the rescue as she gladly passed on a ceramic filter she had kept. Now Oma Venema had a pot and filter from two different manufacturer, resulting in a coffee pot that did not fit together properly. That didn’t matter to Oma, the important thing was that she could continue making her coffee the way she was most comfortable with – the manual way. I can still picture Oma’s brown coffee pot standing on top of her stove. When we lived in California, we gave Oma Venema an electric coffee maker to use when she had company - that way she wouldn't have to spend so much time in the kitchen away from her guests. That coffee maker stood on her kitchen counter for at least 15 years......she never used it.

Childhood “Coffee-Making” Memories

• I remember my Oma’s kitchen as being a happy place where the women congregated, a room full of laughter and chatter. The kitchen itself was tiny but that didn’t stop the women from gathering, lending a helping hand where they could, and enjoying each other’s company. This was especially true when dishes were being done, or better yet, coffee was being made.

• My Oma ground her coffee using a manual coffee grinder. The manual grinders were held between the knees with the drawer, which caught the grounds, up against one knee to keep it from flying open and spilling the contents. As a little girl, my Oma would let me grind her coffee. Inevitably I would forget about the drawer and have it facing forward, resulting in the drawer flying open and spilling the grounds. My Oma would have to clean up and start over. I remember my Oma as a very understanding and patient women – a real sweetheart. I feel sorry I didn’t get to know her better.

• Boiling milk for the coffee was a problem for my Oma. I always remember her having to clean her stove top because the milk boiled over. She got so involved in conversation that she would forget to keep an eye on the milk until it was too late, even if she was standing right next to the stove top. Your Oma confirmed this fact but did not mention that she found herself in that same situation more times than she would care to admit."

Thanks Mom for sharing the coffee memories!