Coffee Break

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Perhaps it is the slow coming of spring and my need for a bit of extra warmth, but I have been thinking a lot about coffee lately. With my ever-curious brain and its search for more trivia, that led me to thinking about the whole psychology that goes with our coffee culture, and why a simple beverage has become a ritual for us, an intrinsic part of our everyday life. Even people who don’t partake of the stuff know the steps in the ritual, and the places that support such rites are rife with adaptations for these non-believers. No one wants to be left out, after all.

Did you know that the discovery of coffee apparently gets credited to an Ethiopian shepherd who lost his sheep and later found them dancing around a red cherry bush? The bush was a coffee plant, and when he tried the red cherries (unroasted coffee beans) he began to dance around the bush too. He told the story to monks and they tell him they make a drink from the beans. As you can see, celebration was obviously an early part of the coffee ritual.

The first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475, and in those days coffee was so important to the people that a woman could legally divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee. (Now doesn’t that make an interesting Timmy’s commercial!) When Pope Clemente VIII was asked to place a ban on coffee drinking, he refused saying, "This beverage is so delicious it would be a sin to let only mis believers drink it!"

There is much research and documentation to prove the relationship coffee has had to the development of our culture. Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata. Many a politician and literary personality developed their craft in coffee houses around the world. The Boston Tea Party made drinking coffee a very patriotic thing to do in the new United States. You can consider yourself in good company the next time you sit and sip your grande non-fat latte.

If you are not a coffee fan, do not dismay. I don’t want you to feel like you cannot be a part of history as well. Consider another trend that has created a culture around itself, that all familiar treat – ice cream. It too, has existed since somewhere in the 2nd century B.C. although there is no record of the inventor.

We do know that personages such as Alexander the Great, King Solomon and Emperor Nero were all fond of iced concoctions reminiscent of today’s treat. Marco Polo is credited with the somewhat modern version of sherbet and then advancements allowed for the adaptations with cream. It was a delicacy that was mostly reserved for the rich however, as storing frozen goods was no mean feat in the days before refrigeration. It was not until the 1800’s that insulated ice houses became the start of an industry in America. (A few years before, President George Washington spent the tidy sum of two hundred dollars on ice cream consumption one summer!)

During World War II, ice cream was a symbol of America’s prowess – the armed forces took great pride in being able to serve it to the troops, with the piece de resistance being a floating ice cream parlour the Navy built in the South Pacific.(Can’t you imagine Christine Aguilera dancing there in her sailor outfit?!) When the war was won, Americans celebrated by eating ice cream: they consumed 20 quarts of the stuff per person in 1946!

Nowadays, as with most things, ice cream has become an expanded concept. It can now include soy or rice milk products. You can have it scooped, or blended with bits of extra stuff. You can even have it in tiny balls that are flash frozen, which apparently seals in more flavour to every mouthful.

Technology is part of the attraction in today’s food world, and the perfect combination seems to be a bit of high tech wizardry with a touch of retro simplicity. With these elements in balance, you get the blending of new and old worlds. Perhaps that is the way to bridge the gaps we have in our world, to bring generations and cultures closer together over a cup of half-caff extra hot caramel latte or a cup of Mini Melts. There is long tradition in sharing ideas while taking a break from the hectic pace of everyday life, and we all certainly deserve a break, don’t we? Maybe we won’t solve the problems of the world, but at least we can say we enjoyed ourselves for a moment or two.

There are lots of great coffee shops in Kelowna and surrounding areas you could even make it a goal to try all of them! One of our favourite places is Bliss Café, in Peachland. There are some great ice cream places too. If you want to try those new Mini Melts, visit the Boat Show this weekend and you will see a kiosk there.

For a recipe that involves coffee or ice cream. This coffee infused crème brulée recipe can be made as usual, or if you take the custard and put it in an ice cream maker, you have coffee ice cream!

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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