Tag Archives: coffee

Café Brûlot

The French word brûlot originally meant “fire ship.” Back in the days when all ships were made of wood, it was a reasonably common military tactic to fill an old ship with combustible materials, set it alight, and, when it was really roaring, send it out among the ships of one’s enemies, hoping that they would catch fire, which they often did. While brûlot can still refer to a fire ship, it came in time to refer to another combustible material in flames, this time brandy.

It is the flaming brandy definition of brûlot, of course, that gives us café brûlot, that sensational showstopper of New Orleans origin, where flaming brandy is the big attention-getter. There are a number of tales regarding the invention of this theatrical beverage, including one story that involves the pirate Jean Lafitte. However, somewhat more reasonably perhaps, the venerable restaurant Antoine’s, founded in 1840 and the oldest restaurant in New Orleans, lays claim to the invention. Whichever tale is true, the drink was being served at Antoine’s by the 1890s. Continue reading

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Coffee: The Magic Bean

Coffee Plant

Coffee beans may not offer the fairytale magic of producing giant beanstalks, but they do produce the very real and often necessary magic of waking us up, getting us going, clarifying our thoughts, helping us work, talk, cope, and get things done.

The coffee plant is a member of the madder family of plants. Rubiaceae in Latin, the madder family includes among its more than 6,500 species of tropical herbs, shrubs, and trees such fragrant delights as the gardenia and such medical wonders as quinine. But the member of the family nearest to many of our hearts is the one that produces those magic “beans.” The coffee shrub is an evergreen. In the wild, it grows to heights of 26 to 33 feet. It produces bunches of white flowers that smell much like jasmine, and each flower in time produces a fruit. The fruit, when ripe, is called a cherry, and its fleshy pulp contains two seeds. These seeds are what we know as coffee beans. Continue reading

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