Adventure Tales: The Bitter and the Sweet

20 January 2010 0 comments

I had the most amazing adventure -- and on my adventure I learned a thing or two about life, about bitterness, about sweetness and about coffee.

Coffee was traditionally thought of as a medicine in India and in Arabia.  Its medicinal actions included increasing mental acuity (big surprise there) and reflexes.  It was also thought of as a help in malaria, dropsy, hysteria, infant cholera and menstrual cramps.   It was widely thought of as an aphrodesiac among the Turkish peoples.

This is not a surprise, by the way.  In Traditional Chinese medicine the "bitter" flavor corresponds directly with the Heart channel...and therefore with the emotion of love.

As part of my adventure, I spent some time learning about the welcome rituals of the Middle Eastern Bedouin people -- and about their coffee.

In the beginning...when you enter an Bedouin tent -- by invitation -- you take a seat in front of the host.

Before a word is spoken, the guest is offered three small cups, "finjans" of dark, bitter and strong coffee.  This coffee is symbolic of the bitterness of life...and of the bitterness of the journey and effort it took for you to come to your host's tent. 

(Hey, I get took us five days' longer to travel than it should have to get there).   

After this coffee is consumed then business and conversation can begin.   

This coffee is absolutely fantastic....different not only than grocery store coffee...but also, despite its strength, much different than "drive-through or sit-down famous-brand coffee-house coffee".   Those especially famous brands, for example, roast their beans in ovens until they are quite dark, almost burned.   The Bedouins do something totally -- different.

A Bedouin will reach deep into his pouch of green coffee beans and will remove a handful.  He will put them into an open pan and will pan-toast them over his open fire.    By pan-toasting the beans over a fire, he is in a very basic way, bringing out the flavor of the beans, opening up their energy and bringing out their richness.  This is pretty basic dietary medicine stuff.   The Bedouin way represents the optimal way to make coffee not just for flavor but for health.

(Those companies who oven roast and burn the beans only succeed in creating beans which are "under pressure" and "overdone" which medicinally speaking have a very different effect on our bodies.  Oven-roasting makes us more tense, pan-toasting opens us up.)

After a Bedouin host has dark pan-toasted beans, he will put them in a fantastic grinder, consisting of a bowl and a staff.   Through an unbelievably entertaining ritual of grinding and percussion the beans will be ready to add to a pot of water, where they will be boiled only a few minutes.   

So much care is put into the making of the coffee.   So much more the respect given to the guest to which it is offered.   

So three cups are offered.  Three are consumed.  Conversation and business are conducted.  
After a satisfactory period of time, a wonderful tea of sage and honey (sometimes roses, ginger or cinnamon are added) is offered...representing that life can be sweet as well.   

Of course, the sage grows throughout the desert.  It has many medicinal qualities as well...ranging from the treatment of rheumatism, blood sugar disorders, foggy thinking and gastritis.

Most striking to me, aside from the stunning flavors of the coffee and the tea...was the intention and detail in these Bedouin rituals.   So much beauty.  So much care.   First bitter coffee and then sweet tea.   

Bitter...then sweet. 

Like life.



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