Premium Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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For all the talk and popularity about premium coffees in recent years, it might seem as if we're drinking more and more of it. You might think that the coffee consumption statistics would pike on the charts. Interestingly, that's really not the case. By and large, American adults continue to consume about 4.5 kilograms of coffee a year. The regular coffee drinker has three cups a day.

Are We Drinking More or Simply Better Coffee?

The difference is in the kind of coffee we're drinking. Fifty years ago it was almost exclusively mass-produced canned coffee found in grocery stores. That still sells and it always will. But its quality has risen along with the number of Starbucks and Caribou Coffees and other specialty shops selling premium coffees across cities and towns seemingly everywhere.

So what kinds of coffee are we drinking more and more of? Coffee is a significant crop in certain African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe), Indonesia and Hawaii, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. This belt so near the equator shares the climatic and geographic conditions necessary for a healthy coffee crop: rich well-drained soil, annual rainfall of about 50 inches, only moderate winds, cloud cover or shady conditions, and average temperatures of about 75° F with no frost.

We're an affluent country all in all. Our quality of life is rock solid. With this affluence comes a taste--and taste is especially apt here--for fine foods and beverages. What constitutes a first-rate coffee? The answer is easy and simple on one level: proper roasting and grinding, and careful brewing. The biggest secret is in the roasting. The other items are a matter of equipment--a burr grinder and a clean coffee maker.

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