One of my favourite coffee experiences involved coffee that was quite unlike any other cup I've had. Every trip that I've made to Cuba included a visit to a 19th century coffee plantation. Isabelica was established at the end of the 18th century by a plantation owner who had fled the slave rebellion in Haiti. Although not a working coffee farm it is still in remarkable shape and is now a tourist destination. One room, a powerful reminder of the slavery that took place there, contained not only coffee growing tools, but shackles and tools of the slave labour. The most powerful reminder? A simple hole in the floor, to protect the belly of pregnant slaves that were being whipped.
On each visit there we did two things. One was take a group photo on the steps. The other was to pause for a simple, but fabulous cup of coffee. The coffee was roasted along with raw sugar, in a very dark roast, then ground with a mortar and pestal. The grounds were placed in a long cloth filter and boiling water from a kettle poured over them. Reminiscent of a wonderful espresso it had a taste, the hint of the sugar, that was simply unrivaled.
Today I ordered some coffee beans from Cuba. I know it won't be the same, roasted in Canada without sugar. But I'm anxious to try them, and perhaps get a little hint of those great cups of coffee at Isabelica and another farm we'd stop at. I'm hoping that this morning cup of Joe will take me back to the island and friends I've not seen for so long.