From Mark – Coffee

We are nearing the end of our time in South America.  I haven’t posted very often, for many reasons.  Often the competition for computer time is high, especially when there is internet access.  Often I am very tired at the end of the day from doing whatever is was that day.  There are many other reasons (excuses) as well.  As our journey south comes close to the turning around point, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on our adventures and life for us in S.A.  There are a few subjects I want to talk about and I have decided to start with coffee.

I love coffee.  I used to drink coffee to keep me awake during 24-hour halibut fishing openers in Kodiak.  I has a skipper on my crab boat that brought a 50lb bag of Espresso beans on the boat and would make the crew freshly ground super strong coffee BEFORE he woke us up every day.  I really came to love coffee shortly after I met Michelle.  I was at her cabin on Goldhill Road one night and she made me coffee with vanilla ice cream in it.  It changed my life.

I prefer my coffee in a large cup with a teaspoon and a half of sugar and Coffeemate (TM).  Many people have suggested cream or half and half to me, like I’m missing out on something.  I have to say here that Coffeemate (TM), for me, adds a wonderfully delicious flavor to my sweetened coffee that I totally enjoy.  No other non-dairy creamer adds the same flavor as Coffeemate (TM), nor does cream, etc.  Just to be clear.

Michelle and I have been drinking hazelnut coffee for as long as I can remember.  It used to be that the only place in Fairbanks you could get it was at Country Kitchen, but as the coffee movement in the USA grew, it became more widely available.  At some point we switched from fresh ground coffee to Folgers hazelnut coffee.  With six kids, you do what you can to save money.

Coffee availability in SA was a big concern for us.  Mary and Brian had been to Ecuador not too long before we were heading there and told us there was no good coffee in Ecuador.  This was pretty horrifying   What about the rest of SA?  We were going to Colombia so thing should be pretty good, right?  Just in case, we stocked up on Folgers in Florida before we shipped the camper over.  I think we had like 8 cans of coffee.  We also had a giant can of Coffeemate (TM).

In Colombia it turns out that most of the coffee there is for export.  When I was picking up the van and trailer from the port I was in a warehouse filled with coffee.  And I mean filled. One hundred pound burlap sacks stacked on pallets and then stacked on top of each other something like 40 feet high.  It was all unroasted coffee beans.  It reminded me of the warehouse they stuck the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It was an unbelievable amount of coffee.  Inconceivable really.

As we drove south all too quickly through Colombia we came to the city of Caucasia. We saw our first supermarket in SA and screeched to a halt on the side of the road to head in.  We stocked up on many groceries, but one of the things we bought was a 5 kilo bag of ground coffee.  It was something like $35.  It turns out we should have bought more.

Our giant bag of coffee was pretty good stuff.  I have to say, Colombian coffee is really good.  We didn’t have any coffee worries at all through Ecuador.  We didn’t run out until our lengthy stay in Puno.  At the supermarket in Puno (Plaza Vea) they sold some coffee that turned out to be tolerable.  Altiplano was the brand.  It was pretty expensive, at least compared to the prices of other things in Peru, which were generally pretty cheap.  It was about $7 a pound.  One night we stopped into a smaller market that had coffee for sale in plastic bags.  It smelled pretty good so we bought it.  It was $5 for two pounds.  It was terrible and still sits in the cupboard to this day.

We has a lot of hopes for Chile after spending two months in Peru.  Good coffee was one of them.  Oh well.  So far we have tried four or five different brands of coffee in Chile.  They were all OK, but Chile itself is pretty expensive and coffee is no exception.  It runs $10 a pound for cheaper stuff (Haiti brand or Colombia brand) but quality coffee is way up there. Juan Valdez brand (REALLY!) from Colombia is $20 a pound.  We have not bought it.

We have quite a bit of our Folgers hazelnut coffee left, but it turns out that we are not liking it so much.  We ran out of Coffeemate (TM) a long, long time ago and it seems hazelnut Folgers is not the same without it.  Especially black.  Many of you who have been to our house may already have known this.  We did not, since we had been adding stuff to our coffee.  I don’t know what this means for us when we get home.  Will we continue to drink strictly Folgers hazelnut?  I don’t think so.  I am looking forward to moving back to fresh ground coffees of many varieties .  I am hoping to have a few or several different types of coffee on hand for whatever mood suites me.  But first I must talk about an unforeseen development.  NESCAFE!

The coffee aisles in supermarkets (or any market that has coffee) are filled with instant coffee.  Seriously.  There is something like 3 feet of shelf space for ground North American style coffee and then 25 feet of instant stuff.  Ryan had brought some Nescafe from the US with us and we (Michelle and I) decided to try it.  It turned out to be not so bad.  Really.  We followed the directions exactly to see what it would be like and it was pretty good!  Best of all, it was really easy to make.  Just heat up some water and pour it over the instant coffee in a cup.  No need to get out the generator and the coffee maker, find the filters, measure out X amount of coffee, make sure we have enough water (always an issue in SA since any water we consume, we buy), etc.  Most importantly, since we have all moved to black coffee (except for Ryan, who was already there), it tasted good.  And we can make it quickly anytime anywhere, which can be pretty important when you’re traveling like we are.

Now I’m not saying we are switching to instant coffee on a permanent basis.  I don’t really know what this means.  I am still looking forward to stocking up on coffee as I mentioned earlier in this post.  I am curious to see what happens when we get back.  I can certainly see the advantages instant coffee can present when you need coffee pretty bad.

One thing I know, I sure do miss good coffee.


2 Responses

  1. Kay DeCorso

    Miss you Mark, so much. What a delightful entry! Laughed thru the whole thing, even the “problem” parts. Love YOU!

  2. It’s not coffee without Coffeemate!!

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