Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart

The title might imply that this post has something to do with coffee being heart-healthy and there might be some factual substantive data proving as much; I can assure you it doesn't.
Coffee is good for you, thats proven, for now--it helps with blood flow, digestion, mental function, its full of antioxidents and all kinds of other great things but I didn't feel like researching all that stuff right now because I'm writing about something completely different.

We take for granted, I think, the fact that we're roasting coffee every day. The process of roasting coffee is a pretty awesome thing but when you're cranking out hundreds of pounds a day, sometimes you forget how fascinating it can be to folks who've never seen it happen.

My favorite part about roasting coffee is the reason for the "heart" part of the title; I love the smell of roasting coffee. I remember the very first batch of coffee I ever roasted years ago; I was floored when the beans came out of the roaster because the smell took me instantly back to my childhood. Nostalgia attached to smell is a very powerful thing. Coffee right out of the roaster smells just like the old time dark tobacco curing barns my father still used back then. The barns were wooden structures with dirt floors and open rafters all the way to the roof. The tobacco was hung from the rafters several stories up and then hickory fires were set below the tobacco to smoke cure it over the course of several weeks.

Still, after six years of roasting coffee, every time I swing the drum hatch open and drop the beans into the cooling tray I am reminded of how much I loved the smell of the dark tobacco barns, the crisp autumn nights tending the fires, the first year I was tall enough to climb the rafters, the community coming together to fill barns, the feel of worn tobacco sticks in your hand, the distinct sound of a stalk splitting over the spear, the soft and cool texture of the tying leaf... These are memories of a tradition exists only in museums; a set of agriculture practices that will never be used again. There are fewer and fewer people left on this earth who share these memories and understand these old-time practices. I feel fortunate to be one of those people and it makes my heart happy that every time I drop a batch of beans I get to re-live it as it all flashes through my mind's eye.

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