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Monday, December 27, 2010

Coffee Fellowship Invention of Note

Thanks to my friend Henry Lukas at the Spellman Museum for pointing out that yesterday -- Boxing Day -- was the anniversary of a patent for an invention that is -- though secular -- of significance to every UU congregation I have known. I refer, of course, to the coffee percolator.

On December 26, 1865, James Nason of Franklin, Massachusetts (deep in UU heartland, but this may be a coincidence) filed the first patent for an electric coffee percolator (though earlier claims exist for its actual invention). It probably did not look much like the one shown here, but it made possible the ritual of "coffee hour," which typically follows Sunday services at UU churches. These are opportunities to catch up with friends while enjoying a cuppa and perhaps a tasty treat. Just as no creed is required for membership, tea and juice are usually available, so that all may feel welcome, even if the name "coffee" is not easily let go!

Percolators are a convenient way of serving coffee to a crowd, and they can fill a room with the aroma of coffee -- I wish I could find coffee that tastes like the aroma I remember from my grandmother's percolator -- but they are probably the worst way to prepare coffee, as they tend to overextract it, bringing out the bitterest oils.

It is somewhat ironic that churches -- famous for poor brewing techniques -- have been in the vanguard of the movement to improve conditions for coffee farmers. Without churches -- especially Congregational, Lutheran, and UU -- the Fair Trade movement in the United States might never have taken root. Building connections between farmers and consumers, the movement has also educated both groups about improving coffee quality from the field to the cup.

Our own congregation has been purchasing fair-trade coffee from nearby Equal Exchange for several years, both for Coffee Hour and for individual sales. (Members also support the local public library through the purchase of fair-trade Bridgewater Brew from Deans Beans.) And even though Equal Exchange does its best to promote the tender treatment of coffee beans, its coffee experts have decided to accommodate church and synagogue customers by creating a "Fellowship Blends" that are roasted and ground in such a way that percolators will do minimum damage. The blends -- with ordering links -- are provided below.

Organic Fellowship Blend

Roast: pre-roast blend, Full City
Aroma: praline, vanilla, Nutella/hazelnut, floral
Flavor: balanced, sweet, chocolate, spicy
Mouthfeel: solid, expansive
Acidity: lively, cherry-like
Aftertaste: sweet, smoky, caramelized sugar
(Available in 1lb)
Order online at Interfaith Store

Fellowship Blend

Roast: pre-roast blend, Full City
Aroma: vanilla, pralines, malty
Flavor: balanced, sweet, caramel, brown sugar, medjool date
Mouthfeel: syrupy, dense
Acidity: bright, sparkling
Aftertaste: sweet, baker's chocolate

However you choose to buy and prepare your coffee, please remember:
"Thank the farmers!"

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