The culture behind coffee

Now and then, a course titled “CoffeeCulture,” or LLFW 271, will be offeredin the course catalog. It is wherestudents may drink their favorite cupof-mud and learn about the differentcultures and countries from whencethe caffeinated beverage originated.The course is taught by John Bolton,who opened the Salt Lake RoastingCompany in 1981 despite skepticismabout the profitability of a coffee shopin Utah. Nevertheless, more coffee issold in the state than one would thinkin a community that doesn’t wish todrink it, Bolton said.The Roasting Company attractsmany students who enjoy coffee andstaying up late to study.”I like to come in and get differentglimpses and tastes of culture,” saidJaryd Bern, an Arabic major.Paul Matlin, an engineering major,said he’s “addicted to the coffee”and he likes to look at the pictures ofBolton’s trips.The diverse selection of coffee atthe Roasting Company can be attributedto the efforts of Bolton, who hastraveled to 26 different countries tobring to Salt Lake City what he claimsis the best-tasting coffee.The line to get coffee at the companyis almost always outside thedoor in the evening hours, while busyemployees steam milk, fill bags withplump coffee beans and explain tocustomers the geographical origin ofthe flavor of the day.Pictures of places like Peru andAfrican countries line the walls, andthe list of available coffee reads likea world atlas. Bolton said he tookhis first trip in 1985 because he hadan “insatiable curiosity where coffeecame from.”Coffee is the second most populardrink in the world behind water andabout 400 billion cups are consumedannually, according to http://www.coffeeuniverse.com.Because coffee is best grown nearthe equator and because frost may killtrees further to the north or south, themajority of the world’s No. 2 beverag eis grown in Brazil, Bolton said.Some coffee growers pick five-toseventimes in a three-month harvestto get the ripest berries, Bolton said,but others strip the entire tree at onceto be more efficient and gain higheryields.Coffee cherry quality is compromisedby large yields that exhaust thesoil of valuable nutrients, Bolton said.The seeds of the cherries arethe coffee beans, which areoften sorted into differentbins by quality, but growerssell them all.This is one reason Boltonsaid he likes to visit the coffeefarms.”They want to give thebest to someone who comesto learn about their culture…we all like to be appreciated,”Bolton said.”I like organic, shade-growncoffee because it has the bestflavors and tastes like the coffeewhen I first entered thebusiness,” Bolton added.Organic, shade-growncoffees have a tendency tocultivate a more natural environmentthan high-yieldinghybrid trees resistant todisease and frost, accordingto Bolton, but he added thatmany people use buzzwordslike “organic” and “shadegrown”as marketing tools.Not all great, naturally producedcoffees can be organicbecause certification is expensive,Bolton said.Bolton tells a story of asmall coffee farm in Peru, aone-day-and-a-half hike. First,a worker standing on a pieceof wood crushed the berrieson the dirt or on a small slabof concrete. The people thensorted them by hand.Farmers in the region willuse pig excrement to helpfertilize the trees and the pigsthemselves eat the cherriesthat fall from the trees, accordingto Bolton. This is theclosest thing farmers have tofertilizers, he added.”I want to support peoplewho do things on their own.I’ll pay more for good coffee,”Bolton said.All of the coffee at theRoasting Company is roastedby Bolton. Roasting isthe process that reveals theunique flavors and aromas ineach coffee.Roasting levels are subjective,but roasting is artisticand scientific with wisdomsomewhere in the middle, accordingto Bolton, who in theearly 1980s claimed to be theonly roaster between Denverand San Francisco.”I roast coffee artisticallybecause I can’t paint a painting.It’s a feel thing,” he said.Bolton doesn’t have any bellsor timers on his roasters toacknowledge certain moisturecontents.Bolton said big companieslike Starbucks have movedtoward automated roasters,but in so doing, they “lose theromance and soul of it.”Despite his hardcore lovefor coffee, Bolton said he “enjoysa latte now and then, butI want to taste the varietal differencesin straight coffee.”[email protected]