Saturday, April 09, 2016

Bori-coffee

Coffee is not the main reason I like to show my students the Rosie Perez film Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas! As she explains in an NPR interview, this 4,000-year history of Puerto Rico is intended primarily for Puerto Ricans living in the United States. I find it to be important for a much broader audience.

Though coffee is not the focus of the film, it is mentioned near the beginning, as she and her relatives discuss the importance of a guest being served coffee immediately upon entering a Puerto Rican home, whether in Puerto Rico proper or in Miami, New York, or elsewhere. Coffee is, after all, great fuel for the conversations that cement a community. 

Recently I have been realizing that a particular brand of coffee is increasingly associated with that culture of warmth and hospitality: Bustelo. I use the word "realizing" because this has happened both through the questions I have been getting as a coffee maven and by way of readings from the Flama network of young Latinos and from Huffington Post.

The first of these -- by Flama contributor Barbara Gonzalez -- highlights tradition and familiarity as reasons to love this coffee, which she identifies as Cuban-style. Of course actual Cuban coffee is still illegal in the United States, nor does Cuba produce enough coffee to supply Bustelo's growing clientele. But Cuban-style generally means roasted dark, ground fine, and brewed strong, which Bustelo is. HuffPost writer Jay Weston goes a bit further, arguing that this is actually the world's best coffee, and that true coffee aficionados [sic] will agree.

This of course is not possible, since fine coffee and cheap coffee are mutually exclusive categories, especially if that cheap coffee is ground before packaging. This does not detract, however, from the cultural importance of this coffee, nor from the fascinating story of the family business that is Bustelo. If we could now just introduce them to shade-grown, fairly-traded coffee, it would be a truly magical tale!

Lagniappe

Next month our whole family is going to Puerto Rico -- the first time for all of us, even though I did a major project there once (my boss made the site visit). Our main destination is on the coast, but of course we will spend part of the time in Puerto Rico's coffeelands!

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