Friday, October 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Coffees

I never drank a drop of coffee until I was 27 years old. Why knows why?  I certainly grew up in a household of coffee drinkers, and now I adore it, but there was definitely a turning point for me that I will now share in the story of how I came to love coffee for a meme called "Coffee Stories".  This is for Blissfully Caffinated who just had her 3rd child last week. Congratulations!

It was really hot in Guatemala. The kind of hot that made your sweat sweat. Yeah, it was that bad. I’d joined the Peace Corps and was off doing “the toughest job I’d ever love” and since I was a health educator, part of my job was to encourage people to boil their water.

Of course explaining about invisible germs without having benefit of speaking the local language was interesting, but I tried my hardest. You see, in the rural area of this beautiful Central American country, when the rainy season starts, many people get sick. Really sick. Here’s how the disease transmission part  works. Without toilets or latrines, many people just find a good place to “go”, and after taking care of business, cover up their mess leaves or other organic materials. When the rainy season starts it rains every day for six months. The rains flush everything downwards so the streams and rivers flow with all the additional rain. And the additional “you know what.”

Long story short, I got my share of gastrointestinal illnesses. I tried to be so careful about not drinking water that wasn’t bottled or boiled, but somehow I got pretty sick.

Going up to visit people in the rural villages was always my toughest challenge.  I was constantly faced with the conundrum of accepting offers of hospitality that included things like glasses of lemonade. I was almost certain that the water had not been boiled (even though ironically that was one of my reasons for being there with our local nurses—to encourage boiling water.)

Importantly, it was considered rude to reject an offer of hospitality, but I was so sick of getting sick. Then one day I spied something boiling on the wood stove at the house I was visiting. “That’s coffee” I was told. "That’s boiled” is what I was thinking.

Well it wasn’t exactly coffee. It was corn coffee which is apparently composed of a few coffee beans and corn all ground up and then boiled. It tasted awful but I graciously accepted it and stayed healthy.

After drinking this "coffee" for several months, one day I went to breakfast with friends at a nice hotel in Guatemala City. That morning, on a whim, I ordered coffee with my food.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE how delicious it was! Black Gold, Texas Tea, hey, this stuff was more valuable than a whole gusher of oil in my opinion.

And that ladies and gentlemen is the story of how I came to love coffee. As a matter of fact, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll head out to buy myself a steaming cup now. Ciao! -Monica


Jenni said...

Great story, Monica! I love that you turned to coffee for the sake of your health :)

thanks for playing - you're all linked up.

Erin@TheLocalsLoveIt said...

That is a great story. Not the part about you getting sick but all the other parts. My hubby lived in Guatemala for a while and we'd love to travel there someday. Hope you are enjoying your coffee.

blissfully caffeinated said...

That is without a doubt the craziest "How I started drinking coffee" story I've ever heard. Thanks for sharing!!!

Ellie Belen said...

When my dad make coffee, he boils it and then strains it through a cotton cloth that looks like a sock attached to a metal ring. He said that's the way all of Latin America does it.

Jenn said...

What an interesting story!