Monday, June 29, 2009

The First "Coffee King"

Benjamin Green Arnold came to New York from Rhode Island in 1836 and took a job as accountant with an east-side grocer. He was thrifty, industrious, and kept his own counsel. He was a born financial leader. Fifteen years later he was made a junior partner in the firm. By 1868, the bookkeeper of 1836 was the head of the business, with a line of credit amounting to half a million dollars—a notable achievement in those days.

Mr. Arnold embarked upon his big speculation in coffee in 1869. For ten years he maintained his mastery of the market, and in that time amassed a fortune. It is related that one year's operations of this daring trader yielded his firm a profit of a million and a quarter of dollars.

B.G. Arnold was the first president of the New York Coffee Exchange. He was one of the founders of the Down Town Association in 1878. The president of the United States was his friend, and a guest at his luxurious home. But the high-price levels to which Arnold had forced the coffee market started a coffee-planting fever in the countries of production. Almost before he knew it, there was an overproduction that swamped the market and forced down prices with so amazing rapidity that panic seized upon the traders. Few that were caught in that memorable coffee maelstrom survived financially.

Arnold himself was a victim, but such was the man's character that his failure was regarded by many as a public misfortune. Some men differed with him as to the wisdom of promoting a coffee corner, and protested that it was against public policy; but Arnold's personal integrity was never questioned, and his mercantile ability and honorable business dealings won for him an affectionate regard that continued after his fortune had been swept away.

After the collapse of the coffee corner, Mr. Arnold resumed business with his son, F.B. Arnold. He died in New York, December 10, 1894, in his eighty-second year. The son died in Rome in 1906. The business which the father founded, however, continues today as Arnold, Dorr & Co., one of the most honored and respected names in Front Street.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chart of the World's Leading Coffees, 1922

The World's Leading Growths, with Market Names and General Trade Characteristics
Grand Division Country Principal Shipping
Best Known
Market Names
Trade Characteristics
North America Mexico Vera Cruz Coatepec
Greenish to yellow
bean; mild flavor.
Central America Guatemala Puerto Barrios Cobán
Waxy, bluish bean;
mellow flavor.
Salvador La Libertad Santa Ana
Santa Tecla
Smooth, green bean;
neutral flavor.
Costa Rica Puerto Limon Costa Ricas Blue-greenish bean;
mild flavor.
West Indies Haiti Cape Haitien Haiti Blue bean; rich, fairly
acid; sweet flavor.
Santo Domingo Santo Domingo Santo Domingo Flat, greenish-yellow
bean; strong flavor.
Jamaica Kingston Blue Mountain Bluish-green bean;
rich, full flavor.
Porto Rico Ponce Porto Ricans Gray-blue bean;
strong, heavy flavor.
South America Colombia Savanilla Medellin
Manizales, Bogota
Greenish-yellow bean;
rich, mellow flavor.
Venezuela La Guaira
Greenish-yellow bean;
mild, mellow flavor.
Brazil Santos Santos Small bean; mild flavor.
Rio de Janeiro Rio Large bean; strong cup.
Asia Arabia Aden Mocha Small, short, green
to yellow bean;
unique, mild flavor.
India Madras
Coorg (Kurg)
Small to large,
blue-green bean;
strong flavor.
East India Islands Malay States Penang (Geo't'n)
Liberian, Robusta
Liberian and Robusta
growths from Malaysia.
Sumatra Padang Mandheling
Ayer Bangies
Large, yellow to
brown bean; heavy
body; exquisite flavor.
Java Batavia Preanger
Cheribon, Kroe
Small, blue to yellow
bean; light in cup.
Celebes Menado
Minahassa Large, yellow bean;
aromatic cup.
Africa Abyssinia Jibuti Harar
Large, blue to yellow
bean; very like Mocha.
Pacific Islands Hawaiian
Honolulu Kona
Large, blue, flinty
bean; mildly acid.
Philippines Manila Manila Yellow and brown large
bean; mild cup.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Coffee Came to Vienna

Coffee HistoryA romantic tale has been woven around the introduction of coffee into Austria. When Vienna was besieged by the Turks in 1683, so runs the legend, Franz George Kolschitzky, a native of Poland, formerly an interpreter in the Turkish army, saved the city and won for himself undying fame, with coffee as his principal reward.

It is not known whether, in the first siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1529, the invaders boiled coffee over their camp fires that surrounded the Austrian capital; although they might have done so, as Selim I, after conquering Egypt in 1517, had brought with him to Constantinople large stores of coffee as part of his booty. But it is certain that when they returned to the attack, 154 years later, they carried with them a plentiful supply of the green beans.

Mohammed IV mobilized an army of 300,000 men and sent it forth under his vizier, Kara Mustapha, (Kuprili's successor) to destroy Christendom and to conquer Europe. Reaching Vienna July 7, 1683, the army quickly invested the city and cut it off from the world. Emperor Leopold had escaped the net and was several miles away. Nearby was the prince of Lorraine, with an army of 33,000 Austrians, awaiting the succor promised by John Sobieski, king of Poland, and an opportunity to relieve the besieged capital. Count Rudiger von Starhemberg, in command of the forces in Vienna, called for a volunteer to carry a message through the Turkish lines to hurry along the rescue. He found him in the person of Franz George Kolschitzky, who had lived for many years among the Turks and knew their language and customs.

On August 13, 1683, Kolschitzky donned a Turkish uniform, passed through the enemy's lines and reached the Emperor's army across the Danube. Several times he made the perilous journey between the camp of the prince of Lorraine and the garrison of the governor of Vienna. One account says that he had to swim the four intervening arms of the Danube each time he performed the feat. His messages did much to keep up the morale of the city's defenders. At length King John and his army of rescuing Poles arrived and were consolidated with the Austrians on the summit of Mount Kahlenberg. It was one of the most dramatic moments in history. The fate of Christian Europe hung in the balance. Everything seemed to point to the triumph of the crescent over the cross. Once again Kolschitzky crossed the Danube, and brought back word concerning the signals that the prince of Lorraine and King John would give from Mount Kahlenberg to indicate the beginning of the attack. Count Starhemberg was to make a sortie at the same time.

The battle took place September 12, and thanks to the magnificent generalship of King John, the Turks were routed. The Poles here rendered a never-to-be-forgotten service to all Christendom. The Turkish invaders fled, leaving 25,000 tents, 10,000 oxen, 5,000 camels, 100,000 bushels of grain, a great quantity of gold, and many sacks filled with coffee—at that time unknown in Vienna. The booty was distributed; but no one wanted the coffee. They did not know what to do with it; that is, no one except Kolschitzky. He said, "If nobody wants those sacks, I will take them", and every one was heartily glad to be rid of the strange beans. But Kolschitzky knew what he was about, and he soon taught the Viennese the art of preparing coffee. Later, he established the first public booth where Turkish coffee was served in Vienna.

This, then, is the story of how coffee was introduced into Vienna, where was developed that typical Vienna café which has become a model for a large part of the world. Kolschitzky is honored in Vienna as the patron saint of coffee houses. His followers, united in the guild of coffee makers (kaffee-sieder), even erected a statue in his honor. It still stands as part of the facade of a house where the Kolschitzygasse merges into the Favoritengasse, as shown in the accompanying picture.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Vintage Recipe for Drip Coffee

Two things are essential—an absolutely clean urn, and sound coffee, freshly parched, and ground neither too fine nor too coarse. The water must be freshly boiled. Put a cup of ground coffee in the strainer, pour upon it about two tablespoonfuls of boiling water, let it stand until the water drips through and there is no more bubbling, then pour on more water, but not too much, let it drip, keeping both the strainer and the spout covered to prevent the loss of aroma. Repeat until you have used almost five cups of water—this for four cups of strained coffee, as the grounds hold part of the water. Keep the pot hot while the dripping goes on, but never where the coffee will boil. If it dyes the cups it is too strong, but beware of making too weak. From "Dishes & Beverages of the Old South", by Martha McCulloch Williams, 1913