Today I decided to treat my son to a small trip to Oxford for lunch and a good cup of tea (for him)/coffee (for myself). Dawid loves to celebrate his daily rituals so you can imagine that he loved the idea of going to the Grand Cafe in Oxford which is not only famous for historical reasons (first coffee house in England) but also for great interior design, good service and quality coffee.
After a small lunch and a peaceful walk in smaller streets of Oxford (just to avoid the madness of shopping even on a bank holiday day) we both found a warm drink perfect ending to our day. I like the Grand Cafe in Oxford simply because it reminds me off all the great coffee houses of Budapest! It's pretty, living up to its name and pleasantly loud with chatter. The waiters working there are kind, but not intrusive - which trust me is a rare experience in the UK. Small elements of the interior design and branding remind customers of its original purpose but today the place is more known to students who come here for a good drink in the evening. I found it really difficult to find out more about the history of the place from their main website, which is a pity! According to Wikipedia:
The first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1652 by a Jewish man named Jacob at the Angel in the parish of St Peter in the East in a building now known as "The Grand Cafe". A plaque on the wall still commemorates this and the cafe is now a trendy cocktail bar.
There is a small review of the food at the Grand Cafe over at Daily Info. There is also a mall Posterous post on the topic here, mentioning interesting fact: Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea Clinton liked this place during her studies. I would expect much more information on-line so I will need to go back to the library and read more about it.
Even though the main focus of this venue has shifted a little bit I still like to come here for a cup of coffee. I am not sure what I was drinking previously - it's amazing how we forget small details of our lives - but today I decided to try out Jamaican Blue Mountain. I have approached this one with complete ignorance and used the copy on the menu to guide me in my choice of the day. Saying that I was really happy to discover that is is indeed a good choice for all coffee lovers - I think it's the type of coffee anyone would like simply because of it's gentle taste and lack of typical for many types of coffee bitterness. Me myself I am generally a fan of bitter, stronger tastes but I can see this one a great choice for a longer meeting with a friend for a chat. It's a quality drink served in a large dosis which should last for quite a few threats of conversation;) I was so happy with it that I did not want to have any more coffee today.
Back at home I looked up the origin of Jamaican Blue Mountain and found a good piece on its history:
In the early 1700’s, Mathieu Gabriel De Clieu planted the first Arabica Coffee plant on the Caribbean island of Martinique. In the mid 1700’s, the Governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, imported coffee beans and the first coffee plant from the island of Martinique, specifically the Arabica species of coffee.
The Arabica coffee plant was first planted and cultivated in the hills of St. Andrew and later expanded into the blue mountains. There was steady growth for over 50 years. In the late 1700’s until the early 1800’s cultivation was at it highest peak, but in the early 1800’s to the middle 1800’s the industry experienced many ups and downs.
In 1891, legislation was created to teach the proper way to cultivate and cure Blue Mountain coffee, but it was not until 1944 when such efforts were successful. In the mid 1940’s, the Jamaican government created the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica, which officially began in 1950.
Before any Jamaican blue mountain® coffee was exported, it must go through the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica, where it is cleaned, graded and inspected. In 1983, the duties of the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica changed. Now the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica must approve and issue licenses to the cultivators and exporters of Jamaica Blue Mountain® Coffee.
It was not much of a surprise to learn that Jamaican Blue Mountain is currently one of the most expensive coffee types in the world. It is also used in production of Tia Maria - coffee liqueur some of you might know.
There, a great afternoon in Oxford and a little bit of light on my path to learn more about coffee!