25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
San Pedro Coffee in the 50’s
You know, good rich percolated coffee like we enjoy it today was not available on the island in the 1950,’s or like we say, twenty five years ago. I believe the chocolate drink Ovaltine was available to some degree, but it could only be afforded by the richer persons, if there were any. I think the Ovaltine chocolate cans remained for ages on the shelves to catch dust and a lot of rust.
The most common breakfast beverage was tea. In fact tea was used in the morning and in the evenings and for most occasions; so much that parents used to call us to come have tea, not breakfast. “Come and have tea,” meant that you were being called either for breakfast or for supper. Brookband Tea came in 4 and 8-ounce packets, and it was simply placed in a kettle with hot water and let to stand for some minutes. It was then blended with some cinnamon, sugar and condensed milk and I tell you it made a delicious beverage.
So when was coffee introduced into the island? It was introduced since the 1940’s and 50’s, but it was a different form of coffee that did not use coffee beans. Sounds crazy? Perhaps, but the early Sanpedranos prepared a beverage similar to coffee using corn. It was very simple to prepare. Two or three pounds of corn grain were placed into a deep pot over the fire and roasted until the corn was dry and scorched. It almost looked burnt up and good for nothing. Then it was ground using a hand mill, but not too finely. There you had your “corn coffee” ready to be percolated. We had no fancy coffee makers. We simply boiled some water in a kettle and placed a few ounces of the ground corn coffee in the hot water. After five minutes you pour some of the beverage into a cup using a fine sieve to prevent small particles from getting into your coffee drink. Some sugar and condensed milk was added to taste.
Was it good? We loved it for that is all that we had. The only other drink was tea or plain water. Some fifteen years in Merida, Mexico, I tasted at a restaurant a blended drink of coffee and the same parched corn I am talking about. It was absolutely delicious, and I looked all over the stores to see if I could locate it. I think it was specially prepared. Not a bad idea for our very own Caye Coffee Store to try this mix. Perhaps it could be called Maya Caye Coffee and if it hits the market, perhaps they could trade mark it and soon have a chain of this business all over the world and Twenty Five Years Ago would be very proud. I love the fresh coffee at Caye Coffee. I would also love to taste once again some of that “corn coffee” that was so popular 25 years ago.