Coffee time  – Part 3

Coffee time – Part 3

The following evening, having attempted—at great risk to their digestive systems—to make use of the beans brought to them by Kaldi, who is temporarily in disgrace, Jamal and Rebekah are about to dine. Jamal is seated, apprehensive. Rebekah brings in a tray of food and sits. They say grace.

Rebekah: There you are my dear. Njera and durowat. Made in the traditional way.
Jamal: (brightening) Meaning?
Rebekah: None of those wretched beans inside.
Jamal: Ah, the beans. I’ve been thinking.
Rebekah: (closing her eyes and letting out a low groan) I do wish you wouldn’t.

Jamal: Maybe we’re supposed to make a drink out of them.
Rebekah: How shall I do that?
Jamal: Try crushing them in your mortar and pour boiling water over them. Add a little sugar?
Rebekah: Very well.

Jamal: (inspiration) Do that, but as an experiment take another lot of beans and roast them before crushing them, then add the boiling water. We’ll see which way works out best.
Rebekah: If either.
The following evening. At Jamal’s bidding, Kaldi has been pardoned, but is still sectioned, his meals brought to his room. Jamal and Rebekah have already eaten. Rebekah clears away the food tray and returns with two jugs and drinking vessels.

Rebekah: First let’s try the drink with beans crushed raw.
(They do so)
Jamal and Rebekah: Yee-uk.
Jamal: No, I think we’re getting somewhere. Let’s try the one with the beans roasted, then crushed.
(They do so)
Rebekah: Oooooh!
Jamal: Heaven!

(They continue to sip at their new-found discovery)
Jamal: Truly the good Lord is bounteous.
Rebekah: I could drink this night after night.
Jamal: (visionary) People will. For thousands of years to come. And all thanks to us.
Rebekah: When do we tell the neighbours?
Jamal: (after a long pause for consideration) We’ll leave those miserable scroungers out of it.

Rebekah: But we could have a nice little earner here!
Jamal: Tell you what. Tomorrow, you go down to the town with some of the beans, and the roast and powdered stuff, and demonstrate it to those Arab traders at the port.
Rebekah: What, the towel-heads?
Jamal: Rebekah! The good Lord enjoins us to have respect for those who differ from ourselves.
(Rebekah looks abashed, then cheers herself up with another sip)

Jamal: (visionary) People all over the world will enjoy this drink for thousands of years to come. But their prejudice and their hatred for the Other will go undiminished.
Rebekah: If you say so, my dear.
Jamal: (voice full of wonder) What a piece of work is man.
Rebekah: That sounds like a quotation.

Jamal: It will be. When Shakespeare gets around to writing Hamlet.
Rebekah: Eh? (then a sudden thought) But we need to give the drink a name. A—what d’you call it—a trade name.
Jamal: Let’s call it….. (gets stuck)
Rebekah: Let’s call it…..cocoa!

Jamal: That doesn’t sound right. Too soft, too sweet. (Pause) What about…..Jamaltina?
Rebekah: Too personal.
(And so on, long into the night)
Over the following few days, Jamal, Rebekah and Miriam put their heads together and worked out a way of imposing a levy on their new-found discovery, to be paid by the Arab traders, with a handsome percentage for the mayor of the local harbour town. This was enough to make them modestly prosperous, as the good Lord wills.

And what of Kaldi, the hero of our tale? As a reward for his initiative, the mayor appointed him as customs controller of the harbour town, a role which, as one would imagine, he fulfilled with scrupulous fairness and great efficiency. In town, he could grow his hair as long and shaggy as he wished. He married, very happily, and his wife bore twin boys, named Latte and Espresso, because one was shorter than the other, and a sturdy little girl (Robusta).

Three years after settling in town he paid an extended visit to his parents’ compound. Sitting outside one morning he watched his cousins rounding up the now increased herd of goats. All of a sudden the senior goat—his beard now long and grizzled—broke away and trotted over to Kaldi. Standing on his hind legs, he stretched out one foreleg and winked, inviting Kaldi to dance.

Kaldi groaned and murmured: “just like days gone by.” And then: “time to make myself scarce. Or he’s going to demand a percentage, too.”

Chris Dunton

Previous Skeletons tumble out
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