Culture Magazine

About Nature, Importance and Poetry of Grounding Coffee

By Aristippos

Napoléon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) wanted some concrete information from one of his counselors as to the reasons why sweetening is so dependant on the consistency of the sugar used. Jean-Anthèlme Brillat Savarin spent a considerable amount of time investigating the quality of being, in connection with the quality of the food we eat and how we prepare it. He addressed also the differences between grinding coffee with a grinder, as opposed to the use of mortar and pestle. For my part, I have repeatedly spent time addressing the differences between two domestic ways of preparing coffee. One being pushing the button of a coffee machine and going to the bathroom for the morning freshen-up preparations and returning to the kitchen when the automated machine rings the ready-bell. The other one is using some 20 minutes to prepare the coffee manually. The great difference between the two is not solely found in the coffee taste.

In Europe, coffee drinkers and many of those who do not like the effects or the taste of coffee – coffee and tea drinkers alike – all seem to treasure their memories of a mother or grandmother placing a grinder between their legs and grinding their coffee on a daily basis. But beyond the practicability of this work, some have obviously had reasons to compose and sing about it. The most prominent example must be the Venezuelan musician Hugo Blanco (*1940), who in 1958 composed the song “Moliendo Café“. Blanco created the music style known as Orquídea, partly based on Cuban music and named after the national flower of Venezuela – the orchid.

From 1830 until the end of the century, Venezuela had become the second most important country in the production and export of coffee, but their unsustainable ways of production led to soil erosion and other changes, causing coffee yields to go back considerably by the beginning of the 20th century. However, in a song, Venezuelan coffee continued to spread strongly to all cultures and corners of the world.

In Puerto Rico there is a very strong coffee culture, although their production plays a very small role in the international coffee market. One of Puerto Rico’s sons is the blind singer guitarist Jose Feliciano (*1945) who has covered Blanco’s song in his very special style.

Jose Feliciano / Moliendo Cafe, posted with vodpod

Far, far away from those warm countries in America, where coffee feels at home, in the eastern part of Romania, some twelve musicians got together and started playing as a brass band under the name of Fanfare Ciocarlia. They started playing only Brass music from the Balkan but have been expanding in style and getting more attention on an international level. They are mostly known for their high-speed interpretations on mostly damaged instruments.

If we go even further, we find a young lady playing this song with a harp. Born in Japan in 1982, Mika Agematsu has also a rendition to speak for. Her harp is however from Paraguay.


One of my most beloved musicians continues to be Paco de Lucia (*1947), whom I had the privilege to experience some years ago in the Philharmonic in Cologne and in a small venue in Stuttgart. Flamenco, the music world where he feels mostly at home, is a passionate world of heat, but with its strong Arabian influences quite different to the heat expressed in music from Venezuela and the Caribbean. It is a wonderful instrumental twist on the origins of the song.


Paco de Lucía / Moliendo Café, posted with vodpod

And before we forget who started it all, here is a version, where Nelson Villalba sings and Hugo Blanco plays the harp himself. This might be the closest one can get to the way the piece was performed in the years after its creation and it is the very first sung version, recorded in 1963.



Nelson Villalba / Moliendo Café, posted with vodpod

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