Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The Story of Coffee-man Clarke!
Nestled in the rolling red dirt and green vegetated hills of colorful St. Elizabeth is a district known as Top Hill in which lies a tight-knit farming community known as Ridge. It's natural beauty and pace of life remind everyone who visits that life is worth living and enjoying each day. Fields may not be much bigger than what you would consider to be a small back yard, but the diversity and abundance of the fruits of the earth grown in the red dirt will surprise you, as will the dedication and joy of those who labor to work the ground. From apples to avocados, beans to bananas, cabbage to coffee, and yams to yellow watermelon, it's almost as if they have it all, from A to Z.
Everton Clarke is a life-long resident of this community, an energetic, young-in-heart man who needs only a minute of your time to capture your mind's ability to remember his face and expression. He goes by Clarke, and his name in his community's language of Jamaican Sign Language is the handshape sign for the letter C, placed over your heart with your right hand. I must clarify, Clarke himself does not naturally speak JSL, as this is the language of Deaf persons who have attended formal school and were taught a language. You see, he never attended any formal school and like many Deaf persons in the countryside of St. Elizabeth, he communicated via gestures and oral techniques which over time, developed into a full-fledged language known today as Jamaican Country Sign language, which is entirely unique from the JSL taught in schools and developed by the broader Jamaican Deaf community today. You may think, wow, what a hard way to live! Perhaps it has had its difficulties, but what life doesn't? And certainly you are not going to meet a Clarke that in any way wants your pity, because he is not in need of it. Clarke is a man who loves life, loves Jesus and will love you too. There is nothing lacking! He is a father of three, a grandfather of many and a great-grandfather of more to come, and has been farming all his life. He'll forget more about the natural world and farming than I will probably ever learn, and he has done it all through observation and application.
He also happens to produce what is affectionately known as Clarke's coffee, a unique and flavorful brew that almost impersonates the character of the fascinating man who grows and roasts it, packing a punch and zeal not expected from such a small package. You don't want to drink this stuff too late in the day or you'll find yourself rolling in bed instead of dreaming of the hills of St Elizabeth. The trick to his trade is the techniques he learned over 50 years ago from his mother, passed down from generation to generation. The coffee is grown sporadically, mixed in among other fruits and vegetables, and carefully picked at the proper time. After a period of drying, the bean is then separated from the hull by a method you have to see for yourself, an old hollowed out tree which is pounded with a large, smooth headed piece of wood, similar to what is a mortar and pestle. After the chaff is separated and removed, the remaining bean is then hand-roasted over an open fire in a small building built specifically for roasting coffee. The coals are kept so that a simple stirring and little fresh air bring the flame to life without striking a match, quickly bringing the spicy scented beans to a crackle and pop and the release of that deep, earthy smell that percolates our morning sensations. Depending on whether you want it ground or whole bean, and how much you want, Clarke knows just the amount to roast. After diligently roasting a pan, Clarke empties the beans into a mill-style grinder and as he begins turning the wheel, the enamoring smell of fresh roasted Jamaican coffee floods your senses.
This is the coffee you can have as your own, for only $20 a pound it is less than the world-renown Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, but tells a story as invigorating as the first sip!
Top Hill Coffee Roasters, an organic coffee grown in the Jamaican parish of St. Elizabeth and hand-roasted, providing a one-of-a-kind flavor and sure to make you hop! Purchase yours today! All proceeds go to Clarke, packaging and labeling and the remaining profit is used to provide sustainable jobs for Deaf workers.