Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beginning of a Coffeewallah

Did I ever mention that my grandparents used to own a coffee/cocoa estate in the Lopinot Hills? I’m sure I must have at some point in these ramblings; really, it’s hardly a surprise that I am addicted to the brew.

My granddad who’d spent most of his early married life traveling on behalf of Shell, he decided to “settle” down to life in Trinidad as an executive at NP and also got into several other forays. Being the son of agriculturalists, read former estate workers, he bought land. At one time he had a tonca bean estate, some miscellaneous planting grounds up near where Trincity Mall is now and a few cattle and goats thrown in for good measure. It was a trifle bizarre for us kids who’d grown up on the Main Road even though we’d spent all our free time climbing the trees in the backyard, my grandparents owned a half acre lot with tons of fruit trees and of course, the shop.

But we weren’t at one with the land, my mother’s generation had been educated to office jobs and mine, even more so, were expected to become “something”, whatever that meant. The estates were manned by three uncles, a cadre of workers and my granddad’s brother and nephews at various intervals. As a teenager, wanting only to hang with my friends, talk on the phone or bury myself in my book, the thought of spending time on the estate was a little horrific. My grandparents sold the house/shop on the Main Road and retired to country living on the estate. The tonca bean estate had long been converted to family housing including a weekend home for when the gp’s came down to do their shopping, banking etc. The planting grounds had been re-acquired by the Government for something or other so it was only the Lopinot estate that remained.
It was a beautiful place, forty three acres of hillside to get lost in, cold rivers to splash in and annoy the large snakes residing in the deep pools. Hundreds of mango, orange, pommerac, kymet and other fruit trees, we ate that stuff until we were sick; and of course, the cocoa and coffee trees, the estate’s mainstay. We proudly acknowledged that Rowntree Macintosh and other chocolate makers bought our cocoa; Trinidad cocoa is used in the finest chocolates in the world for its distinctive flavour. The bright red berries off the coffee trees became bottles of home ground coffee that appeared in our kitchen replacing the ubiquitous Nescafe. We boiled that up and left it in a pot on the stove to be heated up at will.

I never really took much notice then, too busy being cool with my friends and getting into other sorts of trouble that shall go unrecorded here. For a long time the estate meant only seeing my grandparents on the weekend if I was around or when we went up there for family do’s. Then it all became too much for even them. Praedial larceny became harder and harder to support, eventually they decided to move back down to the flat, life on the estate too rigorous for their aging bodies to support. And with the sale of the estate went our supply of homegrown coffee and holidays reading by myself under the trees, but that introduction, to the aromatic brew, left me with a life long addiction to the stuff. Even now, walking by the Hong Wing factory in town and the smell of fresh ground coffee takes me back to those heady days, with crocus bags filled with dried berries waiting to be sent off to the factory. There is nothing like sitting in the middle of the cocoa with a fresh plucked pod in your hands split open, as you suck the pith from the seeds, savouring the gelatinous pulp and the faint cocoa taste on your tongue. The long cocoa houses were a mysterious place with the smell of fermenting cocoa beans, their sliding roofs a wonder to us.

This is where it all started, really in spite of me. But this is not the whole story….

5 comments:

ma said...

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Coffeewallah said...

Oh dear, I LIKE coffee and have no intention of giving it up. I'm sorry for anyone who suffers from any form of addiction but mine is not the story to tell....

Gabriela García Calderón said...

Does Coffeewallah mean something? Sorry if this sounds as a dumb question, but as a non native English speaker, I don't know if there is any hidden pun somewhere.
Once again, thank for these sweet memories shared with your readers. I hope you can tell the whole story someday... except for the unrecorded parts, of course.
Best regards!

Wuzdescene said...

girl your stories does real 'transport' a person ... very interesting piece ... and tuh tink you actually lived it! .... keep em comin!

Paul C. said...

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