Traveling Coffee Set, France, late nineteenth century,engine-turned silver, turned ivory, stamped leather (case) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maxime Hermanos, 1966-6-3-a/n

Cup of Joe on the Go

Making a cup of coffee in 2014 is nothing like it’s ever been before. There are just about a thousand ways to make coffee these days in every contraption one could imagine. Whether you’re making an artisanal pour over in Williamsburg, Brooklyn or slowly dripping a pot from your beautifully crafted glass Chemex on New York’s Upper East Side, it still ends up being the same delicious caffeinated beverage it has always been.

This Traveling Coffee Service from the late 19th century was ahead of its time in many ways. What could be better than a little briefcase with all of the parts required to make a fresh pot of joe on the go? The individualized leather case has the initials “BM” engraved into it. It has designated areas for the cylindrical silver coffee pot with ivory handle that unscrews to fit into its own compartment, the burner, two covered cannisters-one for coffee and one for sugar, a knife and two spoons. The size of the pot suggests Turkish coffee, a taste that was popularized in the late 19th century. A coffee pot in a traveling set adheres to the social atmosphere that the drink inherently creates. Rudi Matthee writes in “From Coffee to Tea: Shifting Patterns of Consumption in Qajar Iran", “Coffee is no longer viewed as a mere commodity in the trade and consumer revolutions, but is now explored as an emblem and symbol of religious practice, social relations, or political change.” Today, coffee is exactly that--a representation of identity, taste, wealth and ritual. Whether you like your coffee black, or with three pumps of some holiday syrup that you paid $6.00 for, this very choice exemplifies your identity every day. You are walking around with your name brand cup or your traveling hot mug brewed just the way you like.

Aeropress, Brazilian cafezinho, Chemex, Clover, Cold Brew, Espresso Machine, Eva Solo, French Press, Instant, Melitta, Moka Pot, Percolater, Siphon/Vacuum, Stove Top Espresso, Turkish (Ibrik), Vacuum Pot, Vietnamese (Flat Drip/Ca Phe), and the standard electric machine are just a few of the many ways to crack open a bean, grind it to dust and make it into hot liquid. The appliance you choose is only part of the equation. The beans, the grinder and texture you work with, the quality of the water and the temperature you rise it to, each contribute to the final experience in your mug. Today we call it “coffee culture”, and this traveling set brings us back to where it all began. The time when you took your coffee pot with you, symbolizing the trade and travel of the beans, as well as your social status. For people who have a serious relationship with their coffee, it is not just a drink, but a way of life.

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