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Virginia: Birthplace of the American Coffee Artisan

Virginia is one of the oldest states in the United States. In fact, the Virginia General Assembly is the oldest law making body in the entire country. With the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern shore and the great Appalachian Mountains running through its center, the state has something for everyone.

Nicknamed the “Mother of Presidents” Virginia is also the birthplace of eight heads of state. One of the most famous presidents to come out of Virginia was Thomas Jefferson, one of the country’s Founding Fathers and a well-traveled aristocrat of the old South. Jefferson brought back many different ideas and customs from his travels in Europe, including the art of roasting coffee.

Thomas Jefferson: The First American Coffee Artisan

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.” It is believed by many that Jefferson was the first true American coffee artisan. Inspired by the coffee brews he enjoyed in Williamsburg and Paris, Jefferson began to serve coffee to all his guests at his home in Virginia, as well as in the White House during his tenure as president.

Jefferson’s favorite beans came from the West Indies, and it is estimated that he and his guests consumed up to a pound of coffee a day. At any given time, the president’s cellar would be stocked with unroasted beans and barrels weighing as much as sixty pounds per barrel. The recipe for one of his favorite blends was created by his French butler, Adrien Petite. The brew was enjoyed at breakfast and dinner with all his guests and served in silver coffee urns designed by Jefferson.

An Old Coffee Recipe Found on Jefferson’s Estate

Petite wasn’t the only artisan who crafted Jefferson’s coffee. A coffee recipe created by one of Jefferson’s housekeepers, James Hemings, was found in the former president’s estate. While Hemings traveled with Jefferson throughout Europe, he apprenticed under master French chefs. When Hemings returned to the U.S. with Jefferson, he used his new culinary skills to serve the statesman as his master chef.

Hemings’ recipe is as follows:

  • One measure of coffee ground into meal
  • Pour three measures into boiling water
  • Boil it on hot ashes lined with coal until meal disappears on top
  • Then pour three times through a metal strainer
  • It will yield 2 1/3 measure of clear coffee

If you’re interested in what a presidential cup of coffee tastes like, try brewing up Hemings' recipe. Who knows, you just might want to add the blend to your list of preferred brews.