And so the legend goes. Today, coffee has become the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil and 125 million people today depend on coffee for their livelihood. The World Bank estimates that nearly 500 million people are involved in the business, if you include all of the ancillary industries that provide their wares to the coffee consumer. Coffee has become big business, and with the recent explosion in coffeehouses around the world, it shows no sign of slowing down.
The history of coffee has been recorded as far back as the ninth century. At first, coffee remained largely confined to Ethiopia, where its native beans were first cultivated by Ethiopian highlanders. However, the Arab world began expanding its trade horizons, and the beans moved into northern Africa and were mass-cultivated. From there, the beans entered the Indian and European markets, and the popularity of the beverage spread.
The word "coffee" entered the English lexicon in 1598 via Italian caffè. This word was created via Turkish kahve, which in turn came into being via Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun or wine of the bean. Islam prohibits the use of alcohol as a beverage and coffee provided a suitable alternative to wine. The earliest mention of coffee may be a reference to Bunchum in the works of the 10th century CE Persian physician Razi, but more definite information on the preparation of a beverage from roasted coffee berries dates from several centuries later.
The most important of the early writers on coffee was Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa. (glad I had to type that and not say it) He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani, mufti of Aden, was the first to adopt the use of coffee (circa 1454). Coffee's usefulness in driving away sleep made it popular among Sufis. A translation traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (the present day Yemen), northward to Mecca and Medina and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul.
|Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi|
Similarly, coffee was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some time before the 17th century. However, in the second half of the 19th century, Ethiopian attitudes softened towards coffee drinking, and its consumption spread rapidly between 1880 and 1886; according to Richard Pankhurst, "this was largely due to Emperor Menelek , who himself drank it and to Abuna Matewos, who did much to dispel the belief of the clergy that it was a Muslim drink."
How coffee came to Europe
|Cafe Florian, Venice|
Coffee was first imported to Italy. At that time, trade between the Italian city of Venice and the Muslims in North Africa, Egypt and the East brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to this leading European port. Venetian merchants, always looking toward higher profits, decided to introduce coffee to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage. It really became a sought after beverage when it was "baptized" by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the 'Muslim' drink. The first European coffee house (apart from those in the Ottoman Empire, mentioned above) was opened in Italy in 1645.
The first coffee-house in Austria opened in Vienna in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, by using supplies from the spoils obtained after defeating the Turks. The officer who received the coffee beans, Polish military officer of Ukrainian origin, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, opened the coffee house and helped popularize the custom of adding sugar and milk. Until recently, this was celebrated in Viennese coffee-houses by hanging a picture of Kulczycki in the window. Melange is the typical Viennese coffee, which comes mixed with hot foamed milk and a glass of water.
The race among Europeans to make off with some live coffee trees or beans was eventually won by the Dutch in the late 17th century, when they allied with the natives of Kerala against the Portuguese and brought some live plants back from Malabar to Holland, where they were grown in greenhouses. The Dutch began growing coffee at their forts in Malabar, India, and in 1699 took some to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years the Dutch colonies (Java in Asia, Surinam in Americas) had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. Today, coffeehouses in Holland are synonymous with not only coffee berries, but cannabis "buds" as well. *-)
The Caribbean and the Americas
For many decades in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Brazil was the biggest producer of coffee and a virtual monopolist in the trade. However, a policy of maintaining high prices soon opened opportunities to other nations, such as Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Vietnam, now second only to Brazil as the major coffee producer in the world. Large-scale production in Vietnam began following normalization of trade relations with the US in 1995. Nearly all of the coffee grown there is Robusta. Despite the origins of coffee cultivation in Ethiopia, that country produced only a small amount for export until the Twentieth Century, and much of that not from the south of the country but from the environs of Harar in the northeast.
The Kingdom of Kaffa, home of the plant, was estimated to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 kilograms of coffee beans in the 1880s. Commercial production effectively began in 1907 with the founding of the inland port of Gambela, and greatly increased afterwards: 100,000 kilograms of coffee was exported from Gambela in 1908, while in 1927-8 over 4 million kilograms passed through that port. Coffee plantations were also developed in Arsi Province at the same time, and were eventually exported by means of the Addis Ababa - Djibouti Railway. While only 245,000 kilograms were freighted by the Railway, this amount jumped to 2,240,000 kilograms by 1922, surpassed exports of "Harari" coffee by 1925, and reached 9,260,000 kilograms in 1936.
Australia is a minor coffee producer, with little product for export, but its coffee history goes back to 1880 when the first of 500 acres began to be developed in an area between northern New South Wales and Cooktown. Today there are several producers of Arabica coffee in Australia that use a mechanical harvesting system invented in 1981.
The tropics of South America provide ideal conditions for growing Arabian Coffee, which grows best between 3,000 and 6,500 feet but has been grown as high as 9,000 feet. Generally, the higher the plant is grown the slower it matures. This gives it time to develop the internal elements and oils that give coffee its aromatic flavor. It is said that all the Arabica Coffee grown in the world started from this plant as cuttings were transplanted all over the world. Coffee from Arabia is truly the source of all coffee throughout the world.
There are several species of coffee that may be grown for the beans, but Coffea arabica is considered by many, to have the best overall flavor and quality. The other species (especially Coffea canephora (var. robusta)) are usually grown on land unsuitable for Coffea arabica. The tree produces red or purple fruits (drupes), which contain two seeds (the "coffee beans", which — despite their name — are not true beans, which are the seeds of the legume family). In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, the cherry will contain only a single bean, rather than the two usually found. This is called a 'peaberry', which is smaller and rounder than a normal coffee bean. It is often removed from the yield and either sold separately, (as in New Guinea Peaberry) or discarded.
The tree of Coffea arabica will grow fruits after 3 – 5 years and will produce for about 50 – 60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The blossom of the coffee tree is similar to jasmine in color and smell and the fruit takes about nine months to ripen. Worldwide, an estimated 15 billion coffee trees are grown on 39,000 sq miles of land. Shade grown coffee
Health properties of Green Coffee
Recently, two new species of coffee plants have been discovered in Cameroon: Coffea charrieriana and Coffea anthonyi. These species could introduce two new features to cultivated coffee plants: 1) beans without caffeine and 2) self-pollination. By crossing the new species with other known coffees (e.g., C. arabica and C. robusta), new coffee hybrids might allow these new improvements at regular coffee plantations (e.g. in Kenya, since C. arabica and C. robusta are accustomed to these growing conditions).
Coffee of Note
It is then hand picked, pulped, dried and hulled. Machinery at the coffee mill sorts the beans into different grades by size and shape. Peaberry is top of the line. A peaberry bean is formed when one side of the flower fuses with the other leaving only one bean in the coffee cherry. This gives the peaberry a more concentrated flavor and makes up only about 5% to 10% of the total Kona Coffee harvest. Top grades (in descending order) include extra fancy, fancy, No.1 and prime.
To purchase 100% pure Kona Coffee, check the label. Kona Blend means it only contains 10% Kona beans. These are usually mixed with those from Brazil, Central America, Africa and Indonesia. If you go to the Big Island of Hawaii and the Kona Coast, be sure to check out the numerous farms and coffee mills in the Kona Coffee Belt.
Jamaican Blue Mountain
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee or Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavor and lack of bitterness. Over the last several decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.
The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Maria to the north. Rising to 2,300 meters (7,500 ft), they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.
However, Sumatran coffee’s distinct appearance isn’t the only factor contributing to the coffee’s uniqueness. The unusual drying techniques employed by Sumatran coffee farmers also contribute to the coffee’s distinctiveness. These techniques involve an extended period of the coffee bean’s exposure to the pulp of the berry after the berry has been harvested—a process which is believed to produce deeper tones in the brewed coffee.
Besides the exquisite flavor, the cooperative that grows this coffee has many reasons to be proud of their beans. Known as the Gayo Organic Farmers Association, this coop grows 100 percent organic beans. With the funds from their coffee sales, this community of growers has started a project to bring safe drinking water to more than 1,500 people. The cooperative has also saved funds to help farmers with the reconstruction of their homes, many of which were destroyed in the war, and to aid in the construction of two new schools. This coffee has truly delightful qualities in its origin as well as in the cup.
Ethiopia produces some of the most unique and fascinating coffees in the world. The three main regions where Ethiopia coffee beans originate are Harrar, Ghimbi, and Sidamo (Yirgacheffe). Ethiopian Harrar coffee beans are grown on small farms in the eastern part of the country. They are dry-processed and are labeled as longberry (large), shortberry (smaller), or Mocha (peaberry). Ethiopian Harrar coffee can have a strong dry edge, winy to fruit like acidity, rich aroma, and a heavy body. In the best Harrar coffees, one can observe an intense aroma of blueberries or blackberries. Ethiopian Harrar coffee is often used in espresso blends to capture the fine aromatics in the crema.Washed coffees of Ethiopia include Ghimbi and Yirgacheffe. Ghimbi coffee beans are grown in the western parts of the country and are more balanced, heavier, and has a longer lasting body than the Harrars.
Brewing and Drinking Coffee beans must be ground and brewed in order to create a beverage. Grinding the roasted coffee beans is done at a roastery, in a grocery store, or in the home. They are most commonly ground at a roastery and then packaged and sold to the consumer, though "whole bean" coffee can be ground at home. Coffee beans may be ground in several ways. A burr mill uses revolving elements to shear the bean; an electric grinder smashes the beans with blunt blades moving at high speed; and a mortar and pestle crushes the beans.
Coffee may be brewed by several methods: boiled, steeped, or pressured. Brewing coffee by boiling was the earliest method, and Turkish coffee is an example of this method. It is prepared by powdering the beans with a mortar and pestle, then adding the powder to water and bringing it to a boil in a pot called a cezve or, in Greek, a briki. This produces a strong coffee with a layer of foam on the surface.
The espresso method forces hot (but not boiling) pressurized water through ground coffee. As a result of brewing under high pressure ideally between 9–10 , the espresso beverage is more concentrated (as much as 10 to 15 times the amount of coffee to water as gravity-brewing methods can produce) and has a more complex physical and chemical constitution. A well-prepared espresso has a reddish-brown foam called crema that floats on the surface. The drink "Americano" is popularly thought to have been named after American soldiers in WW II who found the European way of drinking espresso too strong; baristas would cut the espresso with hot water for them. Coffee may also be produced via a cold brew process, in which the water used is not heated before hand. This preparation typically involves steeping coarsely ground beans in cold water for several hours, then removing the grounds with a filter.
Once brewed, coffee may be presented in a variety of ways. Drip-brewed, percolated, or French-pressed/cafetière coffee may be served with no additives or sugar (colloquially known as black) or with milk, cream, or both. When served cold, it is called iced coffee.
No matter how you like your coffee one thing can be said; as the world becomes more fast paced, coffee drinkers are consuming more and more to keep up. For me, it's a love affair. I enjoy the taste, be it in a cup, coffee flavored ice cream, espresso flavored chocolate truffles, or the fabulous creations coming out of the kitchens of some of the top chefs in the world. Well, my cup is about empty so it's time for me to get a refill and.......sorry...I've got to run....seems there is a burro trampling my plants! "Hey!....HEY! Mr. Valdez!..... Please get that donkey out of my garden!"
Image Sources: Simon Howden travel.nationalgeographic.com konacoffeeco.com eco-index.org coffeeshop.us chagres.com foto76 coffeetea.info crossingitaly.net en.wikipedia.org telegraph.co.uk Darren Robertson