The Coffee

Coffee and it’s history

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from the Coffea plant. The genus Coffea is native to tropical Africa (specifically having its origin in Ethiopia and Sudan) and Madagascar, the ComorosMauritius, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean. The plant was exported from Africa to countries around the world. Coffee plants are now cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the AmericasSoutheast AsiaIndia, and Africa. The two most commonly grown are arabica and robusta. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. Dried coffee seeds (referred to as beans) are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. Roasted beans are ground and brewed with near-boiling water to produce coffee as a beverage.

Coffee is slightly acidic and has a stimulating effect in humans. Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. It can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways (e.g., espressoFrench presscafé latte, etc.). It is usually served hot, although iced coffee is a popular alternative. Clinical studies indicate that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults, with continuing research on whether long-term consumption lowers the risk of some diseases, although there is generally poor quality of such studies.

The earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking appears in Yemen in southern Arabia in the middle of the 15th century in Sufi shrines. It was here in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed in a similar way to how it is now prepared. Coffee seeds were first exported from East Africa to Yemen, as the Coffea arabica plant is thought to have been indigenous to the former. Yemeni traders took coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the seed. By the 16th century, it had reached PersiaTurkey, and North Africa. From there, it spread to Europe and the rest of the world.

Brazil is the leading grower of coffee, producing one-third of the world total in 2016. Coffee is a major export commodity: it is the top agricultural export for numerous countries and is among the world’s largest legal agricultural exports. It is one of the most valuable commodities exported by developing countries. Green (unroasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Some controversy is associated with coffee cultivation and the way developed countries trade with developing nations and the impact of its cultivation on the environment, in regards to the clearing of land for coffee-growing and water use. Consequently, the markets for fair trade coffee and organic coffee are expanding.

Etymology

The word “coffee” entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, borrowed in turn from the Arabic qahwah (قهوة).[9]

The Arabic word qahwah was traditionally held to refer to a type of wine whose etymology is given by Arab lexicographers as deriving from the verb qahiya (قَهِيَ), “to lack hunger”, in reference to the drink’s reputation as an appetite suppressant. It has also been proposed that the source may be the Proto-Central Semitic root q-h-h meaning “dark”.[10]

Alternatively, the word Khat, a plant widely used as a stimulant in Yemen and Ethiopia before being supplanted by coffee has been suggested as a possible origin, or the Arabic word quwwah (meaning “strength”).[11] It may also come from the Kingdom of Kaffa in southeast Ethiopia where Coffea arabica grows wild, but this is considered less likely;[10] in the local Kaffa language, the coffee plant is instead called “bunno”.[12]

The expression “coffee break” was first attested in 1952.[13] The term “coffee pot” dates from 1705.[13]

History and Legendary accounts

According to legend, ancestors of today’s Oromo people in a region of Kaffa in Ethiopia were believed to have been the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee plant, though no direct evidence has been found indicating where in Africa coffee grew or who among the native populations might have used it as a stimulant or even known about it, earlier than the 17th century. The story of Kaldi, the 9th-century Ethiopian goatherd who discovered coffee when he noticed how excited his goats became after eating the beans from a coffee plant, did not appear in writing until 1671 and is probably apocryphal.

Other accounts attribute the discovery of coffee to Sheikh Omar. According to an ancient chronicle (preserved in the Abd-Al-Kadir manuscript), Omar, who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer, was once exiled from Mocha in Yemen to a desert cave near Ousab (modern-day Wusab, about 90 km east of Zabid). Starving, Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubbery but found them to be bitter. He tried roasting the seeds to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the seed, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. As stories of this “miracle drug” reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint. From Ethiopia, the coffee plant was introduced into the Arab World through Egypt and Yemen.

Historical transmission

View of Mocha, Yemen during the second half of the 17th century

The earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century in the accounts of Ahmed al-Ghaffar in Yemen. It was here in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed, in a similar way to how it is now prepared. Coffee was used by Sufi circles to stay awake for their religious rituals. Accounts differ on the origin of coffee (seeds) prior to its appearance in Yemen. One account credits Muhammad Ibn Sa’d for bringing the beverage to Aden from the African coast. Other early accounts say Ali ben Omar of the Shadhili Sufi order was the first to introduce coffee to Arabia. According to al Shardi, Ali ben Omar may have encountered coffee during his stay with the Adal king Sadadin‘s companions in 1401. Famous 16th-century Islamic scholar Ibn Hajar al-Haytami notes in his writings of a beverage called qahwa developed from a tree in the Zeila region.

By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, PersiaTurkey, and northern Africa. The first coffee smuggled out of the Middle East was by Sufi Baba Budan from Yemen to India in 1670. Before then, all exported coffee was boiled or otherwise sterilised. Portraits of Baba Budan depict him as having smuggled seven coffee seeds by strapping them to his chest. The first plants grown from these smuggled seeds were planted in Mysore. Coffee then spread to Italy, and to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas.

In 1583, Leonhard Rauwolf, a German physician, gave this description of coffee after returning from a ten-year trip to the Near East:

A beverage as black as ink, useful against numerous illnesses, particularly those of the stomach. Its consumers take it in the morning, quite frankly, in a porcelain cup that is passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu.

— Léonard Rauwolf, Reise in die Morgenländer (in German)

John Evelyn recorded tasting the drink at Oxford in England in a diary entry of May 1637 to where it had been brought by an Ottoman student of Balliol College from Crete named Nathaniel Conopios of Crete.

From the Middle East, coffee spread to Italy. The thriving trade between Venice and North Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East brought many goods, including coffee, to the Venetian port. From Venice, it was introduced to the rest of Europe. Coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the “Muslim drink.” The first European coffee house opened in Rome in 1645.

The Dutch East India Company was the first to import coffee on a large scale. The Dutch later grew the crop in Java and Ceylon. The first exports of Indonesian coffee from Java to the Netherlands occurred in 1711.

Through the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee became popular in England as well. Oxford’s Queen’s Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. Coffee was introduced in France in 1657, and in Austria and Poland after the 1683 Battle of Vienna, when coffee was captured from supplies of the defeated Turks.

When coffee reached North America during the Colonial period, it was initially not as successful as it had been in Europe as alcoholic beverages remained more popular. During the Revolutionary War, the demand for coffee increased so much that dealers had to hoard their scarce supplies and raise prices dramatically; this was also due to the reduced availability of tea from British merchants,[27] and a general resolution among many Americans to avoid drinking tea following the 1773 Boston Tea Party. After the War of 1812, during which Britain temporarily cut off access to tea imports, the Americans’ taste for coffee grew.

Coffee consumption declined in England, giving way to tea during the 18th century. The latter beverage was simpler to make, and had become cheaper with the British conquest of India and the tea industry there. During the Age of Sailseamen aboard ships of the British Royal Navy made substitute coffee by dissolving burnt bread in hot water.

The Frenchman Gabriel de Clieu took a coffee plant to the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean], from which much of the world’s cultivated arabica coffee is descended. Coffee thrived in the climate and was conveyed across the Americas. Coffee was cultivated in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) from 1734, and by 1788 it supplied half the world’s coffee.[32] The conditions that the slaves worked in on coffee plantations were a factor in the soon to follow Haitian Revolution. The coffee industry never fully recovered there.[33] It made a brief come-back in 1949 when Haiti was the world’s 3rd largest coffee exporter, but fell quickly into rapid decline.

Meanwhile, coffee had been introduced to Brazil in 1727, although its cultivation did not gather momentum until independence in 1822. After this time massive tracts of rainforest were cleared for coffee plantations, first in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro and later São Paulo. Brazil went from having essentially no coffee exports in 1800, to being a significant regional producer in 1830, to being the largest producer in the world by 1852. In 1910–20, Brazil exported around 70% of the world’s coffee, Colombia, Guatemala, and Venezuela, exported half of the remaining 30%, and Old World production accounted for less than 5% of world exports.

Cultivation was taken up by many countries in Central America in the latter half of the 19th century, and almost all involved the large-scale displacement and exploitation of the indigenous people. Harsh conditions led to many uprisings, coups and bloody suppression of peasants. The notable exception was Costa Rica, where lack of ready labor prevented the formation of large farms. Smaller farms and more egalitarian conditions ameliorated unrest over the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rapid growth in coffee production in South America during the second half of the 19th century was matched by growth in consumption in developed countries, though nowhere has this growth been as pronounced as in the United States, where high rate of population growth was compounded by doubling of per capita consumption between 1860 and 1920. Though the United States was not the heaviest coffee-drinking nation at the time (Nordic countriesBelgium, and Netherlands all had comparable or higher levels of per capita consumption), due to its sheer size, it was already the largest consumer of coffee in the world by 1860, and, by 1920, around half of all coffee produced worldwide was consumed in the US.

Coffee has become a vital cash crop for many developing countries. Over one hundred million people in developing countries have become dependent on coffee as their primary source of income. It has become the primary export and backbone for African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, as well as many Central American countries.

Biology

Illustration of a single branch of a plant. Broad, ribbed leaves are accented by small white flowers at the base of the stalk. On the edge of the drawing are cutaway diagrams of parts of the plant.

Illustration of Coffea arabica plant and seeds

Several species of shrub of the genus Coffea produce the berries from which coffee is extracted. The two main species commercially cultivated are Coffea canephora (predominantly a form known as ‘robusta’) and C. arabica. C. arabica, the most highly regarded species, is native to the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia and the Boma Plateau in southeastern Sudan and possibly Mount Marsabit in northern Kenya. C. canephora is native to western and central Subsaharan Africa, from Guinea to Uganda and southern Sudan. Less popular species are C. libericaC. stenophyllaC. mauritiana, and C. racemosa.

All coffee plants are classified in the large family Rubiaceae. They are evergreen shrubs or trees that may grow 5 m (15 ft) tall when unpruned. The leaves are dark green and glossy, usually 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long and 6 cm (2.4 in) wide, simple, entire, and opposite. Petioles of opposite leaves fuse at base to form interpetiolar stipules, characteristic of Rubiaceae. The flowers are axillary, and clusters of fragrant white flowers bloom simultaneously. Gynoecium consists of inferior ovary, also characteristic of Rubiaceae. The flowers are followed by oval berries of about 1.5 cm (0.6 in). When immature they are green, and they ripen to yellow, then crimson, before turning black on drying. Each berry usually contains two seeds, but 5–10% of the berries, have only one; these are called peaberriesArabica berries ripen in six to eight months, while robusta take nine to eleven months.

Cultivation

Map showing areas of coffee cultivation:
r: Coffea canephora
m: Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica
a: Coffea arabica

The traditional method of planting coffee is to place 20 seeds in each hole at the beginning of the rainy season. This method loses about 50% of the seeds’ potential, as about half fail to sprout. A more effective method of growing coffee, used in Brazil, is to raise seedlings in nurseries that are then planted outside at six to twelve months. Coffee is often intercropped with food crops, such as cornbeans, or rice during the first few years of cultivation as farmers become familiar with its requirements. Coffee plantsgrow within a defined area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, termed the bean belt or coffee belt.

Of the two main species grown, arabica coffee (from C. arabica) is generally more highly regarded than robusta coffee(from C. canephora); robusta tends to be bitter and have less flavor but better body than arabica. For these reasons, about three-quarters of coffee cultivated worldwide is C. arabicaRobusta strains also contain about 40–50% more caffeine than arabica. Consequently, this species is used as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Good quality robusta beans are used in traditional Italian espresso blends to provide a full-bodied taste and a better foam head (known as crema).

Beans from different countries or regions can usually be distinguished by differences in flavor, aroma, body, and acidity. These taste characteristics are dependent not only on the coffee’s growing region, but also on genetic subspecies (varietals) and processing. Varietals are generally known by the region in which they are grown, such as ColombianJava and Kona.

Arabica coffee beans are cultivated mainly in Latin Americaeastern Africa or Asia, while robusta beans are grown in central Africa, throughout southeast Asia, and Brazil.

Nutrition

Brewed coffee from typical grounds prepared with tap water contains 40 mg caffeine per 100 gram and no essential nutrients in significant content. In espresso, however, likely due to its higher amount of suspended solids, there are significant contents of magnesium, the B vitaminsniacin and riboflavin, and 212 mg of caffeine per 100 grams of grounds.

Serving

Enjoying coffee, painting by unknown artist in the Pera Museum

Once brewed, coffee may be served in a variety of ways. Drip-brewed, percolated, or French-pressed/cafetière coffee may be served as white coffee with a dairy product such as milk or cream, or dairy substitute, or as black coffee with no such addition. It may be sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener. When served cold, it is called iced coffee.

Espresso-based coffee has a variety of possible presentations. In its most basic form, an espresso is served alone as a shot or short black, or with hot water added, when it is known as Caffè Americano. A long black is made by pouring a double espresso into an equal portion of water, retaining the crema, unlike Caffè Americano. Milk is added in various forms to an espresso: steamed milk makes a caffè latte, equal parts steamed milk and milk froth make a cappuccinoand a dollop of hot foamed milk on top creates a caffè macchiato. A flat white is prepared by adding steamed hot milk (microfoam) to espresso so that the flavour is brought out and the texture is unusually velvety. It has less milk than a latte but both are varieties of coffee to which the milk can be added in such a way as to create a decorative surface pattern. Such effects are known as latte art.

Coffee can also be incorporated with alcohol to produce a variety of beverages: it is combined with whiskey in Irish coffee, and it forms the base of alcoholic coffee liqueurs such as Kahlúa and Tia Maria. Darker beers such as stout and porter give a chocolate or coffee-like taste due to roasted grains even though actual coffee beans are not added to it.

Caffeine content

Depending on the type of coffee and method of preparation, the caffeine content of a single serving can vary greatly. The caffeine content of a cup of coffee varies depending mainly on the brewing method, and also on the variety of seed. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, an 8-ounce (237 ml) cup of “coffee brewed from grounds” contains 95 mg caffeine, whereas an espresso (25 ml) contains 53 mg.

According to an article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, coffee has the following caffeine content, depending on how it is prepared:

Serving size Caffeine content
Brewed 7 oz, 207 ml 80–135 mg
Drip 7 oz, 207 ml 115–175 mg
Espresso 1.5–2 oz, 45–60 ml 100 mg

While the percent of caffeine content in coffee seeds themselves diminishes with increased roast level, the opposite is true for coffee brewed from different grinds and brewing methods using the same proportion of coffee to water volume. The coffee sack (similar to the French press and other steeping methods) extracts more caffeine from dark roasted seeds; the percolator and espresso methods extract more caffeine from light roasted seeds

Light roast Medium roast Dark roast
Coffee sack – coarse grind 0.046 0.045 0.054
Percolator – coarse grind 0.068 0.065 0.060
Espresso – fine grind 0.069 0.062 0.061

 

Coffea arabica normally contains about half the caffeine of Coffea robusta. A Coffea arabica bean containing very little caffeine was discovered in Ethiopia in 2004.

Coffeehouses

A coffeehouse in Cairo, 18th century

Widely known as coffeehouses or cafés, establishments serving prepared coffee or other hot beverages have existed for over five hundred years. Coffeehouses in Mecca became a concern as places for political gatherings to the imams who banned them, and the drink, for Muslims between 1512 and 1524. In 1530 the first coffeehouse was opened in DamascusThe first coffeehouse in Constantinople was opened in 1475 by traders arriving from Damascus and Aleppo. Soon after, coffeehouses became part of the Ottoman Culture, spreading rapidly to all regions of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 17th century, coffee appeared for the first time in Europe outside the Ottoman Empire, and coffeehouses were established and quickly became popular. The first coffeehouses in Western Europe appeared in Venice, as a result of the traffic between La Serenissimaand the Ottomans; the very first one is recorded in 1645. The first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish man named Jacob in the building now known as “The Grand Cafe”. A plaque on the wall still commemorates this and the cafe is now a cocktail bar.[169] By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England.

A legend says that after the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, the Viennese discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Using this captured stock, a Polish soldier named Kulczycki opened the first coffeehouse in Vienna. This story never happened. Nowadays it is proven that the first coffeehouse in Vienna was opened by the Armenian Johannes Theodat in 1685.

In 1672 an Armenian named Pascal established a coffee stall in Paris that was ultimately unsuccessful and the city had to wait until 1689 for its first coffeehouse when Procopio Cutò opened the Café Procope. This coffeehouse still exists today and was a major meeting place of the French EnlightenmentVoltaireRousseau, and Denis Diderot frequented it, and it is arguably the birthplace of the Encyclopédie, the first modern encyclopedia. America had its first coffeehouse in Boston, in 1676. Coffee, tea and beer were often served together in establishments which functioned both as coffeehouses and taverns; one such was the Green Dragon in Boston, where John AdamsJames Otis, and Paul Revere planned rebellion.

South Korea experienced almost 900 percent growth in the number of coffee shops in the country between 2006 and 2011. The capital city Seoul now has the highest concentration of coffee shops in the world, with more than 10,000 cafes and coffeehouses.

A contemporary term for a person who makes coffee beverages, often a coffeehouse employee, is a barista. The Specialty Coffee Association of Europe and the Specialty Coffee Association of America have been influential in setting standards and providing training.

Folklore and culture

The Oromo people would customarily plant a coffee tree on the graves of powerful sorcerers. They believed that the first coffee bush sprang up from the tears that the god of heaven shed over the corpse of a dead sorcerer.

Johann Sebastian Bach was inspired to compose the humorous Coffee Cantata, about dependence on the beverage.

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