Each night, before I go to bed, I go through a certain routine. This usually involves changing into my pajamas and washing my face. More importantly, though, I go through the process of preparing my coffeemaker for the next morning. I carefully measure ten small scoops of beans into my grinder, where I grind it for ten to twelve seconds. I then put the ground coffee into a filter and place the filter into the basket on my coffee maker. After doing that, I take a coffee pot full of water and pour the water into the coffee maker. The point of this little ritual is to make it that much easier to wake up in the morning. If I had to do all of that in the morning, I would surely not wake up. When I do this, I simply wake up and flip a switch to have a freshly brewed pot of coffee in just a matter of minutes.
Doing all of this, and drinking my coffee in the morning, I don’t stop to think about what coffee really is. I mean, it’s just a cup of coffee, right? Well, after doing some research on the history of coffee and different types of coffee available, I learned that coffee is a lot more than just a “cup of Joe.”
Drinking coffee is a relatively new phenomenon, in the grand scheme of things. Coffee plants are believed to have first grown in Northern Arabia around 675 AD. The beans from this plant were rarely cultivated until the late fifteenth or sixteenth century. According to some folklore, a goat was the first to discover the effects of coffee. Kaldi the shepherd was out walking his goat, and he noticed that, after the goat ate the cherries from a coffee plant, the goat grew excited and hyperactive. Kaldi, probably bored with the shepherd’s life, decided to try some of the beans, too. A monk chanced upon the scene and decided that the cherries of the coffee plant were the “fruit of the devil”. It wasn’t long, though, before the monks learned to make drinks from the coffee plants that helped them to stay awake for their prayers. While some Christians were concerned that the drinks were the devil’s concoction, Pope Vincent III thought that he ought to try the drink before he banished it. After trying the drink, the pope blessed it, because he felt that the infidels shouldn’t be alone in enjoyment of such a wonderful drink. This story may be of questionable origin. The bottom line, though, is that by the early eighteenth century, the drinking of coffee had become much more popular. In 1714, the first successful transplant of coffee took place when the French relocated a plant into the West Indies. From that one plant, there are now hundreds of successful Latin American coffee plantations. Coffee beans are now a major commodity in the modern world. From Colombia alone, 12 million 154 pound bags of coffee are shipped annually.
There are two main types of coffee beans that are used for drinking purposes. The first type is Coffea arabica. Known simply as “arabica”, these beans are the more exclusive form. They are limited to the best growing conditions, such as high altitudes and tropical climates. The other type of bean used for drinking is Coffea canephora. Known as “robusta”, this type of coffee is more prevalent, as it can grow in more adverse conditions than arabica. The robusta is the type of bean used in typical canned, ground coffee. Arabica is the type of coffee that any restaurant worth its weight in beans will tout as their brew.
There are a wide variety of drinks now available based on coffee. The basis of most of these drinks is espresso, a concentrated form of coffee. Some of the drinks that can be made with espresso include the latte, an espresso combined with steamed milk; the mocha, an espresso combined with steamed milk and chocolate; the cappuccino, combining foamed and steamed milk with espresso; and an americano, which combines a shot of espresso with steamed water.
As you can see, coffee holds a distinct legacy in our society. There is much more to coffee than just “regular or decaf” and “cream and sugar.” Coffee is an integral part of our society today, and for that, I am grateful.