Coffee is a popular beverage prepared from the roasted seeds (not beans) of the coffee plant. It is
served hot or with ice. The seeds of the plant are almost always called coffee beans. Coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world (measured by monetary volume), trailing only petroleum, as a source of foreign exchange to developing countries. In total, 6.7 million tons of coffee were produced annually, forecast to rise to 7 million tonnes annually. Coffee is a chief source of caffeine, a stimulant. A typical 7 oz. (ca. 207ml) cup of coffee contains 80-140mg of caffeine.
Coffee, along with tea and water, is one of the most ingested beverages, amounting to about a third that of tap water.
Etymology and History
See also: History of Coffee
Coffee has its history back as far as the 9th century CE. It was said to originate from Ethiopia and spread to the rest of the world via Egypt and Europe. Over the ages, coffee has met both resistance and acceptance by many.
The word Coffee is derived from the Arabic word Qah'wa over Ottoman Turkish Kahve, which
originally meant wine or other intoxicating liquors. Partly due to the Islamic prohibition on drinking wine, preparing and drinking coffee became an important social ritual. In 1511 it was condemned at Mecca by a theological court. In Egypt coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee berries were sacked. In 1524 this decision was reversed by an order of Selim I. (reference: Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Hanauer 1907, p. 291 f).
From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Europe, where it became the rage in the 17th century. English coffeehouses were centers of intellectual and commercial activity. Lloyds of London, the famous insurance firm, was originally a coffeehouse.
Coffee Bean Types
See also: Coffee Varietals
There are two main species of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica being the older one. Coffee is thought
to be indigenous to south-western Ethiopia, specifically from Kefa, from which it may have gotten its name. While more susceptible to disease, it is considered by most to taste better than the second species, Coffea canephora (robusta). Robusta, which contains about 40-50% more caffeine, can be cultivated in environments where arabica will not thrive and probably originated in Uganda. This has led to its use as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Compared to arabica, robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a telltale "burnt rubber" or "wet cardboard" aroma and flavor. Good quality robustas are used as ingredients in some espresso blends to provide a better "crema" (foamy head), and to lower the ingredient cost. In Italy many espresso blends are based on dark-roasted robusta. The large industrial roasters use a steam treatment process to remove undesirable flavors from robusta beans for use in mass-marketed coffee blends. Other species include Coffea liberica and Coffea esliaca, believed to be indigenous to Liberia and southern Sudan, respectively.
The largest coffee exporting nation remains Brazil, but in recent years the green coffee market has been flooded by large quantities of robusta beans from Vietnam. Many experts believe this giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975-1989 with Cold War pressures led to the prolonged pricing crisis from 2001 to 2004. In 1997 the "c" price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb. Robusta coffees (traded in London at much lower prices than New York's Arabica) are preferred by large industrial clients (multinational roasters, instant coffee producers, etc.) because of their lower cost.
The preference of the "Big Four" coffee companies for cheap robusta is believed by many to have been a major contributing factor to the crash in coffee prices and the demand for high-quality arabica beans is only slowly recovering. After the crash, many coffee farmers in Africa, Indonesia and South and Central America lost their livelihoods, or turned to illicit crops such as coca to earn a living. The Fair Trade organization has attempted to remedy the situation by guaranteeing coffee growers a negotiated pre-harvest price; many smaller roasters and recently Proctor & Gamble and Starbucks® have joined Fair Trade. Another issue with coffee is ecological: the American Birding Association has led a campaign for sustainably harvested, shade-grown and organic coffees vs. the newer mono-cropped full-sun varieties, which lead to deforestation and loss of bird habitat.
Arabica coffees were traditionally named by the port they were exported from, the two oldest being Mocha, from Yemen, and Java, from Indonesia. The modern coffee trade is much more specific about origin, labeling coffees by country, region, and sometimes even the producing estate. Varietal is a botanical term denoting a taxonomic category ranking below species, a designation more specific than arabica or robusta and unrelated to the coffee's place of origin. Coffees consisting entirely of beans from a single varietal, bourbon, for example, are generally referred to as such, along with a reference to their place of origin (as in: Rwanda Blue Bourbon). Coffee aficionados may even distinguish auctioned coffees by lot number.
Most arabica coffee beans originate from one of three growing regions; Central America, East Africa/Arabia, and Asia/Pacific. Beans from different countries or regions usually have distinctive characteristics such as flavor (flavor criteria include terms such as "citrus-like" or "earthy"), aroma (sometimes "berry-like" or "flowery"), body or mouthfeel, and acidity. Acidity refers to a tangy or clean-tasting quality, typically present in washed or wet processed coffees. It does not refer to a coffee's pH level. (black coffee has a pH of around 5). These distinguishing taste characteristics are dependent not only on the coffee's growing region, but also on its method of process and genetic subspecies or varietal.
"Caracoli," also known as peaberry, is a coffee bean which develops singly inside the coffee cherry, which normally contains two. The Caracoli beans occur in all regions of the world, on all types of coffee bush (~4% of all beans). Since flavour is concentrated when only a single bean is grown inside the cherry, Caracoli beans (especially Arabica) are highly prized.
Economics of Coffee
See also: Economics of Coffee
Coffee is one of the world's most important primary commodities, due to its being one of the world's
most popular beverages. Coffee also has several types of classifications used to determine environmental and labor standards.
Coffee ingestion on average makes up about a third that of tap water in most of North America and Europe. In 2002 in the US, coffee consumption was 22.1 gallons per person.
Health and Pharmacology of Coffee
See also: Coffee and Health
Many studies have been performed on the relationship between coffee consumption and many medical conditions, ranging from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer and cirrhosis. Studies are contradictory as to whether coffee has any specific health benefits, and similarly results are conflicting with respect to negative effects of coffee consumption. In addition, it is often unclear whether these risks or benefits are linked to caffeine or whether they are to be attributed to other chemical substances found in coffee (and whether decaffeinated coffee carries the same benefits or risks).
One fairly consistent finding has been the reduction of diabetes mellitus type 2 in coffee consumers, an association which cannot be explained by the caffeine content alone and indeed may be stronger in decaffeinated coffee.
Processing and Roasting
See also: Processing of Coffee
Much processing and human labour is required before coffee berries and its seed can be processed
into roasted coffee with which most Western consumers are familiar. Coffee berries must be picked, defruited, dried, sorted, and-in some processes-also aged.
Coffee is usually sold roasted, and the roasting process has a great degree of influence on the taste of the final product. All coffee is roasted before being consumed. Coffee can be sold roasted by the supplier; alternatively it can be home roasted.
See also: Preparation of Coffee
The processing of coffee typically refers to the agricultural and industrial processes needed to deliver whole roasted coffee beans to the consumer. Grinding the roasted coffee beans is done at a roastery, in a grocery store, or at home. It is most commonly ground at the roastery and sold to the consumer ground and packaged, though "whole-bean" coffee that is ground at home is becoming more popular despite the extra effort required. A grind is referred to by its brewing method. "Turkish" grind, the finest, is meant for mixing straight with water, while the coarsest grinds, like coffee percolator or french press, is at the other extreme. Midway between the extremes are the most common: "drip" and "paper filter" grinds, which are used in the most common home coffee brewing machines. The "drip" machines operate with near-boiling water being passed in a slow stream through the ground coffee in a paper filter. The espresso method uses higher technology to force very hot water or even steam through the coffee grounds, resulting in a stronger flavor and chemical changes with more coffee bean matter in the drink. Once brewed, it may be presented in a variety of ways: on its own, with sugar, with milk or cream, hot or cold, and so on. Roasted arabica beans are also eaten plain and covered with chocolate. See the article on coffee preparation for a comprehensive list.
A number of products are sold for the convenience of consumers who don't want to prepare their own
coffee. Instant coffee has been dried into soluble powder or granules, which can be quickly dissolved in hot water for consumption. Canned coffee is a beverage that has been popular in Asian countries for many years, particularly in Japan and South Korea. Vending machines typically sell a number of varieties of canned coffee, available both hot and cold. To match with the often busy life of Korean city dwellers, companies mostly have canned coffee with a wide variety of tastes. Japanese convenience stores and groceries also have a wide availability of plastic-bottled coffee drinks, which typically are lightly sweetened and pre-blended with milk. Lastly, liquid coffee concentrate is sometimes used in large institutional situations where coffee needs to be produced for thousands of people at the same time. It is described as having a flavor about as good as low-grade robusta coffee, and costs about 10 cents a cup to produce. The machines used to process it can handle up to 500 cups an hour, or 1,000 if the water is preheated.
Social Aspects of Coffee
See also: Coffeehouse
See also: Social Aspects of Coffee
Coffee plays an important role in today's society. From the coffeehouses of the 16th century, to the modern day cafés, coffee has impacted the lifestyle of people from all walks of life.
Spent coffee grounds are a good fertilizer in gardens because of their high nitrogen content. Starbucks®, and some other coffee shops, have a specific policy of giving away their used coffee grounds to gardeners. While they tend to be only slightly acidic, they also tend to improve the acidity of garden soil through the same chemical processes which cause sawdust to do the same thing. Coffee grounds raise soil acidity sooner if they are added fresh, instead of after brewing. Likewise, coffee diluted with four times its volume of water can be used to amend soil acidity, especially useful for tomatoes, chili peppers, blueberries, and other plants which like high soil acidity.
The grounds are also used as bait in "Vegas roach traps".
Some use coffee to create art. Latte art involves designs in the foam of espresso-based drinks. Arfé is the use of coffee as a coloring for painting or other visual effects.
- Chambers, Robert (1869). Chambers' Book of Days for January 27, retrieved February 21, 2006.
- Jacob, Heinrich Eduard: Coffee. The Epic of a Commodity. Short Hills: Burford Books, 1998. ISBN 1-58080-070-X. (Introduction: Lynn Alley).
- (German)Mai, Marina. "Boom für die Bohnen" in Jungle World Nr. 1, 2006/January 4, 2006. ISSN 1613-0766.
- Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, Basic Books, 1999. ISBN 0465054676
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