One of the many traces of the origin of coffee can be found in the Bible, in the First Book of Kings: kings brought this beverage as a peace gift.
In mythology, the drink offered by Helen of Troy to Menelaus may have been coffee. Homer described it as “useful against sadness, resentments and pains memory”.
One of the most famous legends about coffee origins comes from the Cheodet Monastery, in Yemen. According to this legend, clergymen were using this drink “obtained from very specific berries” for extending evenings of prayer and meditation.
The “black potion” offered by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad struck down by a sleeping illness could also have been coffee. One day Prophet Muhammad woke up sick. Allah sent to him the Angel Gabriel, bringing a gourde filled with a black beverage. Muhammad drank some of it and felt better immediately. According to the legend, he drank the whole gourde and recovered all his energy so quickly that he unhorsed forty cavalrymen and “ knew “ forty women.
Coffee is the largest agricultural commodity traded in the world and second only to oil.
About 125 million people are involved in coffee growing including 25 million small producers. Brazil (about 35% of the world production), Vietnam (about 13%) and Colombia (about 10%) are the three principal producing countries.
Growing at an altitude between 600 and 2.000 meters , Arabica is the main cultivated variety. The most important Arabica producers are located in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and, Oceania. The more “robust” Robusta is grown at lower altitudes in Western and Central Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Even ithough coffee is largely produced by southern countries, it is mainly drunk in countries in the north These“Industrialised countries” concume about 75% of the world production. The USA is the largest importer but Europe is the biggest consumer. 400 billion cups of coffee are drunk each year in the world; 12.000 cups per second!
The fruit of the coffee tree is harvested at maturity (six to eight months after flowering for Arabica versus nine to eleven months for Robusta). Harvesting is carried out manually or mechanically (by scraping the branches). The flesh of the fruit is then removed by drying or soaking and the beans ‘shelled”. At this stage the coffee is called ”green coffee”.
It is roasting that brings all the flavor, aroma and colour to the coffee. Beans are toasted till the wanted color is obtained. During this stage, they lose their water and release the oil which gives taste to the coffee. Roasting is an art and a science; it needs precision and methodology.
Roasted coffee needs to be ground, a process which, to obtain the best result, must fit with the final coffee making syatem; significant differences exist between a very fine grind used for Turkish coffee, a large grind for an Italian cafetière and a fine grind used for espresso.
If the grinding process is not appropriate even the best coffee will not yield the best flavour.
Several manners for preparing coffee do exist:
- Turkish coffee: extra-grinded coffee, water and sugar mixed and brought to boiling. The oldest method.
- Espresso: 7 gr of grinded coffee penetrated by 6cl of water under high pressure. The Italian coffee.
- Filtered: prepared thanks to an electronic coffee maker with a filter in paper. A very common manner in France.
- Piston coffee maker: the filter is a piston which separates the grounds and the drink, after the infusion of coffee in water. This method is used in the plantations in order to taste coffee.
- Italian coffee maker: ground coffee is penetrated by the boiled water evaporating. The drink is appearing in the upper part of the coffee maker. Italian coffee maker could also be called Moka coffee maker or Neapolitan coffee maker.
Depending on the preparation method used, coffee will offer a different intensity and variable flavors.
For any issue about health and coffee, please have a look to this section Health and Coffee.