There are some great drinks in the world these days. There are Teas, Carbonated Beverages, Alcoholic Drinks, Flavored Waters and Coffee. For the next couple of posts I will be taking a look at how to make a great cup of Joe; from the beans to the cup.
All coffee starts is life as a bean. There are a couple of different ideas on how Coffee was found. Here are some possible ideas on the origin of coffee:
The Ethiopian Legend (Circa 800 A.D)
An Arabian shepherd named Kaldi found his goats dancing joyously around a dark green leafed shrub with bright red cherries in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Kaldi soon determined that it was the bright red cherries on the shrub that were causing the peculiar euphoria and after trying the cherries himself, he learned of their powerful effect. The stimulating effect was then exploited by monks at a local monastery to stay awake during extended hours of prayer and distributed to other monasteries around the world.
The Arabian Legend (Circa 1000 to 1600 A.D.)
“Coffee as we know it kicked off in Arabia, where roasted beans were first brewed around A.D. 1000. By the 13th century Muslims were drinking coffee religiously. The “bean broth” drove dervishes into orbit, kept worshippers awake, and splashed over into secular life. And wherever Islam went, coffee went too…
Arabia made export beans infertile by parching or boiling, and it is said that no coffee seed sprouted outside Africa or Arabia until the 1600s—until Baba Budan. As tradition has it, this Indian pilgrim-cum-smuggler left Mecca with fertile seeds strapped to his belly.Baba’s beans bore fruit and initiated an agricultural expansion that would soon reach Europe’s colonies…”
– excerpt from NationalGeographic.com
Europe and Beyond (1600 A.D. to present)
An Italian merchant brought coffee back to Europe, but it was the Dutch who first successfully grew coffee on the continent. The Dutch then started sending coffee plants to aristocrats. One of the aristocrats who received a coffee tree as a gift was Louis XIV. In a night raid, a seedling from Louis’s tree was taken and made it to the Caribbean. Then eventually coffee made its way to Brazil. It was Brazil’s booming coffee industry that turned coffee into an everyday drink.
The Coffee Tree and Bean
The coffee plant is a woody plant with a main trunk that grows up to 30 feet high, thus it is more of a tree than a bush. There are two main types of the coffee plant – Arabica and Robusta. The arabica is most common and has a better taste. The Robusta is less popular and does not have as a good of a taste, but it does have much more caffeine.
The Coffee tree starts to produce fruit 3-4 years after it is planted. New fruit is only on new tissue and starts as a sweet smelling flower. The flower is fertilized (Arabica are self-pollinating, Robusta rely on cross-pollination). After fertilization it takes about 15 weeks for the coffee cherry or berry to develop. At about 30-25 weeks the cherry turns from green to red.
It is the green bean that you will want to pick and roast. And it is the roasting of the coffee bean that we will cover in the next post.