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26 September 2019

A journey to the coffee history: truths and legends behind its origin

A journey to the coffee history: truths and legends behind its origin

Coffee: one of the most popular drinks, whose market is worth about 100,000 million dollars, and so essential to our everyday life. The coffee history is rather complex and there are many legends about its origin.

Coffee comes from Kaffa, a mountainous region in Ethiopia rich of woods and forests. No one knows exactly who discovered coffee and when but it is thought it was already used in the Middle East in the 16th century to help increase concentration.

Legend tells that the Ethiopian goat herder, Kaldi, first discovered coffee’s exciting, energizing and invigorating effects. One day, while grazing, his goats ate some leaves and berries from a coffee tree. When the night came, the goats couldn’t sleep, on the contrary, they started wandering aimlessly. So, the goat herder explained what had happened to the abbots of a local monastery. They had the fantastic idea to boil these berries to make a beverage and after they drank of it, they stayed awake for a long stretch of time. They understood that this drink could be useful to those who devoted themselves to the long hours of evening prayer.

Gradually, the practice of using coffee berries as an energy food increased in the surrounding areas. By the 15th century the first coffee plantation arose in Yemen, spreading to Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey in the following century.

As the name comes from the Arabian word “qahwe” that indicates a beverage made of vegetables, coffee arrived in Europe like “Wine of Arabia” in the 17th century. At the beginning, coffee was seen by ministers as “Satan’s beverage” because of its energizing and exciting effects, arousing suspicions and fear among people: then the clergy asked for Pope Clement VIII’s intervention to ban the new beverage. Once he had tasted it, the Pope found the drink so satisfying and tasty that he gave it the papal approval and named it a “Christian beverage”.

From that moment, coffee houses opened in the main European cities, becoming meeting places for merchants, shippers, brokers and artists. Furthermore, coffee substituted wine and beer, breakfast beverages of that time: the quality of work of those who drank coffee improved considerably.

In the middle of the 17th century, coffee was brought to New York, at that time New Amsterdam. Only a century later, the American drinking preference changed to coffee, leaving tea aside.

In the 18th century coffee become a successful drink in the Western world and in North America so much so that the quantity produced in North Africa was no longer enough. So, coffee plantations spread quickly in Central and South America. Over the last century and to this day, America has been the main producer of coffee, even if Asia has increased its presence in the coffee international market in the last decade.

The process of coffee production is intensive and hard. Coffee beans are seeds. They are hand-harvested by people to be sure that only ripe cherries are picked, but where coffee is grown in large farms, cherries are machine harvested. Seeds are processed immediately after harvest to avoid deterioration. There are two methods of processing the seeds according to the location: the dry and the wet method. The first one is used where water is scarce: the cherries are spread out in the sun for several weeks until they are well dried. The wet method is a new way of removing skin from coffee cherries: it squeezes out the skin without damaging the beans. Then, the naked coffee beans are dried in the sun for some days. Seeds are sorted and graded based on their size and weight, then they are grounded.

Today, coffee is the second product on the world market, after petroleum and it’s one of the most consumed products in the world. There are different types of coffee: Espresso, Double Espresso, Short Macchiato, Ristretto, Long Black, Mocha and so on. Choose your favorite and enjoy!

 

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