What is Coffee? “Coffee is everything,”
If your answer is, “Coffee is everything,” then you’re in the right place. Coffee is one of those things that can bring complete strangers together in quiet and perfect peace. There’s something poetic about beginning your day with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, and the better that cup is, the better your day is.
Even if your day turns out to be a total wash, you can at least start it on the right foot with your morning coffee. What’s interesting is that a cup of coffee is easily recognizable, but a coffee tree is not. The coffee tree can grow to over 30 feet in height, but to conserve energy and make harvesting them easier, they are pruned so they stay short. They have waxy green leaves with coffee cherries growing on the branches. You may even see flowers and fruit growing on a coffee tree.
It takes about a year for a coffee cherry to reach maturity after flowering for the first time and then about 5 more years after that to reach full fruit status. Coffee plants are most productive when they’re between 7 and 20 years in age, but they can live for nearly 100 years.
That’s certainly something you probably didn’t know as you sip your cup and let the aroma enchant you, did you?
There’s also a coffee belt, but perhaps you knew that already. It has nothing to do with the kind of belt you use to look fashionable and keep your pants in place, but rather a specific region in the world where the soil is richest, the temperatures are mild, the rain is frequent, and there’s shaded sun. This coffee belt is where the two most important coffee species in commercial coffee production come from, Arabica and Robusta.
This type of coffee is the descendant from the original coffee trees that were discovered in Ethiopia. According to legend, this is where it’s said that a goat herder by the name of Kaldi made the discovery of the coffee plants, forever changing the way that we do mornings. The coffee produced from these trees is incredibly aromatic and has a nice mild flavor.
Arabica coffees tend to cost more with the better quality one grown at higher altitudes, between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. The temperatures where they grow need to stay mild though. Anything below 59 degrees or above 75 degrees Fahrenheit could be devastating to the yield.
Mostly, Robusta can be found growing in Central and Western Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil. It’s gaining popularity but it makes up much less of the commercial coffee industry. Often, it’s used to make coffee blends or for instant coffee products. It’s an easier coffee plant to work with because it naturally resists pests and disease, making it cheaper to produce. It can also handle warmer temperatures than Arabica (between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit). It has a very distinctive flavor compared to the Arabica which many find pleasing. It also has more caffeine, which is good to know for those of you that can’t fully get going until you have your morning cup.
The coffee beans come from inside the fruit on the coffee tree. They’re actually the seeds and once they are processed and roasted, that’s when they become that beautiful thing we know and love, coffee.
Coffee’s Rich History
As previously mentioned, Kaldi the goat herder in Ethiopia ages ago is the supposed reason that coffee exists. If not for his goats becoming exceedingly energetic after eating the fruits of the coffee tree, we might not have this perky beverage in our cups each morning.
Word soon spread, as it usually does, and coffee went on to the Arabian peninsula. From there, in the 15t h century, it was growing in Arabia and then in the 16t h century, the people in Egypt, Syria, Persia, and Turkey were enjoying this robust caffeinated beverage. Interestingly, life back then was a lot like it is now. Coffee was drunk at home, but also in public coffee houses all around the Near East. People would gather here to socialize over coffee as well as listen to music, play chess, and watch performances. Sounds familiar, right?
When Europeans made their way there and returned home, they regaled their tales of this dark black beverage. Coffee itself followed by the 17t h century and it was, as expected, all the rage. However, being the prudent people they were in those days, there were some that claimed it came from Satan himself. It was condemned in Venice in 1615, but Pope Clement VIII was asked to check it out. After a taste, he gave his seal of approval and everyone in Europe chilled out.
That’s when European coffee houses began to pop up from England to Germany and everywhere in between. Coffee even replaced the common breakfast drinks at the time, which were, astonishingly, beer and wine.
While some of you may yearn for days that begin with a tipsy start, truth be told, it’s better to start your day alert with coffee and unwind with libations come sundown. This is how our habits of drinking coffee in the morning to be productive at work started (and likely how Happy Hour also formed, but that’s a story for another time).
Coffee finally made its way to America somewhere in the middle of the 1600s. It arrived in New York which was called New Amsterdam until the British renamed it. Coffee houses also popped up everywhere but because of British rule, tea was the beverage of choice.
Then in 1773 when the colonists had enough of the British tyranny and rose up in rage over the tea tax, they threw a little party. You know, the Boston Tea Party.That was when Americans tipped their cups in favor of coffee. As a matter of fact, Thomas Jefferson said that,
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