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Tuesday, January 25th
Everybody loves coffee. Society is incredibly reliant on this versatile drink, and the world would probably devolve into chaos if it were to suddenly disappear. A good cup of coffee is just the pick-me-up that millions of workers across the world need to get going, make it to work on time, stay awake through the day, and hit their tight deadlines. While many people make coffee an integral part of their daily routine, few stop to wonder about the origins of this marvelous beverage. Where does coffee come from? What is it? Why is it so popular? If you've had these same questions, then keep reading to find the answers and uncover even more interesting details about your favorite drink.
What Is Coffee?
Coffee, the beverage, comes from the Coffea plant. Coffea plants grow tasty seeds that people in the coffee industry refer to as coffee beans. When the beans are on the tree, they look almost nothing like the coffee beans that you buy at the store. Instead, they are green and don't taste very good. In most places, farmers have to pick coffee beans by hand. However, because coffee farms in Brazil are so flat and wide, farmers often harvest coffee beans with the help of special machinery.
For coffee to develop that rich, dark flavor that you know and love, someone has to roast the raw coffee beans first. Coffee roasters can process coffee beans in several ways to change the flavor of the final product. Typically, after farmers have harvested raw coffee beans, they send huge batches of them to various distributors around the world. These distributors then send their beans to roasters. Finally, the roasters sell the roasted beans to nearby coffee shops, grocery stores, and individuals.
Before coffee can be served, someone has to grind the roasted beans and brew the ground coffee. There are several unique ways to brew coffee. Cold-brew, French press, percolation, and drip are among the most popular methods. Different grinding techniques yield different flavors that are appropriate for different drinks. A drink that uses coarse ground coffee won't taste as strong or have as much caffeine as a drink made with a finer grind. The average cup of drip coffee is usually made from coarse ground beans. Espresso, on the other hand, comes from a much finer grind, which is reflected in its stronger taste and higher caffeine content.
Major Varieties of Coffee
Like other crops, there are a few different varieties of the coffee plant. Each kind of plant has its own structure and produces a unique bean. These differences result in different flavors in the end product, but some beans are much more practical for commercial farming than others. The following list details some of the most common varieties that you are likely to encounter.
The Coffea arabica plant produces about 60% of the coffee beans in the global market. This variety is prized for its delicate flavor, and it is extremely popular in North America. However, the Coffea arabica plant is extremely fragile. The plant requires constant pruning and a stable supply of water, and relatively minor weather changes can ruin entire crops. Consequently, this variety is the most expensive to produce.
Accounting for around 7% of the global coffee supply, this variety is known for its fruity flavors. Moreover, beans of this variety have elements of light and dark roasts and taste very unique in comparison to other varieties. Although it's not the most popular, more and more roasters are blending Coffea excelsa beans with more popular varieties to achieve extremely distinct flavors. While this variety is rare in grocery stores, it is often very easy to order online. Because this kind of coffee is primarily grown in Southeast Asia, it's easier to find in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and nearby countries.
Robusta varieties account for over 30% of global coffee production. This variety lives up to its name; it is very robust. Robusta beans tend to have a much stronger flavor than other varieties, and they contain a ton of caffeine. Robusta plants also live up to their name by being extremely resilient. Due to their high caffeine content, most pests don't go near these plants. Moreover, this variety grows at several altitudes and is adaptable to a variety of weather conditions. While this means that this variety is cheaper and easier to grow, it also means that some farmers try to grow Coffea robusta under extremely subpar conditions, sometimes resulting in low-quality beans. Since this variety has such a strong flavor profile, it goes very well with cream, sugar, and other tasty additives.
As with any other crop, there are many heirloom varieties of the Coffea plant. Typically, an heirloom variety is only grown on a small scale and in a very narrow region, and you probably won't be able to find it at a grocery store. Most products that are marketed as heirloom varieties come from Ethiopia. These varieties have a broad range of flavor profiles. Although a product may be labeled as an heirloom variety, that designation doesn't speak to its quality. One heirloom variety can taste absolutely amazing, but another variety may not be very tasty. Thus, if you're looking for heirloom varieties, then you should do a lot of research and look for genuine reviews about any product that you come across. Otherwise, you may spend your hard-earned money on a bag of beans that doesn't suit your palate.
Where Do People Grow Coffee?
Even the strongest varieties of coffee require a fair amount of water and relatively high temperatures. This is why you don't see coffee farms in Siberia or Alaska. Instead, the vast majority of coffee is grown in areas close to the equator. Currently, Brazil is the world's biggest producer of coffee beans, accounting for nearly 32% of global production in 2019. Other major producers include Ethiopia, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Honduras.
When Did Coffee Become Popular?
In the year 850, the first coffee plants were discovered in Ethiopia by a goatherder named Kaldi. Knowledge of the plant then spread to the Arabian Peninsula by the 15th century. Around that time, Muslim scholars in Yemen began to process the bean and use it to augment their studies and religious devotions. From there, coffee made its way to Egypt and other nearby areas. Because this region was very close to the Ottoman Empire, coffee houses became huge in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.
People from all levels of society would gather in these establishments to discuss politics, literature, art, and other intellectual subjects. Although the Ottoman sultans tried to ban coffee multiple times, the drink was too popular, so thankfully, their efforts were never very successful. Following the Ottoman Empire's invasions of the Balkans, European countries soon began to adopt the drink.
As European powers began to colonize the Americas, Africa, and Asia, local farmers began to cultivate coffee in these regions. While many farmers were coerced into growing coffee in the colonial days, modern farmers grow coffee by choice and receive better compensation for their work. Because coffee made its way to every inhabited continent, it naturally became a global commodity with a massive supply chain.
Coffee Has Come a Long Way
Coffee is a modern staple, and it is growing more popular around the world every day. No matter how you enjoy your coffee, it is important to acknowledge the history of your favorite drink. While the history of coffee has been dark at times, things are getting better, and you can do your part by purchasing coffee from the most ethical sources. Life would be a lot harder without a good cup of coffee to get you through the day. Therefore, you shouldn't forget the tens of millions of farmers around the world who toil day and night to make sure that your favorite roast finds its way into your best mug every morning. Without their hard work, the world would grind to a halt, so don't take your next shot of espresso for granted.
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