History Of Coffee
Coffee has been around for centuries and still considered the choice beverage of many. Read the history of this popular drink and learn how to make the perfect cup!
Coffee was first discovered around 600AD in the Middle East. It arrived in Europe during the 16th Century and since, has traveled around the world, becoming an international trade and the beverage of choice everywhere.
There are a number of legends as to how coffee came into being. The most common is that of Kaldi, the shepherd who was tending to his animals in the mountains of East Africa. According to legend, the shepherd observed a local group of people acting strangely. After investigating, he realized they had been eating the red berries of a nearby shrub. The men seemed to always be awake, and were often found jumping and leaping around. Curious, the shepherd picked some for himself and noted similar results. Several days later, a passing monk began conversation with the shepherd, and learning of the discovery, asked to see the berries. The monk crushed a few beans into powder, added boiling water and made himself a drink. This monk would take his new find back to his monastery, with hopes of helping himself and his fellow monks stay awake during their long hours of prayer. The exciting new drink quickly traveled from monastery to monastery, until it found its way outside holy walls.
In the years that followed, coffee would serve many purposes. Arab traders in the 9th century coined the hot drink “quahwa” (which literally means “that which prevents sleep”), and began boiling the beans during preparation. Arabs, who were not allowed to drink wine, made a holy drink from the beans and labeled it "Arabian Wine." It would be used all official Muslim ceremonies. Tribes in Africa made a makeshift protein bar from the beans, combining it with animal fat balls. And in almost every country, coffee would serve some sort of medicinal purpose. It was known as both a "cure" and a "gift from God."
Around 1000AD it was discovered by complete accident, that by roasting the coffee bean, a delicious hot drink could be made. Once this discovery was made, extensive planting occurred and the coffee trade was closely watched. Arabs went to great lengths to prevent other countries from acquiring their fertile coffee beans, and even prohibited anyone from taking the beans out of the country, unless they had first been dried or boiled to kill the seed germ. Because of this, no coffee every sprouted outside Africa or Arabia until the 1600’s.
The first coffee shop known to man opened in Istanbul in 1475, just two years after coffee had been introduced to Turkey. In the coming years, coffee would become a regular part of social life and coffee shops multiplied rapidly.
GROWTH OF A COFFEE BEAN
Coffee is actually the seed of a cherry from a tree that grows in the sub-tropical belt regions of the world. Cultivation of these trees begins with planting the seeds and tending to them in closely monitored nurseries for the first year and a half of life. Once the tree reaches 24 inches in height, they are transplanted to permanent groves.
After three years, the trees reach maturity and begin to bear fruit in lines or clusters along their branches. The fruit turns red and cherry-like when it is ready to be harvested. The actual cherry takes between 6-11 months to ripen.
There is one harvest of coffee beans per year. Ripe fruits can be plucked by hand or picked with small rakes. Industrial processing begins immediately to prevent the pulp from fermenting or deteriorating.
PREPARING THE BEAN
The most important part of coffee preparation is in the roasting. During the roasting process, coffee beans produce sugars and carbohydrates that become caramelized, creating a substance known as coffee oil. This oil is what gives coffee its flavor and aroma.
There are three methods of bean roasting. The oldest and cheapest is called, the "dry method." Using this procedure, cherries are sorted and cleaned and then set out in the sun on large patios, raked frequently to prevent fermentation and exposed to heat. Once the cherries have turned from red to deep brown, they are moved to a silo storage area, where they can continue to dry out.
Another form of commercial drying involves roasting the beans in a drum or hot air roasting machine. In both cases, beans are heated to 400-degrees through air movement and then quickly exposed to cooler air, stored and dried.
The "wet method" of roasting is done by separating beans from their skin and pulp by means of a machine. Beans are then tumbled through the inside a washing channel. For the following two days, the beans are stored in a tank of water and allowed to ferment. After this period, the beans are rewashed and stored to dry.
MAKING THE PERFECT CUP OF COFFEE
1. BEGIN WITH CLEAN EQUIPMENT. Leftover residue, oils and grounds will make bitter coffee. Coffee machines can be cleaned weekly with vinegar and water to prevent such buildup.
2. GRIND BEANS IMMEDIATELY. Don't pre grind the beans. If you're making coffee now, grind only what you will drink now.
3. CHECK YOUR WATER. 98% of coffee is water. Bad water equals bad coffee.
4. DON'T SKIMP ON THE BEANS. The biggest mistake of coffee makers is to use the wrong amount. Begin by measuring 2 level tablespoons for each 6oz. of water. You can adjust from there.
5. STIR. Even if you're not adding anything to your coffee, stir. This will help to blend the heavier oils and make a more consistent drink.
6. FRESH. Drink your coffee freshly brewed. Reheated coffee or that which has been left on a warmer too long will be bitter and acidic. If you want to store coffee, place it in an airtight thermos.