Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
Are you one of those people who can't even begin to function before your morning mug of coffee? Despite bed hair, bleary eyes and crumpled PJs, the first thing you do when you wake up is reach for the kettle, ready for a perfect, steaming cup of coffee?
Well, our caffeinated friend is our rocket fuel, our everyday get up and go. In fact, it’s hard to imagine life without it – and that was before we even realised what a difference a cup of our favourite bullet coffee makes to our workouts.
If you’re anything like us, then your love affair with coffee is hard to break – and, we have to say, the world agrees with us. Did you know that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world?
Anyway, if you’re ready for your mid-morning coffee break, then settle down with your favourite biscuit and learn all about how this caffeinated phenomenon first started…
As with many of our favourite foods, coffee is steeped in history and legend, from as far back as the 13th century. To learn more about where our favourite drink came from, we have to head over to the Ethiopian highlands to hear the legend of Kaldi, the goat-herder1.
You see, folklore has it that Kaldi found his herd full of beans (sorry!) after the mischievous goats were caught eating the red berries of the coffee shrub. Kaldi then ate a few of the berries himself, finding that he also became full of energy – the rather miraculous effects of caffeine. What would we do without it?!
After watching the strange behaviour of Kaldi and his goats, a monk then apparently took some berries back to the monastery and watched as his fellow monks spent the night wide awake, thanks to the high dose of caffeine.
Soon, word began to spread and coffee quickly reached the Arabian peninsula before spreading to countries across the globe.
Originally, coffee wasn’t used to make the drink we know and love. Instead, the beans were ground up with animal fat to create the world’s first ever protein-like bars - the pulp was even used to make a wine-like drink. Amazingly, it wasn’t until the 13th century that people began to roast coffee beans and drink it.
So, how did coffee end up in our AeroPress or fancy machines? Well, Coffee as we know it – or at least the modern day version of our roasted coffee – originated in Arabia. You see, our favourite drink became hugely popular with Muslim communities during the 13th century, who found that its stimulant abilities helped during long prayer sessions1.
For hundreds of years after this, the Arabs dominated the coffee market. Then, an Indian pilgrim by the name of Baba Budan is thought to have left Mecca with a pouch of coffee beans tied carefully around his stomach, bringing them to Europe and resulting in a trade across the continent.
Soon, the demand for coffee began to pick up pace. In 1616, the Dutch founded the first coffee estate owned by Europeans in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, then Java in 1696. The French quickly followed, growing coffee in the Caribbean and then the Spanish joined in, in Central America and the Portuguese in Brazil.
The fashionable drink soon became a hit with the social elite as European coffee houses popped up across Italy and France. It then hit England thanks to imports from the famous British East India Company, before the first ever coffeehouse opened up in Cornhill 2. Incredibly, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England by 1675, although they drew controversy as they drew gatherings for religious and political discussions and groups. This led to Charles 11 trying to ban the use of coffeehouses – amazing to consider now, isn’t it?
However, the beloved drink famed for its place in American pop culture (where would we be without Central Perk?) didn’t become popular in the USA until the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Then, the switch from tea to coffee was seen as a patriotic move, while the Civil War saw soldiers thrive on caffeine to give them a boost2.
By the late 1800s, coffee was a worldwide phenomenon, although it wasn’t until 1864 when two clever young brothers called John and Charles Arbuckle started selling pre-roasted coffee in paper bags by the pound. Soon, others (including giants such as Maxwell House) sat up and smelled the coffee (sorry!) as they quickly followed suit by selling roasted versions.
Of course, our love for our caffeinated friend didn’t slow down – it only grew and grew. The 1960s saw us fall for specialty coffees, which led to the first ever Starbucks in Seattle in 1971.
Who knew a humble goat-herder could have such a huge impact on our lives?
Coffee is made in countries across the globe, although Brazil is the world’s leading producer. Other countries making our favourite drink include Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia and Ethiopia.
Over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries, while consumption happens mainly in the industrialized economies3. Worldwide, 25 million small producers rely on coffee for a living, while in Brazil where almost a third of all the world's coffee is produced, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants. Incredible, isn’t it?
Anyway, to find out how coffee is made, we have to travel to lush green hillsides where it’s found in a cherry-like fruit (incidentally known as coffee cherries).
These pretty little berries become red when ripe and the coffee bean that we know and love is found in the centre. Nope, we didn’t know that before today either…
In many countries, these red berries are picked by hand (a good picker averages an incredible 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherry a day)4. Once they’ve been picked, the coffee cherries are then processed quickly to avoid spoiling. They can be processed in two different ways – they’ll either be dried out in the sun, or they’ll be passed through a pulping machine.
The coffee making process is far from over though and the beans will next be hulled, polished, graded and sorted. The surviving beans are now known as “green coffee” and will be shipped out across the world, ready for roasting.
Roasting transforms these humble little green coffee beans into the aromatic brown beans that we know and love. Most roasting machines heat the beans at around 550 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s when they reach internal temperatures of about 400 degrees that they begin to release the caffeol, or oil, locked inside.
This process is known as pyrolysis and produces the range, depth and flavour of the coffee we drink. Of course, depending on the roast of your coffee (it can be light roasted, medium roasted or dark roasted), your brew will taste differently, so be sure to check your beans before you buy them!
Next time you drink up your coffee, we challenge you to take a moment to smell it and think about where it’s come from – hundreds of people have been involved in bringing you your morning get up and go!
Coffee has found its way into the homes (and hearts) of millions of people across the globe. For many, it’s how you’ll start every single day – and we bet that a lot of you can’t get through a working day or that dreaded 3pm slump without knocking back another mug or two.
Incredibly, more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day3. Staggering, isn’t it? More than 150 million Americans drink coffee on a daily basis, and in 2008, it was the number-one hot drink of choice in US supermarkets.
It also happens to be the second most valuable commodity exported by developing countries and one of the most traded agricultural products known to man.
However, if you think you’re a caffeine addict, then listen to this first: famed French writer and philosopher Voltaire was thought to have drunk 40 – 50 cups per day. If you thought you were addicted, then that morning brew doesn’t look so bad now, does it…?
From frothy cappuccinos to milky lattes, energy-boosting espressos and even coffee cake, there are endless ways to enjoy those beloved beans. But if you’re ever stuck deciding which coffee to plump for, then feast your eyes on this handy chart by genius designers Follychart5.
Of course, coffee also tastes different around the world - the variety of the plant, the soil it’s grown in, the weather and the altitude can all affect how your brew tastes.
So, if you’re ever fretting in the supermarket about strength and depth of flavour, then here’s our handy Lucy Bee guide to some of the world’s finest:
Often, coffee from Mexico will be grown on small coffee farms rather than large plantations. If you brew a cup of Mexican coffee, you can expect a delicious aroma as well as a real depth of flavour and sharpness – the beans are perfect for dark roasts (the darker the roast, the less acidity found in the coffee, which means they’ll often be used in blends.)
Coffees grown here are carefully formed from quality arabica varieties and produced to the highest standards. You can also find two different varieties from this Caribbean island - Grand Lares in the south central and Yauco Selecto in the southwest – although both are renowned for their balanced body and fruity aroma.
Costa Rica is known across the world for producing delicious coffees, although the farms here – known as fincas – only make wet processed arabicas (coffee beans from the most commonly-found plant). Coffees from Costa Rica are said to have a medium body and sharp acidity, while conscientious methods of growing and harvesting tend to be used – we like!
As one of the best-known producers of coffee, you’ll find beans or ground blends from Colombia will tend to be of brilliant quality. The landscape here is incredibly rugged, which can make it tricky to transport the harvested coffee beans (even now it’s often done by mule or Jeep). However, it’s worth it – you can expect Colombian coffee to be mild, with a well-balanced acidity. If you buy Colombian Supremo, the highest grade, you’ll find a delicate, aromatic sweetness, while Excelso Grade is softer and slightly more acidic.
As the world’s biggest coffee producer, coffee plantations in Brazil span across huge areas of land. You can expect a Brazilian to taste mild, while both Arabica and Robusta (another type of coffee plant – Arabica tends to be a little sweeter, Robusta is stronger and nuttier) beans are grown here. If you enjoy a good cup of Brazilian, you can expect clear, sweet, medium-bodied, low-acid coffee.
As you now know, legend has it that our beloved coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia – and it’s easy to see why, with coffee tree forests dotted across the land. Brews from here tend to be wet processed and come from one of three regions - Sidamo, Harer or Kaffa. You can expect Ethiopian blends to be both full-flavoured and full-bodied.
Kenyan coffee is loved across the globe, thanks to its sharp, fruity acidity, as well as a full body and rich aroma. Here, coffee is grown on the foothills of Mount Kenya and will have its own unique grading system - Kenyan AA is the largest bean in a 10-size grading system, while AA+ means that it was estate grown.
This is where coffee was first commercially grown - and it’s still made here, often in family farms. Since there’s so little water here, the coffee beans tend to be smaller and with a distinctive, deep and rich taste.
Way back when coffee was shipped from Yemen’s port of Mocha, the word became associated with Arabian coffee. The Dutch combined this with coffee grown Java, forming the first coffee blend, the Mocha Java.
Made up of thousands of tiny islands, Indonesian coffee is pretty varied. Some of the larger islands, including Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, are renowned for their quality coffees, with flavours thought to be rich, full bodied and of mild acidity.
Coffee only came to Vietnam in the mid-nineteenth century when French missionaries brought arabica trees from Bourbon and planted them. The coffee industry here is now booming – so much so that Vietnam is becoming one of the world's largest producers. The coffee tends to be grown in small plantations in the south of Vietnam, producing robusta coffee with a light acidity and mild body.
Of course, if you’re as much of a caffeine addict as we are, then drinking up your morning brew isn’t always enough. If you’re looking for some other ways to get that shot of espresso down you, then here are some of Lucy Bee’s favourite coffee recipes:
Bullet Proof Coffee with Lucy Bee
One of our favourites and as foamy as any latte – try this and fall in love!
Bullet Coffee Lucy Bee Bites With Apricots
With all wonders of a Bullet Coffee but with added deliciousness, these bites are the perfect afternoon snack.
What are your favourite coffee recipes? Be sure to send us in any tips and pictures of you enjoying your Lucy Bee with your coffee!
For studies on coffee and its effects or otherwise on lifestyle diseases, see this article on Danish research
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.