Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Story on Coffee

Coffee Genesis: Birth of the brew

The Legend begins

The history of coffee began many years ago on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Once upon a time, there lived a goat herder named Kaldi, and with him lived his happy flock. One night the flock did not return home as usual, and Kaldi was forced to search for them all night long. When at last he found them the next morning, the goats were dancing and jumping about a shrub like tree covered with red berries. Curious about the mysterious behavior of his flock, Kaldi himself tried the berries, and proceeded to dance and sing with his goats.

The first known coffee consumers were actually a group of monks. Having heard of Kaldi and his fantastic fruit, these monks began consuming the fruits for their incredible energizing properties. The monks would dry out the fruit to preserve it for their travels between monasteries, and then reconstitute them using water. Thus the first coffee beverages in history were prepared.

History and the Spread of Coffee

These first coffee discoveries were reportedly made in the mountains of Ethiopia. Some time in the 7th century coffee made its way from these Ethiopian slopes to the kingdom of Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs consumed the coffee cherries as fruit, and also made a wine from the pulp of the ripe berries. From here, coffee was taken to Turkey where it was roasted for the first time.

Venetian trade merchants began exporting coffee to Europe in the early 17th century, and soon the Dutch had begun their own coffee production on the Indonesian Island of Java. When coffee from Java was combined with coffee exported from the well-traveled port of Mocha, in Yemen, the first blend was born: Mocha Java.

In 1715, Louis XIV received several coffee trees from the Dutch as repayment for a favor. In 1720 an infantry captain, Gabriel Matthieu de Clieu, transported a single tree from its greenhouse in France to Martinique with a mission to build coffee production. Fifty years later, 19 million coffee trees were growing in Martinique alone. From there the coffee tree spread throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America. The coffee craze had begun!

By 1763, there were over 200 coffee bars in Venice alone. There are tens of thousands of coffee bars in Italy today. Coffee, as a commodity, is second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded. The coffee industry employs approximately 20 million people globally to produce what will become 400 billion cups consumed per year. In the United States, coffee is a billion-dollar industry. Today American customers can drink the highest quality coffees available from the coffee-producing world.

What is coffee and where does it come from?

· Coffee beans are the pits of cherries. They grow on evergreen shrubs known as coffee trees. They grow at altitudes from sea level to 7000 feet. The best generally grow over 3000 feet.

· Coffee trees grow in the narrow subtropical belt north and south of the Equator, between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. This belt encompasses all of Central America and major portions of Africa, South America and Indonesia as well as numerous smaller land masses.

· We refer to individual coffees as unblended coffees, and combinations of these as blends.

· An individual coffee’s flavor depends on a tropical micro-climate which includes soil conditions, weather, altitude, and other environmental factors. Other conditions such as variety planted, the farmer’s care in cultivating the crop, method of processing, and numerous other factors contribute greatly to the coffee’s final quality.

· The annual growing cycle begins with flowering followed by cherry growth and ripening. The flowers resemble Jasmine in shape and odor and last but a few days. The overall cycle spans approximately nine months.

· Coffee cherries ripen at different rates. Pickers must revisit the same trees over and over picking the fruits by hand as they ripen!

1 comment:

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