A Stroll Through Coffee History – Decoding the World’s Oldest Energy Drink
History of Coffee
Coffee was discovered in 850 A.D. by a goat herder in a forest on the Ethiopian plateau. He spoke to an abbot of a monastery about the energizing effects of its berries on his goats. The curious abbot realised the concoction of the berries kept him awake through the long evening prayers. He shared it with the other monks and news spread.
By the 16th century, it was grown in Yemen, Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. There were coffee houses called qahveh khaneh not only for recreation and entertainment, but also exchange of information.
Coffee reached Europe by the 17th century, borne by travellers returning from the East. Had it not been for special Papal approval, coffee would have been condemned as an invention of Satan. Coffee houses soon became wildly popular in Europe as centres of social and business activity. The origins of Lloyd’s of London can be traced back to Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.
During the 18th century, coffee crossed the seven seas to reach distant parts of the world.
- In America, coffee overthrew tea as the preferred drink after the Boston Tea Party revolt.
- After failed attempts at cultivation in India, the Dutch were the first to grow coffee successfully outside Arabia, on the islands of Indonesia, Sumatra, and Celebes.
- The Dutch gifted coffee to the French. From there, it found its way to Martinique, and then throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America.
- Coffee reached Brazil, hidden in a bouquet of flowers, from French Guyana.
- The British brought coffee to Jamaica.
Coffee seeds continued to be transported to various parts of the world by missionaries, traders, colonist, and travellers. The cultivations that flourished then have since shaped the present coffee economy.
Kinds of Coffee Seeds
To an average person, the type of coffee beans doesn’t matter. However, a coffee aficionado fastidiously selects the variety they want in their brew to suit their palate. There are two main species of coffee beans in the world, Coffee Arabica, and Coffee Robusta.
- Coffee Arabica beans has a pleasing flavour and aroma. Its caffeine content is half that of Robusta. Its varieties are named after their home country or region.
- Coffee Robusta is of a lower grade than Arabica. Given the higher caffeine content, Robusta beans have more of an astringent flavour.
Varieties from Bengal, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are also available. Most coffees are made from the Arabica bean, the Robusta bean or a blend of the two.
Kinds of Preparation
Coffee drinks made with a machine are called espresso. It’s made by forcing pressurised boiling water through the coffee beans. The espresso has three distinct parts – a dark bottom layer, a lighter middle layer, and foam on top.
From this foundation of espresso, steamed milk and froth a variety of coffee drinks have evolved.
- An Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water.
- A Cappuccino is an espresso with a thick layer of foamy steamed milk.
- A Latte is an espresso with steamed milk, with a shallow pool of foam.
- A Mocha is a latte with chocolate flavouring and a cloud of whipped cream.
- A Macchiato is a milkier and foamier latte served as a ‘layered’ coffee.
- A Frappe is a cold coffee that is shaken to create the froth.
There is a reason coffee replaced beer and wine as the breakfast beverage in Europe. To this day, the aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee awakens people across the country. The first sip brings a bounce in the step, and that morning cup braces millions of people hurrying through the rush hours to their places of work. If work is worship, coffee is the morning ritual that sets it off to a great start.