The Origins of Coffee

Coffea (no, not a typo) is a genus of plant from the family rubiaceae that produces flowers in the form of cherries. What we know as coffee beans are actually the seeds that grow inside of the red cherries.

These are over 120 species of trees or shrubs, depending on the variety, that produce these beans. The plant’s effects were initially discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia who noticed that his goats were more energetic after eating berries from a nearby bush.

Coffea was first cultivated after being brought from Ethiopia, to what we know today as Yemen. As this plant began to spread along the Arabian peninsula, word eventually made way to Europe where its popularity slowly grew until controversy sparked its growth. Tea actually remained the drink of choice in America until the Boston Tea Party changed that preference to coffee.

Today, over 53 countries worldwide grow coffee, however, all of them lie along the equator, between the Tropics and Cancer and Capricorn. The two main types of coffee plants , Arabica and Robusta, can yield their fruit for up to 30 years under proper conditions and care. For many years, there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the health effects of coffee. Today, we know that it can be very beneficial to your health in moderation.

The Origin of Coffee

A Brief History of Coffee

Coffee was discovered by a goat herder in ancient Ethiopia named Kaldi who stumbled upon its effects one day while with his herd. The goats were eating the cherries from a nearby bush that he had never seen before. Later that night, his goats were so energetic that they stayed up throughout the night. Kaldi brought the cherries to the local monastery where the abbot used them to brew a tea. He noticed that it kept him alert through long hours of prayers throughout the evening. The abbot shared his findings with other monks, which began the spread of knowledge about the coffee plant. The modern-day Kaffa Province was the first area to recognize the energizing effects of the native plant. As knowledge of this plant and its stimulating properties moved east, coffee reached the Arabian peninsula. Somali merchants first exported the beans out of Ethiopia and into Yemen where local Sufis brewed coffee to aid in their concentration during spiritual practice. The coffee trade began on the Arabian Peninsula around the 15th century, sparking the creation of early coffee shops known as qahveh khaneh. Here, the modern roast originated. At these places, patrons would have a cup of coffee, talk, watch performances, etc. These shops became such an important part of the culture that they became information hubs, sometimes being referred to as the “School of the Wise.” When word reached Europe, there was much trepidation surrounding coffee consumption. Some labeled it the “bitter invention of Satan” while local clergy condemned the drink when it got to Venice around the early 1600s. This became such a huge controversy that Pope Clement VIII decided to try the drink himself before making a final decision. Pope Clement VII liked the drink so much that he gave it papal approval. Coffee houses began appearing around major cities in Europe, like England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland. Similar to the qahveh khaneh in the Arabian Peninsula, “penny universities” began in England. At these penny universities, for the price of a penny, you could purchase a cup and have an intellectual conversation. In 1723, a young naval officer obtained a seedling from the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. On his voyage to Martinique, he encountered torrential weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seed, and a pirate attack. Despite all of the issues the officer faced, he made it to his destination and planted the seed. This resulted in the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island over the next 50 years. This also became the parent of same trees throughout the Caribbean along with both South and Central America! As popularity grew, the drink began replacing the common breakfast drinks of wine and beer. Those who made the switch began noticing their energy and alertness, which greatly improved their quality of work. With this realization, more people began to adopt coffee as their go-to morning drink. This plant was eventually brought to The New World in the mid-1600s where tea was still the popular drink. It wasn’t until 1773 when colonists revolted against the heavy tax on tea with the Boston Tea Party. This event quickly changed the American drinking preference to coffee. Today, over 500 billion cups are consumed each year, making this beverage the most popular in the world. It’s also the second to crude oil in the most traded commodity in the world. In the US, 10.2lbs are consumed per capita, while 44% are drinking at least two cups per day. The coffee industry is valued at about $5.5 billion per year, while the concurrent retail industry is valued at a whopping $70 billion. The beverage is so popular that there is a national coffee day, where the drink is celebrated in the US and around the world. The industry has become so developed and diverse that there are even some specialty coffees that can sell for over $500 a pound now. One of these high-grade coffees are called the Kopi luwak, also called civet coffee for its interesting fermentation process. This expensive coffee is created through the beans that come from partially digested cherries which are eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet. The fermentation process happens during the digestion process when the cherries pass through the civet’s intestines. Once they are defecated by the civet, they are collected. This drink is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries.

Understanding The Coffee Cherry

The beans that we use to make our favorite energizing drink are really just the seeds of the plant. The trees can naturally grow to over 30 feet tall, however many modern producers keep them much shorter for better yield and ease of use. A plant normally takes about three to four years to produce the cherries that we use for coffee. Each tree is covered with waxy green leaves that grow in pairs, while the coffee cherries grow along the branches. The average tree produces around ten pounds of berries, which is reduced to about two pounds of beans. There are a few layers to the coffee cherry itself. There is the exterior skin that is green until it ripens to a bright red, yellow, orange color. Under the skin, there is a layer of pulp and pectin which help during the fermentation process due to their higher sugar content. At the center of these cherries are the coffee seeds, typically coming in pairs, which we know as the bean. The beans are covered by a thin skin called parchment, which are normally removed during the hulling process. It is fairly difficult to remove the parchment from the coffee bean. This resulted in many different ways to process the bean, which affects the end-product. This is one of the processes, through which, a producers can change the way their bean tastes. For example, leaving the parchment on the beans results in a sweeter coffee with a fuller body. When coffee cherries are picked from the branches, they begin to germinate and attempt to grow into another tree, as most plants do with their seeds. This process uses up the sugars within the seed, which is bad for the coffee making process. This process is halted through drying, which keeps the natural sugars in, resulting in a sweeter bean.

Why You Should Drink Coffee

To sum it up, coffee has been enjoyed since it was discovered in ancient Ethiopia and has been a mainstay in the world since the start of the coffee trade in the 15th century. Why? For one, it’s delicious, but it also has many potential health benefits as well. So what are you waiting for? Grab a bag of Amora Coffee today!

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