Top 5 Things You MUST Know About Coffee: Part One
FACT 1: Discovery
The Kaffa Region in Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia – see map below) is the birthplace of coffee (genus caffea). Legend has it that an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi discovered his goats dancing joyously after eating berries from a green shrub. He tested the cherries himself, then ran to the local monastery to share them with Monks who at first despised it. In its earliest existence (circa 6th century), it was used by Monks to stay awake during prayers, was used as a medicinal herb, and eventually made its way around the world to become the basis for the early coffee houses where stimulating intellectual conversations took place amongst incredible entertainment. Thousands of feet high into the tropical regions, the drink can be traced back to a coffee tree which produces red or purple cherries/berries (in some cases yellow or orange). The cherries usually produce two seeds (beans). A special type of seed/bean called a Peaberry occurs when the seed does not split, and only one bean per cherry is produced. Smaller and more round in comparison to the “normal” coffee bean, this bean has intense explosion of flavor and is highly sought after.
FACT 2: Species and Use
There are several species of coffea; the two most well known species are caffea arabica (arabica) and caffea canephora (robusta). Here are a few quick facts:
- Trees usually produce cherries for as long as 60 years (in some cases up to 100!)
- Require substantial amounts of water
- Cultivated at 1300 to 1500 m altitude (susceptible to cold/freezing temperatures)
- Nine months to ripen (Takes roughly 7 years to completely mature)
- More desirable taste characteristices (about 1/2 the caffeine content as robusta)
Arabica Producing Countries: Ethiopia, Yemen, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Martinique, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Paraguay.
Caffea Canephora (robusta)
- Trees usually mature within three years
- Can withstand and tolerate environmental conditions better than arabica
- Used in espresso blends to achieve both crema (see pic) and the desired heightened pungency on the palate
- Vast amount of caffeine content, less desired taste (much cheaper than arabica), generally used to make instant coffee
Robusta Producing Countries: Rwanda, Madagascar, Ivory coast, Uganda, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Borneo, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Angola, Vietnam, Timor.
Countries that Produce Both Arabica and Robusta: Brazil and India
Next Week’s Blog: The Top Five Things You Must Know About Coffee: Part Two
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World – Mark Pendergrast
Coffee – A Guide to Buying, Brewing, AND Enjoying, 5th Edition – Kenneth Davids