The History of Coffee

The history of coffee can be traced back to the culturally diverse tribes of the Ethiopian highlands, from ancient to modern times there has been a constant evolution of how coffee has been used in society. In Ethiopia the sweet and nutritious red drupe coffee beans were gathered from the forest, pitted and then pounded in a stone mortar. The coffee powder produced from this process was then mixed with honey and butter, and lastly made into small balls to cook with sauces and other spices. During the 12th & 13th Century coffee plantations started to spread into neighbouring Yemen thanks to the inter trading of the Muslim world. With the introduction roasting, the humble coffee bean had found it’s long term future and it is new name as the “Black Elixir.” The ancient Sufi branch of Islam drank the “Black Elixir” before starting their ceremonial dancing rites that lasted throughout the night. This ability to stay active and awake for long periods of time, led to the spread of coffee bean from a local Ethipoian food to a regional institution. Around 1555 in Constantinople, opened the first “Kahwe Khaneh” known today as a coffee house. These houses were decorated in the traditional Middle Eastern styles still seen all over the region today. With the rise of coffee, came the rise of Coffee Houses as a central place for individuals to meet and exchange ideas, culture and knowledge, eventually these places became known as “Schools of Wisdom”. The proximity of the Ottoman Empire and its strong commercial links with Europe and in particularly Italy, meant it was only a matter of time before coffee made its debut on the continental stage. From the 16th Century, the flow of coffee into the busiest ports of Europe; Venice, London, Marseille, Hamburg and Amsterdam began. With the growing trade of spices, foods and traditions from the Asiatic world, the dinning habits of old- world Europe would be forever changed. Even the high nobility of 18th Century Europe were not impervious to the changing dinning habits, thanks to the ever increasing presence of Tea, Cacao and Coffee. The Age of Enlightenment followed the coffee tradition of inspiring and driving the flow of ideas inside the famed “literary Café’s” of Europe from Vienna to Paris, Stockholm to Naples. The 19th Century saw the invention of the first steam coffee machine by Angelo Moriondo of Turin Italy, followed by the introduction of filtered coffee and the Moka pot in the 20th Century.

The Plant

The type of coffee plant we use is from the Evergreen Shrub which is part of the larger Rubiaceae family from which all coffee is derived from. The ideal growing climate for coffee is a humid environment with ideal temperatures between 15 and 30c, this allows the plant to grow in tropical forests where it can receive the nutrients from the rich soil containing mineral salts. The coffee plant has a similar appearance as the Jasmine pant and can reach a height of 5-8 meters. The fruit containing two beans are green and after maturing will be dried and the beans extracted from the pulp. Out of the 120 different species of coffee plants, the two most famous plants are the Arabica and Robusta which accounts for nearly 100% of all coffee production. The Arabica plant grows in high rainy places at an altitude of between 900-2000 meters with temperatures of around 20c, the plant is famous for it is sweet taste and aroma. This bean has low levels of caffeine (between 0,9 % and 2,0 %). The Robusta plant grows at a lower altitude of 200-600 meters and has a more diverse climatic growing conditions, this has allowed the plant to become more resistant and has a greater growth rate. This difference in growing conditions have given the pant it’s unique “woody-bitter” taste and its higher caffeine content (between 1,8% and 4%). To get a balanced coffee taste, a combination of both beans is used to create some coffees.

Sun, nature, coffee.

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The Processing Phases

Coffee plantations: require three to four years to become productive and require a lot of water to flourish, the plant sometimes does not grow in uniform ways and can cause problems during picking.

Collection: there are two types: picking and stripping. The picking process consists of manually picking the ripe fruit from the trees while leaving any fruit that still hasn’t’ completed the growth cycle, unfortunately this is a lengthier and costlier process of collection. The stripping method is either a manual or mechanical process of picking the fruit, this is a faster process but it removes all of the fruit irrelevant of the maturity of them, this reduces the cost of collection but also the quality of the end product.

Etraction: the beans are divided from the pulp in via two methods: Natural and slow or Mechanical and fast. The natural method consists of simply leaving the fruit in the sun for three weeks to dry, the fruit is then put through a machine to separate the pulp from the beans, the beans are then washed and any remaining pulp is eliminated during this phase. The Mechanical method consist of skipping the drying process and directly putting the fruit into the machine for pulp removal followed by washing, this method increases the moisture levels in the beans by more than 50% which in turn, reduces the quality of the bean. After drying the fruit there is another process that is remove the ’pergamino’, the husking. After that the product is ready to be packed inside the juta packs.

Roasting: is a process through which the raw coffee is subjected to a heat, this high temperature leads to a physical change that gives coffee it’s unique aroma.

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