Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love. Turkish Proverb
The above quote certainly conjures up a drink with attitude. I think the word, coffee, evokes a feeling of comfort. It indicates time out with friends too. Last week I met up with a friend, and we put the world to rights over a cup of coffee. The sun was shining so we sat in the garden. Neither of us have coffee machines, but agree the best instant coffee is Kenco’s Millicano – a blend of instant coffee and finely-milled coffee beans. Delivering a smooth, full-bodied flavour and a heady aroma, it really hits the spot. As Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odour to the nostrils.’ Well said.
As we enjoyed perfect coffee, accompanied by chocolate croissants and surrounded by nature, I felt I was basking in the Garden of Eden. J.S. Bach’s words from his comic opera, Coffee Cantata, resounded in my mind,
‘Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!’
Bach loved coffee so much that circa 1735 he wrote a composition about the drink. No doubt Drew Sorters agreed with Bach, as he is quoted saying, ‘Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with.’ However, the comedian, Lewis Black likes coffee because ‘…it gives me the illusion that I must be awake.’ Righto.
When I worked in London for a film director, he followed the advice of Harry Mahtar ~ ‘I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee.’ At 10am each morning we met at Louis’ Patisserie in Hampstead. ‘Proper’ work did not commence until 11am. One whole hour was given up to planning the day over cups of coffee. As a reserved 19 year old from a quiet town ‘up north’, I was far too unworldly wise to appreciate being saturated in daily coffee showers. But, oh, what a dream job today …
A Cup of Coffee History
There are several whimsical accounts of the origin of the coffee drink. One such story involves a 9th century Ethiopian goat-herder, who, upon noticing the energising effects on his flock when they nibbled the bright red berries of a certain bush, prompted him to bring the berries to a monk in a monastery nearby. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire. An enticing aroma billowed from the fire causing other monks to rush and investigate. The roasted beans were raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, thus creating the world’s first cup of coffee. However, this story appeared in writing 800 years later after the event was supposed to have taken place. Hmm.
It was back in the 13th century when Turkey began roasting and grinding coffee beans. By the 16th century Turkey was the main coffee distributor for providing coffee to Persia, Egypt, Syria and Italy. Coffee had reached Europe. Not long after, in 1668, it was North America’s turn to experience coffee.
Coffee trees are grown in more than 50 countries: all the coffee growing regions being close to the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. One third of all coffee is grown in Brazil – they have a whopping 4 billion coffee trees! Coffee beans come from inside the coffee berries growing on the coffee tree (which is actually a bush). Each coffee berry contains two coffee beans (the pits of the coffee berry). When coffee berries appear on the coffee tree, they are green, soon turning yellow and then increasingly red. When the berries are dark crimson, they are ripe. A coffee tree matures after about five years and yields approximately one pound of coffee beans per year on average. Harvesting of the coffee berries occurs between November and April. One acre of coffee trees will produce about 10,000 coffee berries, which will reduce to about one ton of hulled and milled coffee beans.
Coffee beans are heated up to between 400 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit during roasting. The outside of the bean turns a dark colour, and oils develop which are forced to the surface. The roasting causes the beans to crack, not only once, but twice. At the second crack they are removed from the roaster and cooled with cold air. A longer roasting time leads to a darker roast of coffee. As the coffee beans cool they release approximately 700 chemical substances which comprise the vaporising aromas.
International Coffee Facts
- The U.S. consumes about one-fifth of the world’s coffee.
- The average U.S. adult drinks about 400 cups of coffee each year.
- About half of all U.S. adults start the day with a cup of coffee.
- The U.S. is the world’s largest coffee consumer.
- In parts of Africa, coffee beans are soaked in water and spices, and chewed like candy.
- Espresso is regulated by the Italian government because it is considered an essential part of their daily life.
- Italians prefer sugar in their Espresso.
- Caffe sospeso, which means ‘suspended/pending coffee’ is a tradition that involves paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future customer who may be down on their luck. People who can’t afford a cup of coffee can come into a shop that observes this practice and ask if there are any ‘sospesos’ available. The tradition is said to have originated in Naples about a century ago. What a heart warming gesture. The good news is that this practice has been adopted by other countries, although I haven’t heard of it here.
- Moroccans like peppercorns with their coffee.
- Mexicans often use cinnamon in their coffee.
- Egyptians like straight, strong coffee, but will sweeten it at weddings.
- Austrians prefer whipped cream in their coffee.
- The French philosopher, Voltaire, is said to have drank 50 cups of coffee a day. I bet his writing is exciting. I’ve heard he was extremely outspoken. He also wrote thousands of letters, books and pamphlets. Note to self: increase coffee intake.
- Japan has an official ‘Coffee Day’ on the 1st of October each year.
- Canned, iced coffee is very popular in Japan.
- A spa resort in Hakone, Japan, has speciality spas that allow customers to bathe in various liquids, including coffee. For approximately £17, bathers can have coffee poured over them and then stroll to the ramen bath to swim amongst noodles. Oh my.
Coffee can be Healthy (via the Huffington Post)
1. Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami believe that moderate coffee consumption can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset. The Universities found that people older than 65, who had higher blood levels of caffeine, developed Alzheimer’s disease two to four years later than those with lower levels of caffeine.
2. According to a study carried out in 2005, it concluded that nothing comes close to providing as many antioxidants as coffee. Although fruit and vegetables have tons of antioxidants, the human body seems to absorb the most from coffee.
3. A study carried out by the National Institute of Health found those who drink four or more cups of coffee a day are about 10 per cent less likely to be depressed than those who never touch the stuff. And apparently it’s not because of the ‘caffeine high’ – Coke gives a ‘caffeine high’ but is linked to depression. It was concluded that the reason coffee makes you feel good is because of those trusty antioxidants.
- In the ancient Arab culture there was only one way a woman could legally divorce: If her husband didn’t provide enough coffee. Ah. Those poor chaps must have been counting coffee beans in their sleep.
- In the 1600s there was controversy over whether or not Catholics could drink coffee. Luckily Pope Clement VIII said it was okay.
- The infamous Frederick the Great liked his coffee made with Champagne, with a drop of mustard added. Sacrilege!
- Here is a man who really did count beans. Beethoven was so particular about his coffee that he always counted 60 coffee beans in each cup when he prepared his brew.
- Espresso is about 2.5% fat, compared with filter coffee which is only about 0.6% fat.
- About 42 coffee beans are needed to make just one shot of espresso.
Coffee and Cats
The Guinness Book of Records recognised ‘Oldest Cat Ever’ was Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years old.The owner fed Creme Puff coffee every morning, along with bacon, eggs and broccoli! This is especially significant because the owner’s previous cat, Grandpa Rex Allen, held the record previously. He was fed on the same diet, living until the age of 34 years old. Wow. Think I may change my own diet.
Only one thing is certain about coffee … wherever it is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversation. Mark Pendergrast
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)