By: Tini Thangjam
Coffee has become intertwined with people’s life such that it is consumed on a daily basis whether hot or cold. This popular brew is made from roasted coffee beans which is coffee plant’s fruits. People are addicted to its bitter and slight acidic taste and its stimulating effects. Coffee is dark in colour however milk is added to some types making the colour similar to milk tea. All coffee drinkers will agree that it has a unique captivating aroma. Moreover, as evidence to its popularity it ranked in the highest sales of hot drinks in the global market and is estimated to rank the highest in the coming years.
Let’s talk about its history. Our beloved elixir coffee’s history is rich and dates back centuries. Ethiopia is where all the journey of coffee begins. There are multiple anecdotes about its origin however the most popular and commonly repeated legend is where a 9th century Ethiopian goatherd Kaldi discovered coffee beans. He observed that his goats became active and energized upon eating the berries from the coffee tree. He shared his discovery among the local monks, who used the berries to create a drink that helps them to stay awake during long prayers, leading to the birth of coffee culture. Coffee cultivation and trade began spreading in Arabian Peninsula and by 15th century its plantation was observed in Yemeni district of Arabia. It was further popularized in Egypt, Persia, Turkey and Syria. After this, coffeehouses known as qahveh khaneh began to sprout in the Middle East during the 15th century. The spread of coffeehouses became a reason for coffee’s popularity. These centres were places of entertainment, socializing and intellectual exchange. The first coffeehouse in Europe was established in Venice in 1645 which was followed by England, France and other European countries. In the Ottoman Empire’ culture, coffee became indispensable. They introduced it to Austria, Hungary and parts of Central Europe during military campaigns. Then European colonial powers founded coffee plantations in diverse tropical regions. The cultivation of coffee started with the Dutch in Java and subsequently expanded to the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Brazil dominated the coffee industry during 19th century and it doesn’t come as a surprise that to this date it is still the world’s largest coffee producer. Following this, 20th century embarked upon the commercialization of coffee introducing brands such as Maxwell house, Folgers and others. Instant coffee and pre-ground coffee revolutionized coffee in such a way that it became available to a wider audience. Today, coffee has become so versatile that we have various options available. The world’s largest coffee chain is Starbucks which is most likely to be available in each and every country.
After knowing its history, you might be curious about how coffee is manufactured. So, let’s dive into the coffee manufacturing process. It all begins with the cultivation of coffee plants. There are two main species of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. The plants produce cherries containing coffee beans. The cherries are handpicked or mechanically harvested. The timing of harvesting is crucial for obtaining the optimal flavour. Next is the processing of coffee beans which is done in either of the two ways: dry or wet method. In dry method (natural or unwashed), cherries are spread out in a large surface and left to dry in the sun and later the beans are separated from the cherries. Whereas in the wet method cherries are pulped to remove the outer skin, and then the beans are fermented to remove the mucilage. After the fermentation, the beans are washed and dried. Following the processing stage dried beans undergo milling to eliminate any remaining parchment or husk. Subsequently, the beans are categorized and arranged according to their size and quality. Furthermore, the coffee beans undergo the roasting process. This step is crucial in developing the characteristic aroma and flavour involving high heat. The roasted coffee beans are ground into desired fineness according to the brew. For instance, espresso requires a fine grind whereas as French press requires a coarse grind. After this it is packed and distributed to consumers all over the world ready to brew coffee.
Coffee contains caffeine which is a central nervous system stimulant. Therefore, it can increase the activity of brain and nervous system and can even promote better mental performance. This is the reason why we hardly feel sleepy after drinking coffee. It also increases the circulation of cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body which can enhance physical performance such as improved physical endurance and the ability to burn fat. It also contains powerful antioxidants which helps combat oxidative stress in body. Moreover, it has been linked to prevent certain diseases such as liver diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Although it is not yet sure about these connections. However, they are proven to be mood enhancers that can even go as far as reducing risk of suicides. Coffee should always be taken in small to moderate amounts otherwise many side effects may occur. These includes insomnia, jitteriness and nervousness, increased heart rate, digestive issues, headache, increased anxiety and the inability to withdraw from drinking coffee. Pregnant and anemic people are advised to lower their caffeine intake therefore coffee intake in high amounts might not be too good for them. It is important to note that individual tolerance to coffee varies, what may cause side effects to one person may be well-tolerated by the other.
Coffee is more than a drink it is a global cultural phenomenon which has found its way into societies interwoven between them. As we savour a daily cup of coffee we partake in the mystery of its origin to its popularization in this era. It is enjoyed by all and has additional benefits on our body. Moderation is the key when it comes to coffee. It is a drink that has deep roots in centuries old tales and traditions and now a companion in our daily lives.
(The writer has finished her Bachelors in Food Technology from College of Food Technology CAU, Lamphel, Manipur. The writer can be reached at [email protected])
Coffee: The Favourite Brew
By: Tini Thangjam