Coffee Origin

Coffee's origins are lost in legend, but a frequently told story attributes the discovery to a herd of tired, hungry goats and their curious Ethopian caretaker, Kaldi, in the sixth century. Weary of searching for greener pastures and eager to eat, Kaldi's herd resorted to nibbling sweet red berries off strange bushes. Unusual behavior soon followed. Old billy goats began to kick up their heels with and exuberance the prancing nannies found quite appealing. When Kaldi, witnessing this phenomenal change, tried the berries, he was soon cavorting across the hillside himself, and when he confided his discovery of the divine berries to a monk, the news was heralded at the nearby monastery. Evening prayers suddenly became more pleasant, and the glories of the heavenly berries spread.

In 1637, the first European coffeehouse opened in England, and within thirty years coffeehouses had replaced taverns as the island's social, commercial, and political melting pots. They were called "penny universities"--places where anything might be discussed and learned for the price of a cup of coffee. Men with similar interests frequented specific establishments, and a number of newspapers, banks, and insurance houses sprang to life around crowded wooden tables among the heady aromas of roasted bean. Lloyd's of London, today a famous insurance company, began at Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, a place wheere sea merchants and underwriters gathered to talk and do business.

As the seventeenth century's preferred locale for male networking, English coffeehouses excluded females. In 1674, unhappy wives published A Women's Petition Against Coffee, declaring it was unhealthy for men to be spending so much time away from their homes. A year later, King Charles II tried to shut down establishments brewing beans, but he was unsuccesful, and for the next quarter century English coffeehouses continued to be male bastions. Then, during the eighteenth century, the middle class began moving back into neighborhood taverns, and London coffeehouses evolved into seict clubs. Tea became a popular beverage not only at Court but among commoners, because this was a drink women and men could enjoy together, while improving trade between the British East India Trading Company and India's tea producers.

Coffeehouses declined in England, but they continued to be popular gathering places throughout Italy, Germany, France, and other European countries. One favorite Parisian haunt was the Cafe' Procope, which opened its doors as a coffeehouse in 1689 and over the years welcomed philosophers such as Rousseau and Voltaire (who supposedly consumed forty cups of coffee each day) and the future emperor of France, young Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, Cafe' Procope remains a lively meeting place.

Conspicuously placed in London coffeehouses, brass boxes etched with the inscription "To Insure Promptness" encouraged customers to pay for efficient service. The resulting acronym, TIP has become a byword.

When you buy coffee, you are confronted with exotic names that either indicate the country of origin or how long the bean was roasted.

Arabica beans are identified by their geographic origin. Pure and unblended, they possess the characteristic flavor and aroma of their native soil. Further geographic appellations name the district, plantation or port from which the beans were shipped. A coffee labeled Ethopian Harrar tells you these beans were grown near the city of Harrar in Ethopia.

"The nose nows !"

Names such as French, Viennese, and Italian refer to the amount of roasting the beans received. They are the darkest beans and they have been roasted the longest time. The beans themselves come from different countries and are usually blended to give the best each country has to offfer. A Viennese Mexican tells you pure Mexican beans were roasted longer than usual.


ACIDITY is the sharp, snappy taste that wakes your coffee up. It has nothing to do with bitter, unpleasant sensations or your coffee's pH.

AROMA is fragrance. Your nose is the first judge of the flavors released from the bean and will tell you a great deal about your coffee's freshness and personality.

BODY is the heaviness and thickness of a coffee as it touches your tongue. Remember how a hearty red wine slides down your throat, and a white glides. In the same way, a rich Sumatran and a mild Mexican coffee give you different weight sensations.

FLAVOR: Defining flavor is a little like defining love. It's all in the relationship. Flavor is really a combination of acidity, aroma, and body. In some cases one quality stands out, for instance, the singular tang of a Costa Rican. In others, like the full-flavored Sumatran, a broader range of qualities is celebrated.

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