When you talk about coffee, there is no one way to describe it. Some call it their morning alarm, some a conversation starter, some a secret keeper to their many late-night encounters, while some a transcendental experience. If I were to define what exactly coffee is, I would like to call it a woman with many shades – dark, happy, bold yet spunky – smoldering in its exuberant heat or pizzaz in its cool concoction. And just like a woman, a cup of coffee has many shades underlying- waiting to be discovered, waiting to be experienced.
The more I read about this beverage, the more I kept getting surprised by every new revelation. For starters, Food Historians have dated the existence of coffee to as far as 500 years ago!
How the World got its First cup of Coffee
There are numerous legends of where the world could have got its first cup of coffee. The most popular story from the collection is that of a goat herder called Kaldi, who accidentally discovered coffee on the highlands of Ethiopia during the 9th Century AD. One day while taking his livestock for grazing, Kaldi noticed his goats behave unusually energetic compared to the other days. On delving deep, he found that the goats had consumed some berries from a tree.
Amazed at this discovery Kaldi rushed home to tell his wife. Calling the find “heaven-sent,” she advised Kaldi to share the berries with the monks of the local monastery. Kaldi did not receive the warmest of welcomes at the monastery and the.
Abbot referred to Kaldi’s coffee beans as “the Devil’s work” and tossed them into the fire. According to the legend, an unmistakable aroma of what we now call Coffee drifted through the air which caught the monks’ attention. The Abbot got the idea of converting these berries into a sort of beverage that can enable priests to stay up for late-night prayers. The roasted berries were ground and dissolved in water and that was how the world’s first cup of coffee was made.
Another very popular legend amongst Coffee Historians was the legend of Sheikh Omar of Mocha, in Yemen. Omar was the disciple of a renowned Sufi Saint Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. While in exile from Mocha (Arabia Felix in present-day Yemen), Omar started living in a desert cave near Ousab and became famous for treating the sick with his healing powers.
One day, somewhat hungry, Omar chewed some berries only to find them bitter. He roasted them but this only made them hard. Finally, he tried boiling them, resulting in a fragrant brown liquid which, in an instant, gave him unnatural and exceptional energy and allowed him to stay awake for days on end.
His miraculous discovery was held in such high honor that not only was he allowed to return home to Mocha but he was also elevated to Sainthood while coffee percolated throughout the Arab world.
Coffee became a Social Revolution
While coffee became a household drink in villages, towns, and cities of East Africa and the Middle East, many public coffee houses called Qahveh Khaneh also started seeing an imminent rise. These coffee houses became a place for socializing and the concept of coffee and conversations were complemented by musical performances and dancing.
Coffee houses soon became known as the Schools of the Wise because it started becoming a place one went to understand what was happening around the world. According to Coffee Historians, the beverage was banned in the year 1511 by the Jurists and Scholars who met at Mecca.
This ban was led by then Mecca Governor Khair Beg, who believed that coffee houses would foster opposition to his rule by bringing men together and allowing them to discuss his failings. This created an uproar and it took 13 years to finally lift the ban and make Coffee sacred again.
Coffee and Wine
Okay, did you know that coffee connoisseurs also make great wine sommeliers too? Well that is because both these beverages have striking similarities.
Just like wine, coffee has a unique bouquet of aromas that are specific to its variety, terrain, flavours, textures and the roasting process. The process involved in roasting coffee is equally critical to winemaking decisions being undertaken in the cellar which will affect the final outcome of the wine.
To experience a beverage in its best flavour, both coffee and wine need to be properly prepared and served in a specific style to attain optimum results. From the temperature of the water used to make wine or coffee to the device used to make both these beverages, everything will have an effect on its taste.
While I can go on and on writing about the fascinating history of this iconic beverage, a blog such as this, requires effective communication in a concise manner. Hence, do wait for an exciting Part -2 of this series to get to know your beverage better, especially if you have come this far and have liked whatever you have read.
Coffee today and its various versions
Going further, to understand the different versions of coffee, you need to be aware of the 4 basic kinds of coffee beans to begin with and they are namely – Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa.
Arabica is the most common type of coffee bean. It is also the most heavily marketed coffee as well and that is because the coffee has a sweeter, more delicate flavour and the coffee itself tends to be less acidic. Arabica beans are farmed in areas with high elevations above sea level, particularly those where rain is plentiful. The plants themselves are fairly delicate and require a fair amount of pruning and constant attention. This type of coffee bean Coffee prone to getting spoilt easily hence cultivating them in great quantities is a challenge and thus cost of such beans become considerably high. However, many coffee drinkers around the world are happy to pay the difference because of its softer and sweet taste.
Robusta is the second most popular coffee bean sold across the world, particularly in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Robusta as the name suggests is known for its strong profile with extremely high levels of caffeine, which makes the plant far more resilient than the Arabica species. The caffeine acts as natural insect repellent, eliminating a major threat to the tree for spoilage and it can be grown in any number of altitudes and climates. The very best Robusta coffee beans will have hints of chocolate and rum within their flavour profile, but in all reality, are not always readily available.
Liberica coffee beans are a rare treat. They’re grown in very specific climates with production being far too scarce for farmers to scale their operations to truly satisfy a global marketplace. Even still, the beans are considered a pleasant surprise. Many who’ve tried the coffee liken the aroma to fruit and flowers and describe the flavour as having a somewhat “woody” taste. You’re most likely to find Liberica in Southeast Asian Countries, particularly Philippines.
Excelsa is technically a member of the Liberica family, but its species is actually incredibly distinct. Like the Liberica coffee, Excelsa is grown primarily in Southeast Asia and represents only a small fraction of the world’s coffee production. Excelsa does boast of a tarty, fruity flavour and is known for showing attributes of both light and dark roast coffees to create a unique profile that is frequently sought out by coffee enthusiasts.
Types of Coffee ordered around the World
Coffee can be consumed both as a hot beverage and as an iced beverage. While experiments are being conducted to conjure newer variants of flavours, here are some of the most popular types of coffee ordered across the world.
As a Hot Beverage
Black coffee is as simple as it gets with ground coffee beans steeped in hot water, served warm. And if you want to sound fancy, you can call black coffee by its proper name: cafe noir.
Rated as the most popular coffee , the latte is comprised of a shot of espresso and steamed milk with just a touch of foam. It can be ordered plain or with a flavor shot of anything from vanilla to pumpkin spice.
Cappuccino is a latte made with more foam than steamed milk, often with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon on top. Sometimes you can find variations that use cream instead of milk or ones that throw in flavour shot, as well.
With a similar flavour to black coffee, the americano consists of an espresso shot diluted in hot water. Pro tip: if you’re making your own, pour the espresso first, then add the hot water.
An espresso shot can be served solo or used as the foundation of most coffee drinks, like lattes and macchiatos.
A double shot of espresso, the doppio is perfect for putting extra pep in your step and cure that nasty hangover
A cortado is the perfect balance of espresso and warm steamed milk. The milk is used to cut back on the espresso’s acidity.
A full cup of hot coffee with an espresso shot mixed in, this will definitely get your heart racing.
Originated in Portugal, this hot coffee drink is closely related to the latte and cappuccino. Only difference is it contains about twice as much foamed milk, making it a lighter drink compared to the other two.
A lungo is a long-pull espresso. The longer the pull, the more caffeine there is and the more ounces you can enjoy.
The macchiato is another espresso-based drink that has a small amount of foam on top. It’s the happy medium between a cappuccino and a doppio.
For all you chocolate lovers out there, you’ll fall in love with a mocha. The mocha is a chocolate espresso drink with steamed milk and foam.
Ristretto is an espresso shot. It uses less hot water which creates a sweeter flavor compared to the bitter taste of a traditional shot of espresso or a doppio.
This is an Australian favourite which is basically a cappuccino without the foam or chocolate sprinkle. Rather Flat White is an espresso drink with steamed milk.
Served with a scoop of ice cream and a shot of espresso, or two, the Affogato is coffee for all reasons and seasons.
Café au Lait
Café au lait is perfect for the coffee minimalist who wants a bit more flavor. Just add a splash of warm milk to your coffee and you’re all set!
Irish coffee consists of black coffee, whiskey and sugar, topped with whipped cream. Here’s an Irish coffee recipe that will warm you right up.
Types of Iced Coffee
What’s more refreshing than cool iced coffee in the summertime? Or maybe you enjoy these chilled drinks all year long. Here are some of the best iced coffee drinks you can sip on.
A coffee with ice, typically served with a dash of milk, cream or sweetener—iced coffee is really as simple as that.
Like an iced coffee, iced espresso can be served straight or with a dash of milk, cream or sweeteners.
The most popular iced coffee, cold brew coffees are made by steeping coffee beans from anywhere between 6-36 hours, depending on how strong you would like your cold brew. Once the beans are done steeping, add cold milk or cream.
Made famous by Starbucks, the Frappuccino is a blended iced coffee drink that’s topped with whipped cream and syrup. But not all Frapps are made the same: watch out for coffee-free versions.
A cold brew + nitrogen = a cold brew coffee with a frothy, Guinness beer-like consistency. This type of coffee is brewed atleast overnight and poured via a special nitro tap, similar to beer.
Mazagran coffee is a cross between iced coffee, tea and your favorite rum drink. It typically consists of espresso, lemon, sugar and rum.
So much can be explored on this subject but then again, this blog will definitely become into a book if I kept on writing. From the brewing process to identifying your cuppa to even talking about my favourite places for coffe. So do stay tuned for Part 2.
Till next blog, Take it with A Pinch Of Salt: Food. Fun. Functionality.