Oh, what wouldn’t I do for a hot cup of frothing flavourful coffee? A lot, really. For me personally, I find it extremely refreshing and rejuvenating especially when I come home after a busy day of work. It’s not for nothing that coffee, after water, is the world's most popular beverage, with over 400 billion cups being consumed annually.
The word ‘coffee’ comes from the Arabic word ‘quwah’, which through its Turkish form kahweh, became ‘coffee’ in English. It was cultivated in Yemen as early as the 6th century and thence spread throughout the Arab world by the 13th century. Coffee was produced and well established in Java and the Caribbean by the 18th century. Brazil is the world’s leading producer of coffee and Ethiopia, Colombia, Central and South America, India and Indonesia follow after.
How does it grow
The coffee bean comes from an evergreen tree grown in a narrow subtropical belt around the world. It requires hot-wet or hot-temperate climate. So the areas between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with frequent rains and temperatures varying from 15 to 25°C are ideal to grow coffee. Soil should be deep, hard, permeable, well irrigated, with well-drained subsoil. The best lands are the hilly ones, those cut into a mountainside, of volcanic nature with disintegrating rocks or from just-tilled woods. The perfect altitude is between 600 and 1200 meters, though some varieties thrive at 2000-2200 meters and others at fewer than 400 meters or even on level land.
Coffee trees produce highly aromatic, short-lived flowers which produce small coffee cherries. It takes 4-5 years to yield a commercial harvest. There are two main species of the bean: Arabica, which is full bodied and aromatic. And Robusta, which is somewhat acidic and suited to dark roasts.
What is so charming about coffee
Coffee clears the cobwebs, coffee gives you courage to go through another day but remember that a cup of coffee contains roughly 70-80 mg of caffeine. And caffeine as we know it as that compound that is credited with contributing the stimulating effect of the beverage and also giving a touch of bitterness. A word of caution here: you must remember that large amounts of caffeine can be harmful for one’s health.
Coffees as we know them
Espresso: extremely strong and rather bitter Italian coffee resulting from brewing finely ground, dark roasted coffee with steam.
Cappucino: espresso topped with steamed milk foam, sometimes garnished with a dusting of sweetened cocoa powder or cinnamon.
Café au lait: coffee with an equal amount of scalded milk.
Cold coffee: chilled milk highly flavoured with coffee and sugar. It is often served with a dollop of either coffee flavoured or chocolate flavoured ice cream.
A strong cup of coffee is considered a good protection from effects of malaria. Coffee is frequently given in teaspoonful doses to patients after surgical operations as it checks vomiting. Coffee conceals the tastes of bitter medicines such as quinine and sulphate of magnesia. It allays the sense of prolonged mental fatigue and keeps off sleep for some time.
Coffee on the kitchen shelf
Coffee is an international beverage with universal popularity. It is often used in confectionery, baking desserts and ice cream and any recipe that includes the term ‘mocha.’ Coffee also features in several drinks with an alcohol base, for example: Irish Coffee and various liqueurs such as Tia Maria, Kahlua, Crème de mokka, Bahia which are made from the pulp of the coffee berry.
Brewing of coffee
The most important thing in brewing coffee is to keep all the equipment used for coffee making scrupulously clean.
Coffee can be prepared in two ways either by infusion or by boiling. Infusion, in particular filtration, is the most popular method of brewing coffee in the world today. In this method, water is boiled and then poured over the ground coffee, extracting the caffeine and aromatic constituents and leaving behind the bitter components.