Coffee is the second most popular beverage in the world, after water. But where did our love for this energy boosting java juice came from?
The story of birth of coffee is unclear and unverified, but it seems to narrow down two origin stories, one of which takes place in Ethiopia and the other in Yemen.
Let’s go to Africa first, Legends say that around 850 AD in the region of Kaffa, Ethiopia. A young goatherd named kaldi noticed that, when his goat ate small red berries they became highly active. Intrigued kaldi plucked some berries for him and noticed that he too felt energized after eating them. He wanted to share the effects of this magic berries, so he took a few to the nearby monastery but the monk intimidated by the strange influence rejected them and threw them into the fire. The result was a Hypnotizing aroma that captivated the monk. So after the fire was out, they picked the roasted coffee beans that were left and added hot water to it and the first-ever cup of coffee was brewed.
Now to the other origin story, legends say that in ancient Yemen, there was a man called Sheikh Omar who was famous for his healing powers. For reasons unknown, Omar was banished by the community to a cave in the desert. Hungry and desperate Omar ate the red berries from the bush, but was taken aback from its bitter taste. Keen on making the most of his meagre meal Omar roasted the beans, ground them up and put them in boiling water, producing an energized liquid that sustained him for several days. When his community learned of magical concoction, he was invited to return.
Now both these accounts make for good stories, but we can’t know for sure about the origins of the coffee.
According to historical evidence the crown for the first cup of coffee goes to both Yemen and Ethiopia.
During the 1600s the beverage quickly began spreading in Europe. The Netherlands was the first country to open coffee plantations in Sri-lanka. The Dutch East-India company began to import coffee from Java and Ceylon in 1711. Pretty soon other European countries followed suit. In the 1700s the French took it to the Caribbean at the same time the Portuguese introduced it in Brazil. In the late 19th century the Spanish had taken it to central and South America. It’s no wonder that coffees from these regions are nowadays considered to be among the best in the world.
But aren’t all coffee beans the same? Not quite,
There are many types of coffee beans but the ones that are the most common are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa. They all grow in what is known as The Coffee Bean Belt, the region located between the tropics of Capricorn and cancer that has the ideal temperature for coffee to thrive.
According to the International coffee organization 20 billion pounds of coffee are produced in the bean belts per year. The most common type of coffee is Arabica. Historians believe it was the first type of coffee to be cultivated as it comes from the highlands of Ethiopia. Nowadays 60% of the coffee consumed around the world is Arabica. It is famous for its smooth, fruity and acidic taste. However it takes Arabica 7 years to fully mature and be ready for harvest, making it pricier than its other bean brothers.
The second most common type of coffee bean is Robusta; this is the one you will probably see in the supermarkets. They are grown in Africa and Indonesia and it is fairly common due to its caffeine concentration making it perfect for an espresso and better known for its bitter taste.
Liberica and Excelsa beans are grown in certain parts of south-east Asia and therefore make up for very small percentage (%) of coffee consumed in the world. This also makes them pricier than Robusta and Arabica beans.
Currently Brazil is the world’s largest coffee exporter, pumping out 45 million bags per year of mainly Arabica beans.