All about Coffee
There are about 25 species of coffee plants that are generally clubbed under the family name of Coffea. However, the most cultivated coffee beans are Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta, while the other species are not grown commercially. Coffea Arabica contains less than 2 per cent of caffeine, while Coffea Robusta contains 2 to 3 per cent of caffeine. Robusta is a shrub type plant, which can withstand higher temperatures and pest attacks, and its beans are more bitter in taste as compared to Arabica. Coffea Arabica is a tree type of plant, which cannot withstand higher temperatures and pest attacks, and the taste of its beans is milder.
 Origins and Journey
Ethiopia, situated in East Africa, is considered to be the country of coffee’s origin, and the plant draws its name from the region where it was originally grown, Kaffa. From Ethiopia, coffee beans traveled to Yemen, Turkey and North Africa. Similarly, another variety of coffee draws its name from the port city of Mocha, in Yemen, from where it traveled to Europe and later to Southeast Asia and the Americas. There are several myths on how coffee came to be consumed as a beverage. The most famous one is about the goat herder Kaldi, who observed a goat acting frisky after eating some berries. He ate the berries himself, and began acting like the goat. This was observed by the local monks, who later tasted the beans and began consuming them as the beans helped them in meditation by warding off sleep.
Studies show that the United States consumes one-fifth of all the world's coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world.
 Coffee-Growing Regions
Coffee beans are grown in tropical regions situated at 25° latitude on both sides of the equator. It grows between the altitudes of 600ft and 6,000ft; Robusta being grown at lower altitudes and Arabica being grown at higher altitudes. The main coffee growing countries in Africa are Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola and Madagascar. India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Yemen are the principal producers of coffee in Asia. The third geographical region, which produces large amounts of coffee, is in the Americas and consists of Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia and Venezuela. Coffee plants are either grown under shade or in the open.
 Eco Friendly Coffee
For a long time coffee drinkers across the world were unaware that agriculture workers in the coffee industry worked in conditions similar to "sweatshops" and small coffee farmers were forced to sell their coffee below the cost of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt.
With growing consumer awareness about the deteriorating plight of small coffee producers who were not able to get a fair price for their coffee even as the coffee industry around the world was experiencing a boom in early 2000s, people starting questioning the source of their coffee. This is when Fair Trade Movement, which stood for an equitable and fair partnership between consumers in North America and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean gained momentum. The movement looked for ways to ensure that the small coffee farmers across the world got a fair price for their harvests. This led to the introduction of Fair Trade Certified coffee.
The Fair Trade body guarantees to poor farmers organized in cooperatives around the world: a living wage (minimum price of $1.26/pound regardless of the volatile market); much needed credit at fair prices; and long term relationships. These fair payments are invested in health care, education, environmental stewardship, and economic independence. Fair Trade Certified coffee became the first product introduced in the United States which boasted of an independently monitored system to ensure that it was produced under fair labor conditions. Fairtrade coffee's big selling point is that it offers small coffee farmers in the developing world a guaranteed price for their beans if commodity prices fall below $1.26 (68p) a pound.
As the market for Fair Trade Coffee grew, other certifications like the rainforst alliance Certified were introduced. Rainforest Alliance certification guarantees that coffee is produced in a way that preserves the forest and its wildlife and ensures that workers, who are often temporary, enjoy good working conditions, housing and pay. It pays a premium of a few pence a pound.
 Processing and Roasting
All coffee is consumed after the beans have been roasted. The most popular types of roasting, depending upon the time, temperature and type of beans, are light, medium, dark and darkest. Before the beans are roasted, they are processed and graded. Coffee berries are picked, defruited, dried, sorted and graded. Popular processes are wet processes, dry processes and semi-dry processes. In India, Monsooned Arabica Coffee beans are speciality coffee beans that are prized for climate specific processing. Green coffee beans are bland in taste and without aroma, which when roasted, spark off a chemical reaction between acids, sugar and caffeine in them, producing a distinctive taste and aroma.
 Coffee Preparation
Roasted coffee beans are ground and then prepared in different styles. These styles use several techniques and utensils. Drip coffee, French press, percolator, espresso and filtered coffee are the most popular types of preparations. Espresso has become the choice of commercial establishments, while the rest are preferred as per individual requirements. The preparations vary according to the additional materials added to the decoction, such as milk, crème, flavours and spices. The popular preparations are espresso, café latte, cappuccino, iced latte, iced cappuccino and cold coffee shakes.
 Coffee, Café and Culture
Cafés, establishments that serve coffee, have played a very important role in popularising coffee. The first café opened in Istanbul in the 16th century. After that, cafés were opened in several locations across Europe, the Americas and Asia. With the opening of cafés, a new subculture began based around cafés that served as a place to meet, discuss and provide intellectual and social stimulation.
The growth of cafés occurred in three waves. While the first wave lasted from the 16th to the 19th century, the second wave was kick-started by large chains set up by corporate groups in the last quarter of the 20th century. Starbucks, Peets, Costa Coffee are some examples of such large chains. The third wave, which is sweeping across Europe and America, is about promoting speciality and fair-trade or ethical coffee.
Coffee as a simple bean has evolved from a fruit berry to a culinary art form over a period of 1,000 years. And it is still evolving through various innovations. It has various facets, some of which are yet to be explored.
 Coffee and Health
People who enjoy several cups of filtered coffee each day may be putting themselves at increased risk of heart disease. Coffee is not completely innocent. Caffeine, coffee's main ingredient is a mild addictive stimulant. And coffee does have modest cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and occasional irregular heartbeat that should be considered. Studies have been largely inconclusive regarding coffee and its effect on women's health issues such as breast health, cancer, and osteoporosis. But, the negative effects of coffee tend to emerge in excessive drinking so it is best to avoid heavy consumption.
The latest research has not only confirmed that moderate coffee consumption doesn't cause harm, it's also uncovered possible benefits. Studies show that the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers than among those who don't drink it. Also, coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, discourage the development of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease, and reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease. Coffee has also been shown to improve endurance performance in long-duration physical activities.
After analyzing data on 126,000 people for as long as 18 years, Harvard researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America's favorite morning drink, downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce diabetes risk by single digits. But having six cups or more each day slashed men's risk by 54% and women's by 30% over java avoiders. At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.
Coffee even offsets some of the damage caused by other vices, some research indicates. "People who smoke and are heavy drinkers have less heart disease and liver damage when they regularly consume large amounts of coffee compared to those who don't," says DePaulis.
There's also some evidence that coffee may help manage asthma and even control attacks when medication is unavailable, stop a headache, boost mood, and even prevent cavities.
For those who drink coffee to stay alert, new research suggests that you'll stay more alert, particularly if you are fighting sleep deprivation, if you spread your coffee consumption over the course of the day. For instance, if you usually drink 16 ounces in the morning, try consuming a 2-3 ounce serving every hour or so. Again, moderation is the key.
- Coffee is the world's second most popular drink after water.
- In December 2001 Brazil produced a scented postage stamp to promote its coffee - the smell should last between 3 and 5 years.
- A coffee tree has a lifespan of about 50 to 70 years.
- It is the second most widely used product in the world after oil.
- The aromas in coffee develop at the 10th minute of roasting.
- Coffee increases in volume during roasting by 18.60%.
- Over 100 million people depend on coffee for livelihood
- More than 1400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day.
 Additinal information
- Is this the end of organic coffee?
- Organic Coffee
- Markman Ellis, ‘The Philosopher in the Coffee-House’, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005), pp. 185–206.
- Coffee Board Of India
- National Geographic - Coffee
- It's All About Coffee
- I Need Coffee
- Harvard Health Publication, Harvard Medical School
- Coffee - The New Health Food
- Some Interesting Coffee Facts