"Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all."
-- David Lynch
Coffee -- ahh, the nectar of gods -- is a beverage, served hot or with ice, prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. These seeds are called coffee beans. Coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world (measured by monetary volume), trailing only petroleum. With over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is also the world's most popular beverage. In total, 6.7 million tons of coffee were produced annually in 1998-2000. The forecast predicts that amount to rise to over 7 million tons annually by 2010. That is a lot of coffee!
Coffee is one of humanity's chief sources of caffeine, a stimulant. For this reason, it is often drunk in the morning and during working hours. Office workers take a "coffee break" when their energy is diminished. Students preparing for examinations with late-night "cram sessions" use coffee to maintain their concentration. Coffee's potential benefits and hazards have been, and continue to be, widely studied and discussed.
Social Aspects of Coffee
The United States is the largest market for coffee, followed by Germany. The Nordic countries consume the most coffee per capita, with Finland, Norway and Denmark trading the top spot, depending on the year. However, consumption has also vastly increased in the United Kingdom in recent years.
Coffee is so popular in the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe that many restaurants now specialize in coffee; these are called "coffeehouses" or "cafes". Most cafes also serve tea, sandwiches, pastries, and other light refreshments (some of which may be dunked into the drink). Some shops are miniature cafes that specialize in coffee-to-go for hurried travelers, who may visit these on their way to work as a substitute for eating breakfast. Some provide other services, such as wireless internet access (thus the name, "internet cafe") for their customers. The Brazilian Portuguese expression for breakfast is literally translated as "morning coffee".
There are two main species of the coffee plant. Coffea arabica is the older of them. Thought to be indigenous to Ethiopia, it was first cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula. While more susceptible to disease, it is considered by most to taste better than Coffea canephora (robusta). Robusta, which contains almost twice as much caffeine, can be cultivated in environments where arabica will not thrive. This has led to its use as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Compared to arabica, robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a telltale "burnt rubber" or "wet cardboard" aroma and flavor. Good quality robustas are used as ingredients in some espresso blends to provide a better "crema" (foamy head), and to lower the ingredient cost. In Italy many espresso blends are based on dark-roasted robusta.
Coffees are often blended for balance and complexity, and many popular blendings exist. One of the oldest traditional blends is Mocha-Java, combining beans of the same name (from the regions by the same names). The chocolate flavor peculiar to Mocha gave rise to the popular chocolate-flavored beverage, the Cafe Mocha, which may have been invented in circumstances where no Mocha beans were available. Nowadays, the Mocha-Java blend is often blended with some other varieties to provide variety. In addition to those blends sold commercially, many coffee houses have their own signature "house blends".
Some bean varieties are so well-known and so in-demand that they are far more expensive than others. Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona coffees are perhaps the most prominent examples. Often these beans are blended with other, less expensive varieties and the suffix "blend" added to the labeling, such as "Blue Mountain blend" or "Kona blend" even though they only contain a small amount of the coffee mentioned.
A coffeemaker is a small kitchen appliance used to make drip brew-style coffee without having to boil water. Typically, coffee grounds are placed in a paper or metal filter inside a funnel, which is set over a glass or ceramic coffee pot. Cold water is poured into a separate chamber, which is then heated up to the boiling point, and directed into the funnel. This is called automatic drip-brew.
In 1972, the first automatic drip-brew coffeemaker, Mr. Coffee, was introduced. It combined aspects of both the drip-brew process and the percolating process with the added feature of heating up the water using an electric element in a separate chamber. Since that time, the number, style, and size of these appliances have increased dramatically. Coffeemakers are currently the most popular way of making coffee at home because of their convenience.
Take time, have a second cup
Discover the history of coffee, learn how to tell an arabica bean from a robusta, find out the difference in coffee grinders, determine if home coffee roasting is for you, enjoy some favorite coffee quotes ... basically sit back, relax and enjoy all the good things we offer at Rich-Fragrant-Coffee. We have included articles, tip and tricks, information from our readers, and our own recommendations on beans, brews, grinders, roasters, makers, and other coffee-related items.
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So sit, relax, enjoy. Here's to that first, second ... and last cup of coffee each day. Bon appetit!