Happy national coffee day! You're probably familiar with hearing people complain about needing a cup of coffee every morning. If not, that's probably because it’s you saying it. As the abundance of coffee shops springing up across the world suggests, coffee is a Big Deal. In celebration of National Coffee Day, let’s explore the history of this most famous beverage and its journey to your cup.
The origins of Arabica are believed to lie in South Sudan and Ethiopia, where travelling herders mixed beans with fats and spices to create what we would recognise as an energy bar, as well as boiling the cherries and leaves.
Arabs were the first to trade coffee and were highly protective of the beans. Smuggled seeds travelled from Yemen to India in the early 1600s, and soon Dutch traders had planted them in Amsterdam. The Dutch gifted coffee to the French, who spread them to regions including Central and South America. Coffee production is now hugely active particularly in Asia.
The best quality coffee berries actually grow under shade or cloud cover. If growing near the equator, coffee plants are planted at higher altitudes in order to reach the best temperature. Unripe coffee cherries are green and hard, which soften and change colour to red as they ripen.
Cherries are processed within a few hours of harvest to preserve their best quality. In preparation, beans are washed and go through one of several drying processes, usually on concrete patios or raised beds in the sun. The drying process can take up to two weeks. Once dried, the beans rest for up to two months before further processing at a dry mill. Finally, they can spend several weeks in transit as they are shipped to their worldwide destinations.
There’s a wine tasting equivalent for coffee, known as ‘cupping’. The process involves tasting small amounts of different coffees in a session to provide a snapshot of its flavour. Switching between varieties during tasting allows you to develop an understanding of the subtle differences in taste and smell, and to recognise the individual flavours of nuts, berries, and spices. Here’s a visual guide to help you in your flavour appreciation:
Take a journey from bean to cup with Coffee Obsession, which shows you how to make iconic coffees through step-by-step barista training. From the techniques of roasting, grinding, tamping and brewing to how to make a cappuccino, you'll learn everything you need to know to make the perfect coffee and about the beauty of latte art.