Served hot or cold, coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. We drink it at home, at the office, and at coffee shops with friends. It’s estimated that more than half of the adults in the United States drink coffee every day, with even more people being occasional drinkers.
Clearly, coffee culture reigns supreme. There’s a coffee shop on almost every corner and a coffee maker in virtually every home. However, most people don’t know much about the caffeinated drink other than that it tastes good. Read the mini guide below to familiarize yourself with behind-the-scenes information on coffee.
Coffee beans were most likely discovered by the Ethiopians hundreds of years ago. However, it wasn’t until the beans were transported to Yemen that they were used to make a drink. By the 15th century, the entire Arab world was enjoying coffee. Shortly thereafter, knowledge of the beans and drink spread to Italy and the rest of Europe.
Coffee was available in North America when the first settlers arrived, but it didn’t become popular until the late 18th century. Now, coffee consumption in the United States is so great that it is one of the country’s biggest imports.
From Plant to Cup
The coffee plant is a shrub with glossy green leaves. It produces small white flowers and berries. Inside each berry are two coffee beans. Berries take about eight months to mature; they start out green and then ripen to yellow and red. Once harvested, the berries are dried and the seeds are picked out.
The seeds are fermented to remove any slimy substances from the interior of the berry. Then, they are washed and allowed to dry. Roasting comes next in the coffee production cycle. Beans are roasted for various amounts of time until they meet the requirements for light roasts, medium roasts, or dark roasts.
Next, the beans are packaged in airtight containers and distributed worldwide. When it comes time to brew a cup of coffee, the roasted beans must be ground and mixed with hot water. There are many ways of preparing ground coffee–from French presses to pressurized machines–and all give variations in the coffee’s complexity and flavor.
Almost 8 billion pounds of coffee beans were produced worldwide in 2008. Brazil produced the largest percentage of that total, with approximately 17 million tons cultivated in the country. Coffee is grown in tropical climates all over the world. In fact, most coffee names are derived from the region in which the beans were grown. Regional differences in taste and flavor can be extreme, and most coffee connoisseurs have a particular variety that they prefer over others. For example, Columbian coffee is mild, with a bright taste, full body, and rich aromas.
Caffeine in Coffee
Many people drink coffee for the pick me up that comes from its high caffeine content. The average cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 150 mg of caffeine. A single shot of espresso has about 60 mg. In comparison, a can of cola has about 34 mg of caffeine.