Coffee is a drink prepared from roasted seeds, commonly called coffee beans, of the coffee plant. They are seeds of coffee cherries that grow on trees in over 70 countries. Green (unroasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world.
The energizing effect of caffeine in the coffee bean is thought to have been discovered in Yemen in Arabia and the north east of Ethiopia, and the cultivation of coffee first expanded in the Arab world. The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia. From the Muslim world, coffee spread from Egypt to Italy via trade with Venice and through Eastern Europe with the Turkish conquests, then to the rest of Europe and then onto Indonesia and the Americas.
Ethiopian ancestors of today's Oromo people were believed to have been the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee bean plant. From Ethiopia, coffee was said to have spread to Yemen, where the coffee beverage was first made and drunk, and then the beverage went to Egypt.
Coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the "Muslim drink." The first European coffee house opened in Italy in 1645. The Dutch were the first to import coffee on a large scale, and they were among the first to defy the Arab prohibition on the exportation of plants or unroasted seeds when Pieter van den Broeck smuggled seedlings from Mocha, Yemen, into Europe in 1616. The Dutch later grew the crop in Java and Ceylon. The first exports of Indonesian coffee from Java to the Netherlands occurred in 1711. Through the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee became popular in England as well. Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. Coffee was introduced in France in 1657, and in Austria and Poland after the 1683 Battle of Vienna, when coffee was captured from supplies of the defeated Turks.
The Frenchman Gabriel de Clieu brought a coffee plant to the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean, from which much of the world's cultivated arabica coffee is descended. Coffee thrived in the climate and was conveyed across the Americas. The territory of San Domingo (now Haiti) saw coffee cultivated from 1734, and by 1788 it supplied half the world's coffee. However, the dreadful conditions that the slaves worked in on coffee plantations were a factor in the soon to follow Haitian Revolution. The coffee industry never fully recovered there. Meanwhile, coffee had been introduced to Brazil in 1727, although its cultivation didn't gather momentum until independence in 1822.
Coffee berries, which contain the coffee seed, or "bean", are produced by several species of small evergreen bush of the genus Coffea. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. The green seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. They are then ground and brewed to create coffee. Coffee can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways.
Of the two main species grown, arabica coffee (from C. arabica) is generally more highly regarded than robusta coffee (from C. canephora); robusta tends to be bitter and have less flavor but better body than arabica. Robusta coffee contains about 40–50% more caffeine than arabica. For this reason, it is used as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Good quality robusta beans are used in some espresso blends to provide a full-bodied taste, a better foam head known as crema, and to lower the ingredient cost.
Coffee beans must be ground and brewed to create a beverage. Almost all methods of preparing coffee require the beans to be ground and mixed with hot water for long enough to extract the flavor, but without boiling for more than an instant; boiling develops an unpleasant "cooked" flavor. The ideal temperature is 79 to 85 °C (174 to 185 °F) and the ideal serving temperature is 68 to 79 °C (154 to 174 °F).
Espresso-based coffee has a wide variety of possible presentations. In its most basic form, it is served alone as a shot or in the more watered-down style café américano—a shot or two of espresso with hot water added. Reversing the process by adding espresso to hot water preserves the crema, and is known as a long black. Milk can be added in various forms to espresso: steamed milk makes a caffè latte, equal parts steamed milk and milk froth make a cappuccino, and a dollop of hot foamed milk on top creates a caffè macchiato. The use of steamed milk to form patterns such as hearts or maple leaves is referred to as latte art.
Coffee has become a vital cash crop for many Third World countries. Over one hundred million people in developing countries have become dependent on coffee as their primary source of income. It has become the primary export and backbone for African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, as well as many Central American countries.
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