Since I drink so much coffee when I work, I thought it might be a cool idea to talk about the merits of the, very interesting, coffee bean.  I not only enjoy the smell and taste of coffee, it is amazing what coffee does to me when I drink it.  We have all experienced this glorious effect.  The coffee bean is quite interesting, from how it grows, to how it is roasted, and finally, consumed.  First, maybe a few facts, then little history, and finally, I will discuss the growing, roasting, and ultimately, the consumption of coffee.


Next to crude oil, coffee is the second most sought after commodity.  Coffee represents a $100 billion dollar industry worldwide.  Espresso coffee represent 14% of the industry.  What is even more staggering, we drink over 500 billion cups of coffee worldwide each year.  Coffee is grown in over 50 countries and supports over 25 million people who are responsible for the growing of this magic bean.  Even thought there are many different flavors of coffee, there are really only tow types of coffee; arabica and robusta.  Arabica constitutes about 70% of all coffee grown and is considered more flavorful, whereas robusta is cheaper and is more commonly found in instant coffee.  American coffee drinkers average about 3.5 cups a day.  Haha, I must be an outlier, I drink a lot more than that each day.  Coffee represents about 75% of Americans caffeine, which is much more than tea, soda, and energy drinks.  A very interesting statistic is that coffee shops are the fastest grown niche business in the restaurant industry, and have a 7% annual growth rate.  Here is a contrasting statistic, 90% of all coffee is grown in developing countries and its consumption takes place in industrialized nations.  Turns out, Finland drinks the most coffee, per capita, each year, and the United States ranks 25th, yet consumes the most coffee overall.

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Now for a bit of history.  What we know today as roasted coffee, has its origins from Arabia.  During the 13th century, coffee was a very popular drink for it stimulating power.  In 1583 coffee became available in England through the help of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company.  The first coffee house in England was opened in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill, London.  In 1616, the Dutch founded the first European-owned coffee estate in Sri Lanka, then Java (i.e. the computer programming language) in 1696.  Then the French began growing coffee in the Caribbean, followed by the Spanish in Central America and the Portuguese in Brazil.  soon after this, coffee houses started showing up in Italy and France, and this is when coffee spring-boarded to a new level of popularity.  Coffee was not very popular in America until the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when making the switch from tea to coffee became very popular.  During the Civil Way, soldiers used coffee to boost their energy.  By the late 1800s coffee had become a major commodity, and people looked to ways to profit from this popular craze.  James Folger began to sell coffee to gold miners in California , and this was the start for other such as Maxwell House and Hills Brothers.

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In 1971, Starbucks opened their first store in Seattle.  I remember when I first arrived in Seattle for graduate school, I walked into a Starbucks, I had never been in a place like this., it was quite awesome.  Today, an increasingly number of small independently owned cafes roast their own coffee.  Coffee has become associated with an artistic movement, and is highly valued for its complex of flavors.  Science and art are braided together, no wonder I like coffee so much.

Well, now lets talk about roasting coffee.  The act of roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of the raw coffee bean into a roasted product, which causes the raw coffee bean to transform into a tasty treat.  Small-scale roasting has become very popular, and roasters can be seen in may coffee houses across the world.  The first recored roasting of coffee occurred in the Ottoman Empire and Greater Persia.  In the 19th century, patents were awarded in the United States and Europe for commercial roasting machines.  In the 1980 and 1990s, the specialty and gourmet coffee industry exploded with growth.

The process of roasting coffee is quite interesting.  It consists of sorting, roasting, cooling, and packaging.  First, green coffee (raw) beans are thrown into a hopper and screened for dirt and other contaminants.  Then, the green beans are weighed and transferred to storage hoppers.  From the storage hoppers, the green beans are roasted.  In the beginning of roasting, the process is endothermic, meaning the bean is absorbing heat.  However, around 175 degrees celsius, the process turns exothermic, where the beans start to give off heat.  At this point, the bean is heating itself.  At the end of the roasting cycle, the beans are dumped form the roaster and air cooled with a draft inducer.  Just as an aside, coffee goes well with pastries.

A lighter roast will exhibit more of the original flavor or original character.  This flavor is created from a combination of processing, altitude, soil contact, and weather conditions in the location it was grown.  Very similar to why certain grape varieties are grown in specific regions of planet Earth.  As the coffee bean darkens, the original flavor become hidden, and take on the flavor created by the roasting process itself.  A darker roast can be so dominant that it becomes difficult to distinguish the original flavor, and certainly the origin of where the bean was grown.

There you have, it.  I enjoy exploring new coffee houses, and finding small and out-of-the-ordinary cafes and roasters.  Bon bean-Appetite!


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