The History And Main Types Of Coffee

It's a mainstay in many households the world over with a commodity ranking of number two, just behind oil production. But how did the worldwide coffee craze get started and what exactly is the history of the little bean loved the globe over for the coffee it creates?

According to legend, the first use of coffee dates back to the 800s when a goat herder named Kaldi discovered his goats had more energy after eating the berries from a specific bush. Kaldi's story takes place in east Africa and is considered the stuff of lore, however, it wasn't too much after the 800s that the coffee craze began sweeping the world.

By the 1100s, coffee was being roasted and boiled by the Arabs. It was used in a drink, but there are earlier reports of the beans being eaten by monks, too. Similar to the evolution of cocoa beans, the drink of days gone by is most likely not exactly what we know today. And, also like cocoa, its spread was slow, but methodical.

As time passed, the ability to process beans grew and so did the popularity of coffee as a drink with properties that helped heighten alertness. By the 1400s, Constantinople became the location of the planet's first coffee shop. That trend continued to Italy, the rest of Europe and the Americas. No doubt different than the coffee houses of today, they were nonetheless "trendsetters."

By the 1600s, coffee became a major player in the English world, although probably not tipping the scales over tea. In 1688, Edward Lloyd opened his coffeehouse, which later became the world-famous Lloyd's of London insurance company.

Known for their craftiness in working with the somewhat similar cocoa bean, the Dutch hit the scene in the late 1600s, becoming the first to grow and ship coffee commercially. By the 1700s, coffee was firmly secured as a drink with worldwide appeal.

Although the veracity of the goat herder story is always in question, the fact remains that coffee has a long and proud history. Its spread around the world may have been slow, but the end result is a multi-billion-dollar industry that results in the production of millions of tons of coffee each year. Humble beginnings or not, coffee is more than a craze or a trend, it's a worldwide player on the commodities market and one that shows no signs of going away.

The Main Types of Coffee

Considering it has flavors that range from bold dark roasts to vanilla and hazelnut infused, it might be surprising that coffee actually only has two main varieties of beans it's derived from. The arabica and the robusta beans account for most of the world's coffee production.

The arabica bean is considered a descendant of the original trees from Ethiopia - the country that's credited for coffee's origin. Coffees made from this bean are mild and quite aromatic. This type of bean accounts for a whopping 70 percent of the world's coffee production. The tree that makes the arabica bean tends to prefer higher altitudes and thrives in mild climates, but is killed by heavy frost.

The trees that produce robusta beans are considered easier to grow and less fickle than their arabica cousins. Despite this, the beans are not a favorite on the worldwide coffee market since the coffee they produce tends to be a bit more bitter than arabica. It also has a lot more caffeine in the mix. These trees thrive in lower altitudes and can handle a bigger temperature range, but the flavors drop them to the 30 percent share in the worldwide coffee market.

So, if all the world's coffee comes from only two major types of beans, where do all the flavors come from? Growing conditions and processing.

The flavors of beans grown in different parts of the world can vary. Even though the beans come from the same kind of tree, the flavors might vary greatly due to soil and water conditions. It is believed that trees in Africa produce beans that give off a berry or spice type flavor while those from Latin America are clean-tasting and perhaps a bit tangy.

Another major factor in the taste can be greatly influenced by the roasting process. The temperatures used in roasting and the time allotted to the process can greatly change the end taste of a ground bean. Master coffee makers know how to take the same batches of beans and greatly alter their flavors through roasting.

Also, designer flavors of coffee, such as vanilla and chocolate, are generally produced as additives put into the bean during or right after the roasting process. So, despite the fact there are only two types of beans, the end result can be ground coffee that has as many flavors as there are ideas for them.

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About The Author, Paul Duxbury
Paul Duxbury writes extensively on Coffee. You can read more of his articles at Gourmet Coffee