Coffee - More Than an Old and Popular Energy Drink
Coffee is a beverage brewed on roasted or baked coffee cherries, which comes from the evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea.
According to the legend, a Ethiopian goat herder observed a unique excitement among his goats, after they had eaten these coffee cherries. The excitement was caused by caffeine, a stimulating substance found in coffee. Due to the energizing effect of the cherries, coffee trees were initially cultivated at the Horn of Africa in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa.
The Worldwide Spread of Coffee Began in the 15th Century
Initially eaten by African slaves, coffee became a success story in the Arabian world, and the coffee shrubs were being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century. From that time, the traditional processing has been recorded:
- The berries have been handpicked, dried and after that, the flesh is removed.
- Furthermore, the green seeds are washed and roasted. This process leads to the commonly known typical brown beans with a unique and typical flavor.
- Finally, the roasted beans are grounded so that hot water needs to be added in order to create the beverage.
A Beverage With an Impact on Social Life
Initially, the authorities in Yemen actively encouraged coffee drinking. Consequently coffeehouses (or kaveh kanes) opened in Mecca and quickly spread throughout the Arab world. These houses played an important role in the Arabian social life as chess was played, business life took place and gossip was exchanged while coffee was consumed.
Impressed and inspired by the energizing effect of the beverage and the social life taken place in coffeehouses, Dutch traders brought coffee plants to the Netherlands in 1616. At first coffee was believed to have medicinal qualities becoming a luxury good in the European society and was served for special occasions only.
The first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683. The most famous one, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in 1720 is still open for business today.
Due to the climate and ongoing improvements in production, the Dutch and Spanish colonies in Africa, South America and Indonesia became the European supplier of coffee in the late 17th century.
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Coffee – a Global Business
As industrial production rose in the industrialization leading to tremendous growth after WW II, coffee became a down market product. 1950's was also the beginnging of industrial and vending coffee machines. More than 8.5 million tons of coffee beans were produced globally in 2011. Most of them are still handpicked meaning that coffee is still a very labour-intensive product.
More than 104,520,000 bags of 60 kilos each are produced by more than 25 million workers worldwide. Apparently coffee is global business traded as a commodity good at Stock Exchanges in New York and Tokio.
It was probably the weather that led to the comeback of coffeehouses in modern times. Seattle, the wettest and rainiest city in the US became synonymous with a new type of coffeehouse culture. Founded in 1971, Starbuck’s revolutionized the global coffee market and the way western society nowadays consume coffee.
In 2010, more than 15,000 outlets in 43 countries worldwide generated a turnover of more than 9.5 billion dollars, making Starbuck’s the most successful coffeehouse chain in the world. A vast variety of beverages containing ground coffee such as Caffè Americano, Caffè Latte and Espresso Macchiato is sold today.
However, the spirit of coffee as “social beverage” remains: in coffeehouses social life takes place, business opportunities are exchanged and games are played.