|8.1 How and where was coffee discovered?|
|8.2 How do you pronounce…?|
|8.3 Where did the term "cup of joe" come from?|
|8.4 What is Kopi Luak (Kopi Luwak)?|
|8.4.1 Is the animal a cat or a monkey?|
|8.4.2 So what's "weasel coffee"?|
|8.5 Why do some people put eggshells in coffee grounds?|
|8.6 When did companies start to sell coffee in cans?|
|8.7 What is "white coffee"?|
|8.8 What is "fair trade" coffee?|
|8.9 What is "songbird friendly" coffee?|
|8.10 What is "cupping"?|
|8.10.1 Cupping technique|
|8.11 How did orange-handled carafes in restaurants come to indicate decaf coffee?|
8.1 How and where was coffee
The most popular story told is of a goat herder named Kaldi who went looking for his flock and found them dancing wildly. He soon discovered that they were eating the leaves and berries of a certain plant. When he tried some of the berries, he quickly felt energized. Soon, a monk noticed Kaldi's vigor, and he asked the goatherd how that came to be; Kaldi told him about the plant, and the monk picked the berries and brought them back to the monastery, where the monks used them to stay awake for late night prayer and study. Unfortunately, this story is almost certainly simply a legend, and the true story of how the effects of the coffee bean were discovered is lost to history. What is not in dispute is that coffee originated in the highlands of Ethiopia.
Originally, the beans were not roasted and brewed; one of the first coffee drinks was, ironically, a tea (or, more properly, an infusion) brewed from the leaves and cherries. As with most human endeavors, an alcoholic beverage (a wine made from the fermented pulp) was also also made. It wasn't until about five hundred years ago that someone, whose name has also been lost to history, first roasted the beans and before brewing them.
From these origins, coffee has become the second largest commodity, after oil. Coffee grows on one percent of the world's land, eleven million hectares.
8.2 How do you pronounce...?
Yirgacheffe (Ethiopian): YEAR-gah-CHEFF-ay, with a slightly rolled "r"
Huehuetanango/Huehuetenango (Guatemalan): Way-way-ten-ongo
Celebes: SELL-uh-beez; formerly, the Dutch name for the Indonesian island of Sulawesi
Sulawesi: Soo-lah-WAY-zee; an island in Indonesia
Oaxaca: wa-HA-ka; a state of Mexico; also, that state's capital city
Bourbon: boor-BONE; an arabica cultivar named for the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion Island) east of Madagascar, the coffee trees having been imported from Yemen.
8.3 Where did the term "cup
of joe" come from?
The most popular explanation is that it was named for Admiral Josephus "Joe" Daniels (1862-1948), appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson. Admiral Daniels embarked on a series of reforms, such as the introduction of women into the service and effectively banning alcohol on board ships, including the officer's wine mess. This mainly left the sailors with coffee, which became referred to rather derisively as Joe, after the Secretary. This is by no means definitive; the Oxford English Dictionary places the origin of the term "joe," as it pertains to coffee, as "unknown."
8.4 What is Kopi Luak (Kopi
In Indonesia, an animal called a palm civet or civet cat—locally, called a luwak—eats coffee (kopi) fruit, then excretes out the undigested beans. These beans are then picked from the droppings and washed off. Arguably, the greatest aspect of note to this coffee is its unusual origin, not its taste.
A recent study, Composition and properties of Indonesian palm civet coffee (Kopi Luwak) and Ethiopian civet coffee (Massimo F. Marcone, Food Research International, Volume 37, Issue 9, 2004, Pages 901-912), found that the beans undergo physical and chemical changes as a result of digestion.They become harder and more brittle, with an extremely finely perforated outer surface, and had a lower protein content, theoretically resulting in a less-bitter cup. Blind taste tests from professional cuppers, however, have not borne out the theory.
Yearly production figures are unreliable, and range anywhere from eighty to three hundred pounds. The price per pound ranges as high as US $300. The Food Reseach article found that "electronic nose analysis" was able to detect differences between kopi luwak and undigested coffees, which may help confirm a particular batch's authenticity.
8.4.1 Is the animal a cat or a monkey?
The palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, is neither a monkey nor a cat, despite sometimes being called a civet cat. It belongs in the family of animals known as Viverridae and is closely related to mongooses (Herpestidae). Indeed, until recently, they were grouped in same family (Viverridae), and due to the fluidity of taxonomy, some sources still lump the two groups of animals together.
8.4.2 So what's "weasel coffee"?
Also called Ca Phe Chon, chon means "weasel" or "fox" in Vietnamese; in this instance, however, the animal is actually a palm civet. The large Trung Nguyen chain of coffee shops in Vietnam sells a variant of this coffee that is artificially processed by subjecting the unroasted beans to enzymes that purport to duplicate the effects of the weasel's digestive system.
8.5 Why do some people put eggshells
in coffee grounds?
This is bit of folklore that has been explained in at least two different ways. Some old cookbooks claim that the eggshells help to clear the coffee by attracting floating grounds and then precipitating to the bottom; some of these old recipes call for adding an entire raw egg. Less commonly, adding eggshell to the grounds of coffee is said to reduce bitterness (though improving the coffee to begin with would be a better tactic.
The tradition was to use rinsed eggshells, which largely throws out the supposition that it is some component of residual white or yolk that is the active component. The shell is composed almost entirely of calcium carbonate, with the remainder consisting of magnesium carbonate, calcium phosphate, and some miscellaneous organic matter. The only possible effect could be to raise the coffee's already relatively neutral pH; it is unclear whether any change in acidity, assuming one even occurs, would be detectable by taste. Regarding settling the grounds, how the addition of large pieces of a mineral could settle coffee grounds is, at best, unclear.
8.6 When did companies
start to sell coffee in cans?
The process is traceable to Chase & Sanborn in 1878; however, air was not purged from the tins before sealing, and so the product was little fresher than other coffees. Originally sold as "Seal Brand Mocha & Java," Chase & Sanborn dropped the Mocha & Java appellation; the product contained little of those famous coffees, and, in light of government lawsuits against other manufacturers accused of misrepresentation, Caleb Case and James Sanborn had become worried that they might similarly be charged.
In July of 1900, Hills Brothers became the first company to use a process for vacuum packing tinned coffee, licensing the just-patented process from Norton Brothers, a packaging manufacturer.
8.7 What is "white coffee"?
Not widely sold, this is an extremely lightly roasted coffee, a pale tan in color. The beans are almost rock-hard, so the coffee is sold pre-ground since even high-end consumer grinders would wear down very quickly. The taste is very different regular coffee: white coffee actually tastes more like coffee substitutes like Postum or other grain-based alternates than it does to fully-roasted coffee. When brewed, it looks like chicken broth.
In the United States, white coffee also refers to coffee to which some sort of whitener (milk, cream, or a non-dairy creamer) has been added. In this style, it is also referred to as light coffee (or "coffee, light").
is "fair trade" coffee?
Although a cup of coffee can cost two dollars American or more, large numbers of coffee farmer around the world earn a pittance from their crops. This is due in part to a massive oversupply of low cost, low quality coffee, much of it from Vietnam. In many instances, beans are allowed to rot on the branches because the cost to harvest them is greater than what they could be sold for by the farmers. Seventy percent of the world's coffee is grown on farms of less than five hectares (twelve acres), whose farmers would receive little money even if they could harvest and sell all of their beans.
To address these and other issues, the international Fair Trade goals and criteria—established by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, a consortium of nineteen Fair Trade groups across the world, are as follows: (1) producer cooperatives are guaranteed a certain price (higher for certified organic coffee); (2) a requirement that producers belong to cooperatives or associations that controlled by their members; (3) importers must purchase coffee directly from Fair Trade certified producers, not middlemen, and agree to establish long-term and stable relationships; (4) importers must provide pre-harvest financing or credit (up to 60% of each order) upon producers' request; (5) producers must implement integrated crop management and environmental protection plans.
8.9 What is "songbird
For centuries, coffee was grown under a canopy of shade trees, providing a refuge for migratory birds that become increasingly important as other forests have been clear cut. Since the development of high-yield, sun-resistant coffee hybrids in the 1970s, significant acreage has been cleared of its vegetation. Some estimates indicate that sun-grown coffee farms shelter about one-tenth as many bird species as shade-grown coffee farms, and recent studies by the U.S. Breeding Bird Survey and a separate essay published in the journal Science have found dramatic drops in migratory bird populations, due at least in part to habitat loss.
Since the growing area is being moved towards a monoculture, this sun-grown coffee requires high levels of pesticides and fertilizer—necessitated by the absence of the nitrogen-fixing canopy tree, and the loss of insect-hunting birds that would otherwise keep down the pest population. "Organic" coffees almost invariably mean shade grown.
Proponents of shade grown coffee also argue that the coffee develops more slowly, creating a higher sugar content that results in a richer, fuller flavor in the roasted bean. The motivation behind sun-grown coffee is simple: it is more profitable, as coffee is produced about three times more quickly.
8.10 What is "cupping"?
Cupping is a technique used to determine the quality (taste and aroma) of a particular sample of coffee. Preparation methods are standardized for each sample, and the coffee aroma is inhaled and the sample then tasted, often side-by-side with other samples. Importers and roasters use this technique in order to evaluate batches of green beans for both quality and sensory description. Cuppers will usually fill out detailed evaluation forms that describe multiple aspects of the coffee that they are cupping. Many feel that cupping is more art than science, but a specific technique can be useful for those new to the concept.
8.10.1 Cupping technique
The most important aspect of cupping is consistency; your goal is not "making the perfect cup," but making one that can be compared to other samples without needing to worry whether the differences are attributable to the coffee or to the technique. Of course, you want to utilize the proper basics. The following is one technique used for cupping, but it is not canonical.
To start, slightly stronger ratios are commonly used, about 2 tablespoons (8 grams) coffee per 5 ounces of water; the grind should be close to a French Press grind. Smell the freshly ground coffee and note the aroma.
Add hot water and allow to steep for about three minutes, then break the "cap" that has formed with a wide, deep spoon, and stir (spoons designed for this purpose can be purchased). The grounds should largely settle to the bottom; any that remain on the surface should be skimmed off. Bending close to the cup, inhale deeply through your nose; this is your next profile, and will form the most important basis of your evaluation of the aroma. Try to analogize the aroma to odors you already know, such as fruits or nuts.
Using your cupping spoon, forcefully slurp a quantity of coffee; this slurping aerates the coffee, spreading it over the various sensory elements of your mouth and allowing the aromatics to travel up the nasal passages. The coffee is swished around in the mouth in order to expose the different areas of the palate and tongue. Judge the "feel" of the brew on the tongue, as well as its taste. Swallowing a portion of the coffee completes the experience, though when judging a large number of samples, it is customary to spit the majority of each sample into a cup. In either case, rinse your mouth with lukewarm water to clear it for the next sample. Cold water will numb your ability to taste, so should be avoided.
This process should be repeated several times as the coffee cools, as different aspects will be noted at the varying temperatures. That is, as the coffee passes through different temperatures, you will smell and taste things that were not apparent at the other temperatures: you might start tasting chocolate, or fruit, or the bitterness may rise or diminish.
Multiple samples of different beans are often cupped side-by-side. At first, you are likely to conclude that you have no idea what you're doing. The best solution to this is repeated experiences—if possible, done in the company of an experienced cupper who can guide you.
8.11 How did orange-handled
carafes in restaurants come to indicate decaf coffee?
The most popular explanation is that this originated with Sanka. Sanka, which derives its name from "sans caffeine," came to the United States in 1923 and was distributed by the Sanka Coffee Corporation. In 1927, Postum (which, along with other acquired brands, changed its name to General Foods Corporation in 1929) took over distribution, until General Foods (which is now Kraft) bought Sanka outright in 1932.
The story goes that General Foods began to distribute orange-handled carafes to restaurants, utilizing Sanka's orange packaging in order to promote that product. Eventually, orange became synonymous with decaffeinated coffee. However, Kraft's corporate archives contain no record of any such promotion, and the company cannot verify the accuracy of this story. It remains possible that the promotion occurred before Postum/General Foods began distributing the product or that the corporate records are incomplete. However, though the Sanka story "feels right," the origin of the association remains unconfirmed.
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©2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Scott Rothstein
May be quoted in part, with attribution and links to this site.