Sunday, July 26, 2009

On the Origins of the Special Brew


Even then, no evidence exists verifying the knowledge of roasting beans until well into the fifteenth century. It is supposed that until then, the coffee bean was treated like a possibly toxic food source, inducing strong stimulating hallucinations. This didn't stop mountain side goats from eating them, or animals of the high plains, which is possibly how man first recognized the bean as edible. For the true coffee aficionado, this concept seems difficult to grasp. For many, a morning without the fragrant aroma of brewing coffee beans would be a sad morning indeed. A true coffee lover drinks coffee for the taste of the bean, not the kick of the caffeine.

The Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia is where the coffee plant originated. Its name there is "bunn" or "bunna". A quick look at a world map with the areas of coffee production highlighted reveals a curious fact- all the regions of coffee cultivation occur close to or very near the Equator. Once the Ethiopian treasure was discovered, coffee production quickly spread to all areas where the climate was suitable for growing. These first growers included Arabs, Indians, and European peoples.

It is the Italians, however, that really brought forth coffee into the world as we know it. They first coined the word "caffe" in the late sixteenth century, and in the last century, the zealous businessman Howard Schultz copied the concept of the Italian Barista giving the United States a Starbucks on every available corner. Love them or hate them, Starbucks has millions of coffee drinking clients. Back to the word origins of coffee, the Turkish word "kahve", from the Arabic "qahwa", a modified form of "qahhwat al-bun" or wine of the bean is where it all started. Islam religion does not favor the use of alcohol as a beverage and coffee became a suitable alternative to wine.

Venice being the source of new ideas that it is really helped to introduce coffee to the rest of Europe in the seventeenth century when it began importing vast quantities from North Africa, Egypt, and the rest of the East. The coffee bean finally made its way into America when France colonized the West Indies. The French were responsible for creating many of the enormous coffee plantations in the islands still found today. Sadly, much of the labor in these plantations were done by the hands and strong backs of slaves.

Today it is nearly impossible to get really freshly roasted coffee unless you do one of three things. You can roast the green beans yourself, have newly roasted beans overnighted, or, if you are lucky, walk into a nearby roaster and procure today's batch. It is said that many people do not know the true flavor of coffee because so many of us are forced to make our morning brew with stale beans. Not to mention that so many of us like our coffees flavored to the point of obliterating all actual taste of the bean itself. So here's a challenge for you. Find a local roaster and obtain some newly roasted coffee- nothing added. What you will discover is something akin to eating very good chocolate. A succession of flavors, some of which are very suttle, will awaken your tastebuds. And you will have a true appreciation for this little bean of wonder.
Note: Like the above print of the girl holding a mug? We do. It can be found by calling (250) 564-6103 or email

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