If you’re a serious coffee person, then you probably know a bit about where your coffee comes from. But if you’re like many coffee lovers, you may not have given it much thought. You buy your beans at the local grocer or coffee shop, brew them up, and voila! Hot, delicious coffee!
Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or casual caffeinater, your mornings wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without your cup of morning Joe. So we thought we’d take a little bit of time to appreciate the humble, wonderful coffee plant. Join us, won’t you?
The Origins of Coffee
As far as we know, the original coffee plants were endemic to Ethiopia, and the fact that the nation is still one of the world’s largest coffee producers would seem to support that fact.
According to lore, a 9th-century goat herder named Kaldi discovered the rejuvenating properties of the humble coffee bean. While tending his flock in the fields, he noticed that they’d taken a particular liking to the sweet cherries of the coffee plant, and when they ate them as a snack, they seemed particularly jovial.
So he reported his findings to some local monks, and pretty soon, all the monks in the monastery were drinking coffee to stay awake during marathon prayer sessions.
Coffee Goes Global
Over the centuries that followed, the love of coffee spread throughout the Arab world, with the first coffeehouses opening up shop in the cities of the Near East. There, locals would gather for music, chess, news, and witty repartee, much like they do today.
European travelers took coffee home with them, and pretty soon everyone was drinking the stuff as part of their morning routine. Before the arrival of coffee, some Europeans would start their mornings with a mug of beer. Imagine that!
Before too long, the love of coffee had spread all over the world, hitching rides with explorers and missionaries, royals, and pirates, and taking root wherever conditions were suitable.
Everyone’s Favorite Plant
Under natural conditions, the coffee bean plant is a spindly, nondescript, shade-loving shrub that does best when it’s nestled beneath the forest canopy. The coffee bean is actually the pit of the cheery red coffee cherry, the meat of which has a crisp consistency and a watermelon-like flavor when fully ripened.
The advent of modern industrial agriculture made it possible to grow coffee beans in full sunlight, increasing yields and making coffee production more efficient.
Back to Basics
In recent years, however, demand has increased for coffee grown the old-fashioned way, in biodiverse forests and without pesticides. This coffee is referred to as “shade grown” or “bird friendly,” and it fetches a premium among conscientious coffee consumers.
The fact that coffee is now grown in every corner of the globe is part of the reason we have so many tantalizing varieties of coffee to choose from. Every variety you sample has a unique flavor, influenced by terroir, strain, growing conditions, roasting style, and preparation method. Because of this, there’s truly a style coffee for just about everyone!
Coffee: Who Would Have Thought?
The coffee plant might not look like much, but it’s done more than its share when it comes to infusing the human condition with a bit of extra joy. The next time you savor the flavor of an Americano, Mocha, Latte, or K-Cup, we hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate this lovely plant, and the strange series of events that brought it from the Ethiopian highlands and the mists of time to your breakfast table.