Wednesday, October 22, 2008

About Coffee

Even today there is controversy surrounding coffee as to whether it is good for the health or not and a new study seems to be published each week either defending or condemning this drink. At first coffee beans were sold by pharmacists and then by coffee houses which became popular for revolution and enlightened thinking. As coffee traveled from Constantinople to Venice and then to Vienna and other European capitals it was banned repeatedly. Here coffee was widely consumed by the populous but condemned by the Islamic leaders because of its supposed intoxicating effects. The coffee plant was first cultivated commercially in the Arab world in the fifteenth century.

Robusta beans have twice the caffeine of Arabica beans but less flavor. The Arabica beans are named for the Arabs who first grew them and are the better of the two. Commercial coffee beans belong to two main groups, Arabica and robusta. When picked coffee beans are green and do not acquire the familiar brown color and intoxicating aroma until they are roasted.

On the other hand most coffee beans sold in coffee specialty shops are Arabica. Supermarket coffee blends are usually made up of mostly Robusta beans with a few Arabica to add some flavor.

Today the word Mocha has come to mean a flavor combination of coffee and chocolate, but actually has nothing to do with Mocha beans which are rare and expensive. Named after the Yemeni Port from which the coffee was once shipped to the rest of the world. The prized of these are the true Mochas. Africa, the birthplace of coffee still grow coffee with wild flowers that coffee lovers prize. But there is a small amount grown in the Hawaiian Islands and some in Yemen on the Red Sea. Africa, Indonesia and Central and South America are the three main regions where coffee is grown.

This coffee is almost impossible to find in America as the Japanese buy almost all the tiny annual production and if it can be found it is extremely expensive. Coffee produced in Central America (particularly Guatemala and Costa Rica) are of real interest to coffee connoisseurs because many of the beans from these regions offer the balance and smoothness that made Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee legendary. Many good coffees also come from the island of Papua New Guinea. Indonesian coffees are popular for their body and earthy flavor. Another favorite, Africa Coffee is from Kenya, a country that produces many superlative beans.

One third of the coffee drunk worldwide is grown in Brazil but almost none of it is of any interest to coffee connoisseurs.

Colombia has put money and research into its coffee industry but unfortunately its beans are rarely exceptional.

If you prefer a flavored coffee a better idea is to brew good coffee from unflavored beans and dose it modestly with one or more of the flavoring essences that can be purchased at many gourmet shops. If these flavored beans are ground at home they will impart their flavors, possibly forever, on to your grinder and brewing apparatus. The flavored coffees that are becoming increasingly popular are usually based on bland, mediocre beans that are stirred with chemical flavoring essences after roasting.


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