Coffee is mostly known (and loved) for its stimulating effect. It occupies the strange place of being the most popular beverage worldwide ( 3.5 billion cups per day, world coffee day) and having, at the same time, dubious effects on health because of its caffeine content.
Coffee is a drink made from coffee beans, coffee berries, or coffee seeds taken from coffee plants. It can be prepared in several ways, but coffee aficionados prefer coffee made with the two-phase method. First, coffee seeds are soaked in hot water for 4 minutes. Then they are ground and placed in a coffee pot or coffee machine where near-boiling water drips onto them for another minute or so before the coffee is drunk.
Once brewed, coffee can be taken black (most common), with some sugar, with milk, or as an espresso shot (a small cup of very concentrated coffee). It is easily available in most places around the world because of its mass production. It is no wonder that it became the number one drink overnight when people learned how to roast coffee beans. Coffee’s origins go back to 9th century Ethiopia where humans discovered coffee’s stimulating effect by chewing coffee berries, but coffee only became popular after coffee beans were roasted in the 12th century.
Coffee is not just a drink; it is also the seed of the coffee tree. This plant belongs to the Rubiaceae family and can grow up to fifteen meters high (49 feet). It has green leaves with a jagged edge that turn red when coffee fruits are ripe. The latter look like cherries and contain two coffee beans enclosed in a parchment membrane. These coffee “seeds” are what we call coffee beans because of their resemblance with other types of beans even though they aren’t true seeds.
There are several types of coffee plants: Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, Liberica, and Barako coffee plants. The coffee berries (or coffee cherries or coffee beans) they produce when ripe contain coffee seeds, also called coffee beans because of their resemblance with other types of beans.
Arabica coffee is considered to be the best type of coffee in terms of quality, quantity, and resistance to external factors such as insects or diseases. It can grow at lower altitudes (between 500-1000m above sea level) so it’s mostly cultivated in Latin America, Africa, India, Indonesia, and Central Asia. Arabica trees produce between 1 kg/ 2 pounds/ year only so the market price for this type is very high compared to Robusta coffee which grows faster but at higher altitudes where rainfall is low.
Production rose by 23% between 2010-15 whereas Arabica coffee production fell by 14% during the same period. Robusta coffee is therefore becoming more important and farmers like it because it can generate a better profit compared to Arabica coffee.
Despite its lower quality, Robusta coffee has two advantages: it grows faster (producing beans in as less as 18 months), and is resistant to pests. This makes it be good for countries where coffee pests such as beetles can threaten coffee plantations like Vietnam, Colombia, Brazil, India, and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Liberica coffee is also considered as a new promising coffee plant that could meet growing global demand for coffee with higher resistance to diseases than Arabica or Robusta coffee plants.
As far as coffee beans are concerned, there are two types: green coffee and roasted coffee. Green coffee contains high levels of caffeine, but it can be easily roasted at home or in factories located near where coffee is harvested to produce the familiar coffee smell and taste that people have come to recognize.
Coffee was considered unhealthy for a very long time because it contained too much caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure. This myth has been debunked by scientists who proved that coffee is not only safe but also beneficial to health because of its high antioxidant content (more so than fruit juice or green tea). Coffee does contain some amount of water-sol vitamins such as vitamin B2 and niacin but coffee also has flavonoids and phenolic acids which are necessary to maintain a healthy heart and good blood flow.
The World Health Organization (WHO)
Recommends coffee intake for people who suffer from fatigue or dizziness because coffee can increase alertness and concentration. It also encourages coffee consumption for pregnant women because coffee increases the contraction of uterine muscles; therefore, it’s believed that coffee can help with bowel movements during pregnancy.
Coffee may cause mild physical dependence, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors, or spasms if deprived of coffee too quickly. It is also one of the most consumed beverages in the world – second only to water – so it’s no wonder why coffee became such a huge topic of discussion.