National Coffee Day:  September 29

Whether getting one to go or lingering over a second cup be sure to observe National Coffee Day on September 29

You can put whatever you want on a to-do list; there are no rules. I put wake up and drink coffee on mine, and, well… guess who already got two things done today… and it’s not even 10 am…. god I’m good.

—Caitie Delaney

Ah, the perfect cup of java. According to an expert cupper (a professional coffee taster), there are four components of a perfect cup: aroma, body, acidity, and flavor.

From the moment the average coffee lover opens a fresh bag of coffee beans, the aroma beckons, percolating the senses. Even those who don’t drink coffee tend to enjoy the fragrance of roasted beans.

Growing, roasting, and brewing

When determining the body of a coffee, the bean, the roast, and the brew are all factors. The bean affects the texture of the coffee whether it’s silky, creamy, thick, or thin on the tongue and throat. However, the darker the roast and how we brew it will alter the feel of a coffee’s body, too. Grandpa’s motor oil blend versus the coffee shop around the corner’s silky smooth, well-practiced grind have entirely different bodies.

Where a coffee bean grows determines its acidity. The higher the elevation the coffee grows, the higher the quality and the acidity. These coffees are considered brighter, dryer, and even sparkling by cuppers.

When it comes down to it, coffee lovers cherish the flavor as well as the caffeinated boost this roasted bean gives morning or night, black or with cream and/or sugar. Hot or cold it provides enjoyment even when decaffeinated!

Coffee is available at this Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of coffee

No one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered though there are many legends about its origin.

Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. The story goes that Kaldi discovered coffee after he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night. 

Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery and knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.

As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula it began a journey that would bring these beans across the globe.

Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the 16th century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.

Coffee was not only enjoyed in homes but also the many public coffee houses—called qahveh khaneh—which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. 

Wake up to the aroma of coffee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not only did the patrons drink coffee and engage in conversation but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess, and kept current on the news. Coffee houses quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that they were often referred to as Schools of the Wise.

With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, knowledge of this wine of Araby began to spread. 

European travelers to the Near East brought back stories of an unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. 

Some people reacted to this new beverage with suspicion or fear calling it the bitter invention of Satan. The local clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the beverage for himself before making a decision and found the drink so satisfying that he gave it papal approval.

Louisiana-based Community Coffee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite such controversy, coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland. In England, penny universities sprang up so called because for the price of a penny, one could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in stimulating conversation.  

Coffee began to replace the common breakfast drink beverages of the time—beer and wine. Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and energized and not surprisingly the quality of their work was greatly improved. (I like to think of this as a precursor to the modern office coffee service.)

By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses in London, many of which attracted like-minded patrons including merchants, shippers, brokers, and artists.

Many businesses grew out of these specialized coffee houses. Lloyd’s of London, for example, came into existence as the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.

In the mid-1600s coffee was brought to New Amsterdam later called New York by the British.

Though coffee houses rapidly began to appear tea continued to be the favored drink in the New World until 1773 when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. The revolt known as the Boston Tea Party would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee. 

As demand for the beverage continued to spread there was fierce competition to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia. The Dutch got seedlings in the latter half of the 17th century. Their first attempts to plant them in India failed but they were successful with their efforts in Batavia on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia. The plants thrived and soon the Dutch had a productive and growing trade in coffee. They then expanded the cultivation of coffee trees to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.

The famed Brazilian coffee owes its existence to Francisco de Mello Palheta who was sent by the emperor to French Guiana to get coffee seedlings. The French were not willing to share but the French Governor’s wife captivated by his good looks gave him a large bouquet before he left— buried inside were enough coffee seeds to begin what is today a billion-dollar industry.

Missionaries and travelers, traders, and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands, and coffee trees were planted worldwide. Plantations were established in magnificent tropical forests and on rugged mountain highlands. Some crops flourished while others were short-lived. New nations were established on coffee economies. Fortunes were made and lost. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops.

While Brazil produces more coffee than any other country, Colombia closely follows. Also, more than 50 countries around the world grow coffee, too. As a result, we choose from a bountiful selection of flavors for the indulgence of steamy cups of the black drink for connoisseurs to consume.

Wake up to the aroma of coffee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The espresso machine is invented

In 1822, a Frenchman named Louis Bernard Babaut developed a prototype of the first espresso machine. The machine was commercialized in 1843. In 1855, the Paris Exhibition included a coffee display. The machine made 1,000 cups of coffee per hour. It wasn’t until 1901 that a commercial espresso machine became available.

The automatic drip coffee maker is invented

The drip-brew method of brewing coffee with a coffee maker is a newer concept than other brewing methods especially the Turkish brewing style. 

Before automatic coffee brewers and electricity people had to rely on other methods to brew their coffee. Many people simply boiled water and put their coffee beans in which usually resulted in bitter, acidic coffee. However, the Turks started brewing their coffee with a unique system around the 16th century that is still practiced today.

Turkish brewing involves hot sand and small containers called a cezve or ibrik which creates a unique flavor profile. The hot sand helps regulate temperature and is the traditional method but Turkish coffee is also doable without sand. The result is a cup of bold coffee that has a strong flavor and bitter taste with lots of oils but traditional recipes call for sugar to bring the flavors together.

The first known inventor of drip-style brewing of coffee was Sir Benjamin Thompson, an accomplished inventor who created both the first drip brewer and a coffee percolator in the 1780s while tasked with taking care of the Bavarian Army’s soldiers. Although he did start the idea of drip-brewing coffee his percolator invention is what he’s most famous for in the coffee world.

However, it wasn’t until a few centuries later that the concept of a drip coffee maker came to full circle. Invented in 1908, Melitta Bentz created the first disposable coffee filter using blotting paper as a filter. She then put the disposable filter in a tin can with holes in the bottom to brew her coffee creating the first filtering coffee maker. While Thompson started the idea, Bentz is often credited as the inventor because of her disposable filter and can setup that led to the rise of coffee makers.

Waking up to the aroma of coffee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

French Press

Another revolutionary coffee brewer that changed the taste and body of coffee, the first attempt at a coffee pressing device might be from France or Italy. The first patent official patent of a pressing device for coffee was filed in 1852 but the first official French Press was patented in 1924 by Marcel-Pierre Paquet dit Jolbert.

Although it does have a little more work than a coffee maker, the French Press is still a popular method of brewing coffee. It tastes different than drip-brewed coffee in that it lowers the acidity and raises the body so it’s perfect for darker roasts and iced coffee. The French Press may not be as popular as the coffee maker but it’s still an important brewing device and created its niche in coffee brewers.

For many people, coffee is their reason for getting out of bed in the morning! It’s a morning treat, an afternoon pick me up, or even an evening drink to help stay awake. National Coffee Day pays heed to all of these and everything in between.

Worth Pondering…

Coffee, the favorite drink of the civilized world.

—Thomas Jefferson