It provides work for 20 million people and is one of the most thoroughly researched food products. It features in up to 2,000 scientific studies every year, most of which focus on its effects on health.
All thanks to the goats
Legend has it that, in the 9th century, a goatherd in the Ethiopian kingdom of Kaffa noticed that his animals were particularly frisky after they had been eating red coffee berries. The first people to make use of this property were probably nomads in Ethiopia. They crushed red coffee berries, blended them with fat and ate hem as a mild stimulant. Around the year 1000, people started using the pulp of the beans to brew “qahwa”, a mixture of water and the fermented juice of coffee berries. It was around this time that slave traders are thought to have introduced coffee to Yemen, where the first coffee plants were cultivated in the 15th century.
Two varieties provide coffee for the world
The plant genus “Coffea” comprises some 70 species which are native throughout the tropics. Despite this variety, it is just two species which account for practically the entire production of coffee in the world: Coffea arabica, grown in the mountains, and Coffea canephora, also known as robusta coffee. Approximately 65 percent of the coffee harvested in the world is robusta.
Modern newspapers unthinkable without coffee
The first coffee houses in London were referred to as Penny Universities because customers were charged a penny for a cup of coffee and got intellectual conversation into the bargain. The city’s first Penny University opened in 1652, and 50 years later the number had grown to over 2,000. In the 18th century they were the birthplace of the first newspaper editorial offices and brought forth publications such as the Tatler and the Spectator. These appeared several times a week and contained articles on politics, the economy, culture and society.
Less is more
Ludwig Roselius, a merchant from Bremen, developed the first commercial process for decaffeinating coffee in 1905. His motive was entirely personal. Roselius believed that his father, who had been a heavy coffee drinker, had died as a result of caffeine poisoning. Roselius’s invention soon became popular not only in Germany but in France and the United States as well.
Nothing but prejudices
It used to be said that coffee is bad for your health. Over the years, opinion has changed, and scientific studies have shown that moderate consumption of coffee can, among other things, help to
• reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,
• possibly protect elderly women against depression,
• reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,
• and reduce the likelihood of women suffering a stroke.