Jake Uys, co-owner of YUM Eat Cafe, loves his coffees. He creates the tasteful coffee creations; preferable slow-brewed and sometimes with a time-consuming manual finishing touch. The beans are on his specification roasted at the Beanery in Hermanus and per coffee-order ground on the spot. Every speciality coffee needs its own ground, exact weight, water temperature, etc. Weekly Jake writes his coffee post for this blog. Starting with the history and ending with the perfect ‘Latte’. The first four postings are excerpts from Wikipedia.
Coffee is a brewed drink with a distinct aroma and flavor, prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds found inside “berries” of the Coffea plant. Coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, India and Africa. The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded arabica, and the less sophisticated but stronger and more hardy robusta. The Robusta has a more bitter taste. Once ripe, coffee beans are picked, processed, and dried. Green (unroasted) coffee beans are one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Once traded, the beans are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor, before being ground and brewed to create coffee.
The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in the Sufi Muslim monasteries around Mocha in Yemen. It was here in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed, in a similar way to how it is now prepared. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. Coffee seeds were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders took coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the seed. The first coffee smuggled out of the Middle East was by Sufi Baba Budan from Yemen to India in 1670. Before then, all exported coffee was boiled or otherwise sterilised. Portraits of Baba Budan depict him as having smuggled seven coffee seeds by strapping them to his chest. The first plants grown from these smuggled seeds were planted in Mysore. Coffee then spread to Italy, and to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas.
The Dutch East India Company was the first to import coffee on a large scale. The Dutch later grew the crop in Java and Ceylon. The first exports of Indonesian coffee from Java to the Netherlands occurred in 1711. Through the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee became popular in England as well. Oxford’s Queen’s Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. Coffee was introduced in France in 1657, and in Austria and Poland after the 1683 Battle of Vienna, when coffee was captured from supplies of the defeated Turks.
The Frenchman Gabriel de Clieu took a coffee plant to the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean, from which much of the world’s cultivated arabica coffee is descended. Coffee thrived in the climate and was conveyed across the Americas. The territory of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) saw coffee cultivated from 1734, and by 1788 it supplied half the world’s coffee. The conditions that the slaves worked in on coffee plantations were a factor in the soon to follow Haitian Revolution. The coffee industry never fully recovered there. It made a brief come-back in 1949 when Haiti was the world’s 3rd largest coffee exporter, but fell quickly into rapid decline.
Meanwhile, coffee had been introduced to Brazil in 1727, although its cultivation did not gather momentum until independence in 1822. Cultivation was taken up by many countries in Central America in the latter half of the 19th century. Coffee has become a vital cash crop for many developing countries. Over one hundred million people in developing countries have become dependent on coffee as their primary source of income. It has become the primary export and backbone for African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, as well as many Central American countries.