In the past year, I’ve personally enjoyed coffee grown in at least 17 countries around the world. Those countries include Brazil, Burundi, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Rwanda, Tanzania and East Timor… and all have been sipped in the comfort of our own home.
Before we began this adventure of world travels one cup of coffee at a time, minor details about coffee such as the country of origin, its climate and altitude it was grown wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. But, that’s all different now. I’ve been learning more than I’ve ever known about coffee these days.
Without delving into any research, I’ve found that my personal favorites come from Ethiopia, followed closely by Indonesia, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and India. But I really enjoy all of them, so putting a few at the tip-top of my favorites list must really mean something, right?
Ethiopia is the primary center of origin of the Arabica coffee plant, and one of the largest countries in Africa. It’s bordered by Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and Eritrea. Out of three different Ethiopian coffees I’ve had, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. I thoroughly enjoy Kenya’s coffee, too.
All of the coffee grown world-wide can trace its history back to the ancient coffee forests that are found on the Ethiopian Plateau, where the coffee is grown at high altitudes in optimal conditions. I guess that’s one reason I find the Ethiopian coffees so enjoyable.
The coffee from Indonesia that I’m currently savoring is grown at a plantation on a small island called Java, the first Indonesian island to produce coffee. This coffee is hand-picked (not plucked by a machine, where the good and not-so-good coffee cherries are all lumped together) and fully washed before it reaches the sun-drying patios. They say it’s got smooth chocolate notes, spice, earthy tones and sweet, clean finish. I say it tastes like amazing coffee and enjoy every sip.
There’s no definitive moment of history that clearly states when coffee was discovered, but there are plenty of legends that try to solve the mystery.
One legend says that back in the 9th century, a goat herder named Kaldi, on the Ethiopian Plateau in a place called Kaffa, discovered the magical beans. He noticed that after his goats ate berries from certain trees, they were so energy-filled that they’d stay awake all night. I can’t imagine a bunch of goats on caffeine, but I think it might be pretty entertaining if you weren’t in charge of keeping them under control.
Kaldi shared this information with the abbot of the local monastery, who then was brave enough to make a drink with the berries… I supposed he had faith that the goats weren’t poisoned and so he wouldn’t be, either. The drink kept him awake and alert through his long hours of evening prayer, and after word spread, popularity of this little bean began to grow.
By the 1400s, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia, and by the 1500s, it was making its way into Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Public coffee houses popped up in cities, and bubbled with all kinds of social activities. Fueled by coffee, coffee house patrons were able to engage in conversation, listen to music, watch performers, play chess and keep up on current events. Five centuries later, not much has changed, has it?
When coffee made its way to Europe and gained popularity in the 1600s, it replaced beer and wine as the breakfast drink of choice. This was, of course, after Pope Clement VIII tasted it to make sure that it wasn’t the “bitter invention of Satan” that clergy in Venice dubbed it in 1615.
People soon found that drinking coffee in the morning instead of beer and wine improved their energy, productivity and their work was much better than it was when they were starting the day with alcohol.
By the mid-1600s, coffee made its way to what we now know as New York, even though tea was the preferred beverage until 1773’s Boston Tea Party, when the colonists revolted against King George III’s heavy taxation of tea. Coffee became the drink of choice, as it was what was available at the end of the 18th century.
There’s so much more to say about coffee’s deep, rich history – and we haven’t even gotten to the 1800s yet – but there’s only so much space here today.
Until next time, I leave you with a favorite recipe for coffee ice cream… no churning or brewing required. Caffeinated, cold and creamy… perfect for a summer treat.
No Churn Coffee Ice Cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons of instant coffee, mixed with just enough water to dissolve
Put all of the ingredients in your blender. Blend until it’s well-combined and thickens a bit. Pour the ice cream into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for 5 hours, or until frozen solid.
Allow ice cream to thaw for 2 to 5 minutes before scooping and serving.