I confess. I am in a not-so-secret deeply committed relationship with Joe, a.k.a. coffee, java, go juice, liquid energy.
I came to this relationship later in life than most. I was 30 before I took the plunge. I admit it was a practical decision. With me having gone back to college while working a full time and a part time job, it was a calorie-free way to stay awake.
Today’s coffee is so very different than the sludge I put away in those days. My taste buds have matured and the addition of proper cream, sweetener and some froth make for a delightful way to start my day. It still serves the purpose of keeping me awake but the enjoyment is much more carnal now.
The jury is still out on whether or not coffee is good for you. It feels like every day, there’s yet another study with a different answer, and that is true for so many things. I imagine there is a scientist out there somewhere right now trying to prove that kale is bad for you. Are a lot of people going to be sad about that one?
But back to the good stuff. Coffee used to be one thing – coffee. Now it is a category with many sub-categories and classifications. Lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, and the list goes on. This led me to wonder how coffee has evolved through the years. Has there always been variations? Is there a need for a coffee taxonomy?
If we go back to the beginning in 1716, French naturalist Antoine de Jussieu, described a coffee plant from the botanical garden of Amsterdam as “Jasminum arabicanum, lauri folio, cujus femen apudnos coffee decir” (“Arab jasmine, with laurel type leaves”). Fast forward 300 years and that plant and its fruit has undergone some significant changes.
Coffee drinks as we know today are made by brewing hot water with ground coffee beans. The brewing is either done slowly by drip or filter, French press or cafetière, percolator, etc., or done very quickly under pressure by espresso machine, where the coffee is termed espresso. All coffee drinks are based on either coffee or espresso, in different strengths; some drinks have milk or cream added, some use steamed milk or foamed milk, some have flavorings or sweeteners, some have alcoholic liqueurs added, some are combinations of coffee with espresso or tea.
The 1980’s saw the rise in popularity of the Italian coffee culture in my world and with it brought the use of the Gaggia machines to make espresso, and espresso with milk creations such as cappuccino and latte.
Espresso is brewed by using an espresso machine to force a small amount of nearly boiling water and steam – about 86 to 95 °C (187 to 203 °F) – under pressure through finely ground and compacted coffee. Espresso is generally denser than coffee brewed by other methods, having a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids; it generally has a creamy foam on top termed “crema”. Espresso is also the base for a number of other coffee drinks, such as latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, and Americano.
Other types of coffee that are becoming more popular include Turkish coffee, which is made with beans that are ground to a fine powder and then immersed in water heated until it just boils. This maximizes the foam. Turkish coffees, especially in the Middle East, have four degrees of sweetness that are used to support the strength of the coffee.
Another type of coffee that is so far less known, but building a good following, is cold brew or iced coffee. Despite what many think, this is not just coffee gone cold and served with ice. This is where coffee grounds are steeped in water at cold or room temperature for an extended period, usually 12 hours or more. The grounds are filtered out of the water after they have been steeped using a paper coffee filter, a fine metal sieve, or a French press. The result is a coffee concentrate that is often diluted with water or milk, and is served hot, over ice, or blended with ice and other ingredients such as chocolate. Cold-brewed coffee naturally seems sweeter due to its lower acidity.
This is not an exhaustive classification of coffee and the variety of beverages based on it. However, it easily demonstrates the reasons why so many are in love with this beverage. Coffee has been around a long time. Classical and modern writers were surely inspired by its rich and bold flavors.
The well-known philosopher and writer, Henry David Thoreau said, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” It seems obvious (at least to me) that Thoreau was likely talking about coffee when he discussed loving in excess. Those who drink cup after cup of coffee are all too familiar with the exhilaration they get from their morning elixir.
Melody K. Smith, Blog Wrangler