Coffee Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, and Always
By Chris Nichols
Owner and Coffee Aficionado at Muddy Waters Roasting Co.
Coffee: It’s the one thing most of us have in common. In fact, 83 percent of American adults drink an average of 2.1 cups a day, spending an average of $3.28 a cup. Worldwide there are two billion coffee aficionados who drink 2.25 billion cups a day. Today, coffee is a $30 billion industry in the U.S., and 125 million make a living in it globally.
Coffee is the second-most-traded commodity in the world behind oil. We run our cars on gasoline and our bodies on coffee, but it’s an acquired taste. Years ago, coffee was pretty harsh, but modern growing and roasting methods have improved things dramatically. In fact, coffee has become a lot like wine in its nuance and complexity of flavors. The two also share universal appeal. In the morning, folks reach for micro-roasted coffee to start the day—and at night, they gather for a glass of wine to forget about it.
Before coffee’s rise in popularity, Europeans drank a morning beer or glass of wine. When coffee came onto the scene, those who replaced their alcoholic beverage for this caffeinated wonder, found that they started their day alert and energized. The quality of their work increased exponentially. In fact, coffee is one of the reasons for the industrial revolution!
As near as anyone can tell, coffee originated in Ethiopia, but the development of it as a drink happened in Arabia. It’s thought slave trading brought it to Yemen around 1000 BC, ironically, one of the ways it got to America. We got the word coffee from the Dutch koffie. The Dutch got it from the Turkish kahve and they, in turn, got it from the Arabic qahwa, which was short for qahve al-bun which means “wine of the bean.” Just follow the language trail and you can track the development of what we drink today.
Would you recognize your morning cup of coffee?
We all know what a coffee bean looks like, but very few Americans would recognize a coffee tree. Although coffee trees are usually trimmed short for production purposes, they can grow to 40 feet. Except for Hawaii, we don’t have any in the United States.
We also may not recognize what’s called the coffee cherry. Coffee is a red fruit, and the actual bean itself grows in the center. And while there are 100 species of coffee plants, we only drink two of them; Arabica and Robusta. Approximately 70 percent of world production comes from Arabica beans. These trees produce the world’s best coffees and generally are grown between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. But the most important factor is a mild temperature, ideally between 60 and 75 degrees with 60 inches of rain a year. The Robusta variety only accounts for 30 percent of the global market. Why? Simply stated, it’s not as good. These trees are cheaper and easier to cultivate. They can withstand hotter climates, between 75 and 85 degrees, allowing them to grow at lower elevations. Although Robusta has a much higher caffeine content than Arabica, it is used in inferior blends, instant coffee and Red Bull types of drinks.
Good for more than waking up
It used to be coffee was seen as bad for you, but that opinion has come full circle. Coffee, as it turns out, is full of disease-fighting antioxidants that are actually good for you. It also lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Diabetes. Of course, so do diet and exercise, but coffee drinking is easier and more pleasant.
Coffee can get expensive. A pound of Hawaiian Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain runs about $20 a pound. The most expensive conventionally grown crop is Esmeralda Geisha from Panama that sells for $125 a pound. In fact, a cup in Japan costs $18. If you need to have the most expensive it’s Kopi Luwak “weasel” coffee. The Asian Palm Civet, a small cat-like mammal, dines on coffee beans and partially digests them before elimination. From there, the civet’s processed beans are cleaned up and sold for $600 a pound. I love coffee, but that might be too much.
Chris Nichols Bio:
Chris Nichols is the owner and master coffee roaster at The Muddy Waters Coffee Company. Chris began as a barista in the original Muddy Waters Café. His love for mud became his passion, and Chris bought into the wholesale coffee roasting business, and Muddy Waters Coffee Company was founded in 2006 in Eureka, California.
Chris has expanded his boutique coffee roasting business into the local Northern California market and nationally. Muddy Water’s mission is to produce the highest quality, small batch, organic, fair trade grown, and sustainable coffee for coffee lovers all over the world.