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Interesting Facts on Coffee & Coffeehouses

What is Coffee?

Coffee is a plant that has several uses. Parts of the plant can be used in a variety of ways. The fruit of the coffee plant, also known as coffee cherries or coffee beans, are the most commonly used part. Roasted beans are used to make coffee, a beverage that can be drunk either hot or cold. Coffee as a beverage gained popularity in America as the fight for independence progressed and tea became less popular. More about the history of coffee and coffeehouses can be found below. Please see History of Tea and Tea Trivia for more about tea. Coffee can also be used to flavor other foods including ice cream, cakes, sauces and meats. In addition, in some regions of the world raw coffee beans are soaked in water and then chewed like candy. In other areas women will bathe in coffee grounds fermented in pineapple. It is believed this will improve the skin's appearance and decrease wrinkles.

The most common use is as a beverage. Although there are hundreds of flavors and varieties of coffee available to the consumer there are two main species of the coffee plant cultivated for consumption; Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta. In all it is estimated that there are about ten species actively cultivated but the above two count for almost all of the coffee on the market today. About another 70 species can be found growing wildly in subtropical areas. Coffee is primarily grown in Central and South America, Africa, Hawaii and the Caribbean and Indonesia. The fruits of the coffee plant, coffee cherries, are harvested, hulled to reveal the coffee bean, roasted, then ground and brewed. The roasting process used varies depending on the type of coffee desired. Consumers may purchase their coffee either whole bean or already ground. To grind coffee a burr or blade coffee grinder is used. Ground coffee comes in a variety of grinds ranging from coarse to fine.

In 1901 Satori Kato of Chicago invented instant coffee. Though instant coffee may not be the coffee of choice for most, it is always good to have on hand.

Decaffeinated Coffee

Coffee is sometimes also decaffeinated which is a process that removes the caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaloid present in coffee and tea, and other products such as kola nuts and cacao which has stimulating and diuretic effects. It is this effect that has caused coffee to be at times be banned or outlawed. Because of these same effects coffee has also been part of religious ceremonies and used for medicinal purposes. There are three general methods of removing the caffeine. The first method is no longer used as many of the chemical solvents that could be used were found to be carcinogenic and or toxic. The two methods commonly used today are Supercritical fluid CO2 extraction and water extraction. In the water extraction process hot water is used to remove flavor and caffeine from coffee beans. The liquid is then filtered thru activated charcoal to remove the caffeine and the beans are then soaked in the remaining liquid to return the flavor. In supercritical fluid CO2 method, the carbon dioxide is used to absorb the caffeine from the green coffee bean. This caffeine by-product is often used for other purposes including soda production.

History of Coffee & How Brewing Has Changed

The process of brewing a cup of coffee has developed over time. In the beginning coffee was brewed by pouring boiling water over the ground coffee. Special pots were designed to help trap the coffee grounds and prevent them from being poured out into a cup. The percolator was invented in 1865 by James Mason who desired a better, more even brew with less grounds floating. With this invention brewing rapidly improved. Various drip pots and in time automatic coffeemakers evolved. Various coffee filters were invented and now you can find both disposable and reusable filters. It is widely believed that the coffee filter was invented by a housewife named Melitta Bentz who experimented with various papers to find one which best filtered the grinds out. The plunger pot, drip pot, automatic coffeemaker, coffee pod machine, espresso pot or machine and cappuccino maker are all readily available today. For more information on the types of coffee machines available see Selecting a Coffeepot

The drinking of coffee can be traced far back in time. There are several theories as to when it was first consumed and how it was discovered but it was mainly during the 16 and 17 centuries that it widely spread through Europe. In the mid 1600’s coffeehouses began to appear. These locations served as meeting places where politics and literary discussions were held and eventually friends met for more social reasons. As time passed they were used as a place to meet and discuss and conduct important business matters. Some coffeehouses were used for other social meetings and it was not considered an appropriate place for “decent women”.  In many areas it was not appropriate for women of good social standing to be in any coffeehouses. As the industrial revolution progressed women had more time on their hands and began to have more time to socialize. At first they would meet at homes have coffee, and gossip and share news. Over time they too progressed to meeting in a coffeehouse.

The Coffeehouse and the Importance of Coffee

In America, the importance of coffee and the coffeehouse grew after the Boston Tea Party. The coffeehouse became a meeting place for the planners of the revolution and fight for independence. The drinking of coffee was almost a rebellious act. Coffee became the beverage of choice in America and tea consumption declined.

Through the years coffee has since remained an integral part of daily life although the popularity of the coffeehouse in America has fluctuated. During the late 1950’s to 1970’s there was increased use by hippies and beatniks. During the late 1980's and 1990’s the yuppie generation discovered the coffeehouses their parents visited were ideal places to meet and unwind. Today the coffeehouse has wide and varied use by everyone for business, and social reasons or just a place to relax or revive oneself.

Coffee - flavored or pure, cappuccino or espresso, cold or hot, at home, at work or on the go. Though the setting may change coffee has remained a popular beverage and a part of our everyday lives.  The morning cup of coffee to start our day, the mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee breaks at work and home, the after dinner coffee, the important business meeting and the first date over a cup of coffee, all typical events in our daily lives.