Coffee Talk from Food Fare
COFFEE TALK by Deborah O'Toole for Ambermont Magazine

Reprinted with permission exclusively for Food Fare

Coffee TalkCoffee is "lifeblood" to many people, myself included. I cannot imagine starting a day without several cups. It's not just the fact that it gets me going, but I actually love the taste of it. I have also become addicted to coffee-flavored yogurt, but this is another story. I've told friends and family that if I'm ever rushed to the hospital for any reason, just have the nurses put coffee in my IV and I'll come out just fine. Make that coffee with Coffee Mate - no sugar - and miraculous events can occur.


Coffee spots and designer coffees are the latest trend these days, and I have to admit I've tried a few of the various flavors. My favorite alternative to regular coffee has become a Java Freeze, which I buy at a local convenience store. The concoction is similar to a slurpee made with coffee and flavored with mocha. It is a bit of heaven. Then there are the cappuccinos, espressos, lattes and Starbucks Frappuccino - the list goes on. While I like toying with new flavors and types, my preference remains a plain, hot cup of coffee with powdered Coffee Mate. Nothing beats it, and nothing else satisfies like it.


This article is my offering about coffee - with little bits of history and timeline trivia, the coffee bean, the roasting process, types of coffee, tips on making coffee, a few coffee recipes and some exceptional coffee links.


Coffee History:

According to one historical account, the effect of coffee beans on behavior was noticed by a sheep herder named Kaldi from Yemeni. As Kaldi tended his herd, he saw the sheep become hyperactive after eating the red "cherries" from a particular plant. He tried a few of the "cherries" himself, and was soon as alert as his herd. The legend also relates that a monk also happened by and chastised Kaldi for "partaking of the devil's fruit."


While I find the account quaint, I'm not convinced of its truth. However, in other historical text, it is said coffee was consumed as far back as 800 BC in Arabia, when people were drinking a mysterious black and bitter beverage with "powers of stimulation." The fact remains that the coffee plant was initiated in Africa within the Ethiopian region of Kaffa. The Galla tribe from Ethiopia at first did not use coffee as a drink - they would wrap the bean in animal fat as their early source of nutrition while on raiding parties. The Turkish people were the first country to adopt coffee as a drink, and they often added spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and anise in the liquid.


From there coffee spread to Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it developed quickly and became part of daily life. In the late 16th-century, the first traders were selling coffee in Europe, which soon brought the beverage into Western culture. The majority of coffee exported to Europe came from Alexandria and Smyrna. Because of the popularity of the drink, other countries soon tried cultivating their own coffee: the Dutch in their Batavia and Java colonies, the French in Martinique, and later in Britain, Spain and Portugal. In the 18th-century, Brazil started to grow their own coffee crops. Within twenty years, the development of the coffee bean began in America.


The coffee percolator originated in England, while the term "drip pot" has been used in America since the late 19th-century. In 1878, James Sanborn and Caleb Chase produced the first commercially available ground coffee in sealed cans (known as Chase & Sanborn). Nine years later, grocer Joel Cheek names his popular blend "Maxwell House" after the hotel in Nashville, Tennessee where it was served. Hills Brothers launched in 1900, followed by Sanka in 1903. The first "instant" coffee was invented by a Japanese-American chemist named Satori Kato in 1901.


Coffee Trivia:

*Trivia stats courtesy Mr. Cappuccino


The Coffee Bean:

Coffee BeansThe coffee plant has been classified as belonging to the Rubiacee family, which also includes gardenia. The naturalist Linnaeus gave it the name "Coffea." Nowadays, only ten species of the plant are cultivated in different parts of the world. The plants with the best results are grown in altitudes of three thousand feet. The higher elevation produces more elegant, complex flavors in coffee "cherries" which contain the beans. Depending on the growth stage, leaves of the plant are typically deep green, light green or bronze yellow. The clustered flowers are white and have a sweet scent similar to Jasmine. The flowers soon give way to a dark red berry, resembling a big cherry in size and color.


The berry is coated with a thin film (esocarpo) containing a sugary mucilaginous flesh (mesocarp). Inside the pulp are seeds in the shape of two beans, which are in turn coated with a golden yellow resistant parchment. When peeled, the real bean appears, coated in turn with another thin silvery film. The bean itself is blue-green, almost bronze, in color. For each bean species there are several varieties, each one distinguished by its own size and color. However, the principal coffee species grown today are Arabica and Robusta.


Arabica beansArabica represents three-quarters of the world's coffee production. It originates from Arabia. Some of the better-known sub-varieties include Bourbon, Columnaris, Maragogipe, Moka and San Ramon. The Arabica coffee produced in Brazil uses the collective name of "Brazilian Coffees" also called "milds" from Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala, Salvador, Haiti and Santo Domingo. Arabica is also grown in Africa, which produces a full-bodied coffee sharp in taste with lower caffeine content. Arabica beans are elongated with green-blue shades.


Robusta beans were discovered in the Congo in 1898. The species is hardy and more resistant to disease than the Arabica bean. Robusta is especially grown in Africa, Indonesia and Asia, where the climate is unsuitable for Arabica. Robusta represents about one-fourth of total world coffee production, and has a higher content of caffeine (twice as much as Arabica), often used in specialty blends. Overuse and improper processing can result in bitter-tasting coffee with a heightened "wood" flavor. The Robusta beans are smaller, rounded and yellow-brown in color.


The Roasting Process:

Harvesting coffee beans is undertaken during different months of the year, depending on where the plants are grown, but follows certain stages as the coffee berry matures. Ripe "cherries" can be taken by hand, picked with small rakes or brought down with long poles. Subject to the terrain of the crop, harvesting can also be accomplished with the use of automated machines. A typical, healthy plant can produce 400 grams and two kilos (Arabica) or 600 grams and two kilos each (Robusta).


DRY PROCESS: The dry method produces "natural" coffees and is used mainly in Brazil and Western Africa. The berries are exposed to the sun on land expressly used for the purpose. They are continually stirred to expose all sides to the rays of the sun for fifteen to twenty days. The coffee can also be put into drying rooms, where it is dried by the heat of a burner between 45 and 60 degrees.


WET PROCESS: The wet method is more expensive and difficult. The berries are cleaned, macerated and the pulps removed. Afterward, the cherries are fermented, desiccated and peeled. The final step is designed to remove any impure residue and to give a glossy sheen to the berries. From the "wet" process, washed and mild coffees are obtained, typically utilized in Central America, Mexico, Columbia, Kenya and Tanzania.


Following specific roasting methods, the beans are sacked (about 132 pounds per bag) and stored in sheltered rooms. From there, they are packaged and shipped to consuming countries.


Types of Coffee:

Most commercial coffee companies use Arabica and Robusta in their blends. There are several types of the brew available:

There are also variations of coffee that are popular in coffee bars and the "Java" roadside stands, as well as some definitions of coffee-related terms. I have provided a few of them below:

Brewing Coffee:

There are several ways to brew coffee. Each method will change the flavor of the coffee the brewer happens to be using. Filters can also determine the quality and taste of coffee, which are utilized to separate used grounds from the freshly made brew. There are three types of filters: paper (which makes the grounds easy to dispose of), cloth and metal. Individual preference will determine the filter type used for coffee brewed.


Below is a list of the brewing methods, with a brief explanation of each. I prefer the drip system myself:

For years, my preference has remained a hot cup of plain coffee, deluged with copious amounts of liquid Coffee Mate. I use a Black & Decker drip system, with Folger's Breakfast Blend. What could be simpler? Yet everyone has their own preference and it all boils down to one thing: there is nothing quite like the taste or feeling of a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning (or any time of day, for that matter) - however you like it.


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Article Contents:

The Coffee Bean
Roasting Process
Types of Coffee
Brewing Coffee

Coffee Recipes

"Coffee Talk" E-Book

About the Author

Site Menu

Page Design

Coffee Links:

There are some very useful sites about coffee online. A few of the better ones are listed below:


Beans & Brews

Coffee Mate

Fresh Cup Magazine

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Mr. Cappuccino

Shock Coffee


Coffee Recipes:

There are certain foods and snacks that go perfect with a good cup of coffee. For example, Arabica goes well with simple cakes, cookies or fruit-filled pies. Coffees from Indonesia are full-bodies and somewhat smoky in flavor, complimented by chocolate truffle and trifle. Espresso is a chocolate-lovers heaven when paired with mousses, cakes and tortes. Personally, I like freshly baked banana or pumpkin bread with a cup of coffee. There is nothing quite like that taste.


Hundreds of recipes are available for making variations of coffee, along with food dishes made with coffee as an ingredient.


Select from our recipes:


Banana Nutella Muffins

Cafe au Lait

Cafe de Olla



Coffee Freeze

Coffee Punch

Coffee-Roasted Beef Chuck

Coffee Soup

Creamy Almond Coffee

Creamy Coffee Martini



Granizado de Cafe

Hot Chocolate

Irish Coffee

Mousse au Chocolat

Panna Cotta


Red Velvet Cake


Tortilla-Coffee Casserole


Food Fare: Coffee Recipes


"Coffee Talk" E-Book:

Coffee Talk is also available in e-book format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo Books. The e-book edition contains a brief history of coffee, including the roasting process, types of coffee, brewing methods, recipes using coffee and resources for further study. "Coffee Talk" is also offered in Adobe Digital format.


Food Fare Culinary Collection: Coffee Talk


Click here for more >


About the Author:

"Coffee Talk" by Deborah O'Toole was written for entertainment purposes only and expresses the sole opinions and observations of the author. This article is not meant to be a historical essay about coffee, but rather a short piece about the generalities of popular myths.


(c) Deborah O'Toole



Ambermont Magazine


Reprinted exclusively for:

Food Fare


Trivia: This article was originally titled "Coffee Grounds." It first appeared on the Food Fare website in 2004.


To send a question or comment about "Coffee Talk," click here.


Deborah O'Toole is author of the fiction novels Celtic Remnants, Glinhaven, In the Shadow of the King, Mind Sweeper and The Crypt Artist. Under the pseudonym Deidre Dalton, she is also author of the eight-part Collective Obsessions Saga and The Bloodline Trilogy.

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