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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 9, June 2003   
CoffeeCoffee Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 8, May 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 10, Summer 2003


Among the most known and consumed beverages of the world, coffee fascinates for its strong aromas and its taste


Historical Facts

 The etymological origin of coffee is uncertain. “Qahwah”, in the Arab language, meant a dark beverage having stimulant and exciting effects, sometimes also used as a medicine. It seems that with time “Qahwah” was transformed into the Turkish term “Quahvè” whose meaning is coffee. Others believe this word came from an Ethiopian region in which a plant similar to coffee wildly grows up. However the exact scientific term is “Coffea Arabica”. Even the origin of coffee itself is not certain. Just like other plants, its spreading was a consequence of wars and colonizations and, in particular, trading. Still today, some African people are used to dry the coffee grains which are subsequently toasted and transformed into “breads” to which salted butter is added, excellent to be consumed during the journeys. Even Arab warriors consumed it because caffeine gave them courage and aggressivity. It seems that coffee was known among monks in Yemen and goats, which used to eat certain grains from an evergreen plant, subsequently became nervous and sleepless. Monks thought of using the properties of these grains in order to prolong their period of praying. The beverage started spreading with the name of “Arab's wine”, among Egyptians first and then among Turks.


 In the half of 1700's the plantations were mainly located in the tropical area, therefore were French that, with their colonies, took the highest benefits from the trading of the precious fruits. From 1800's on were the English to get considerable commercial profits because of the trading of coffee. The profits of the French, English, Spanish and Portuguese colonies moved the cultivation area from tropical Asia to Latin America. In the half of 1600's coffee was introduced in Europe and in particular to Marseille, Amsterdam, Paris and London, where the first coffee shops were established. From 1720 to 1882 in Italy were established 6 coffee shops. In 1727 they started new plantations in Para, Brazil, and subsequently the cultivation of coffee spread all over the country, sometimes replacing the plantations of sugar canes. The production rapidly increased and at the beginning of 1900's, it could satisfy more than 50% of worldwide needs.

 Consumption of coffee rapidly increased and at the beginning of 1800's in the Martinica island were started new plantations which arrived to produce as much as 20 millions plants of coffee: in a short time the activity of coffee planter rapidly spread all over the islands of Antilles. From that moment on, slowly, the “oriental” production will face a progressive decay. Currently south America can satisfy almost 100% of worldwide production and Brasi is the first country which produces the highest quantity, whereas Columbia ranks second for quantity while being the first for quality. Another important country for the production of coffee is Ivory Coast, important producer of Robusta quality. As far as Arabic quality is concerned, among the largest producers are Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Vietnam, Yemen as well as others which complete the worldwide scene of coffee production in the world.

 It is said that after the defeat of Turks and after they were sent away from Vienna, many sacks containing dark grains were found, never seen before, and no one did not know how to use them. It is said that Mr. Kolschitzky, who lived for a long time in Turkey, took the sacks and established the first coffee shop. In the beginning that strange beverage, having a bitter taste, was not pretty successful, but as honey and milk were added, it became a striking success which is still continuing nowadays.


Consumption and Spreading

 In Italy coffee were imported by Venetians around 1570, however it was the Paduan Prospero Alpino the first one who introduced it from east. In the beginning only rich people could afford the luxury of coffee, the beverage with a very high price was sold in pharmacies only. After the first coffee shop was established, other followed and coffee became a very appreciated beverage; in 1763 Venice had more than 200 shops where coffee was served. Lovers, instead of giving roses to their fiancees, used to give trays of coffee and chocolate. Coffee was also used as a corroborating and medicinal beverage and it was even prescribed by some physicians.

 The beverage was popular among Arab, Yemenite, Syrian and Egyptian people since the fourteenth century, these people were used to drink coffee in order to prolong the night vigil. In the fifteenth century there were public shops were dense and bitter coffee was sold. However coffee did not have an easy life, it was often banned by religious authorities because it made people desert mosques, for this reason they started a propaganda against coffee in order not to have their authority compromised. However this activity was not detrimental to the spreading of coffee all over the country and the popularity was so high that is was called “wine of Islam”.

 In France coffee was introduced by some merchants from Marseille around 1644 as they came back from the east and it was in this city that the first coffee shops were established. The new beverage was successful since the beginning and the success was so high that French viticulturists were worried for their business, and therefore they started a denigratory propaganda against coffee, which did not have any negative effect, and people continued to drink coffee while allowing the spreading to the cities of Toulouse, Lyon and Paris where many coffee shops were established. The real success of the new product was after the beverage was introduced to the court of Louis XIV. The king was so fond of the beverage that he even personally prepared it, even when he had guests. In 1686, near the “commedie franacaise”, a new coffee shop was established which was used as a model in all the other European countries. However there was another shop which was more popular, cafè Procope, established near the “commedie francaise”, attended by famous philosophers and artists, and it became a symbol known all over Europe.

 In Germany coffee spread slowly because of the general preference of people for beer. Inexorably, coffee started to conquer higher positions in the market while inducing a slight decrease in the consumption of beer. It was an English businessman to start the first coffee shop in Germany, precisely in Hamburg, and other were started in Frankfurt, Leipzig and Berlin. The increasing consumption of coffee reached levels so high that beer producers started to worry, and this also caused some problems in the country's economy.

 In England was introduced by a merchant, coming back from a journey in the East, who brought back some coffee and started to drink it in company of some friends of him. Soon after others started to imitate him. New clubs were established where people usually gathered together in order to drink the beverage and to talk. Because of the evident success, some businessmen started to sell the beverage in shops. The fortune of coffee in England was also supported by its usage, offered as an alternative beverage, in order to contrast alcoholism. The custom of establishing exclusive clubs excluded some social classes and in particular most of women, and because they felt they were excluded from the consumption as well as being neglected by their husbands, they started a campaign against coffee. In the New World coffee was introduced by European settlers around 1670 and they started to spread the beverage in every city of America. However the real spreading of the beverage was only after the half of the 1700's.

 Sweden takes part to the history of the spreading of coffee because of a pretty funny event. In the 1700's there were two factions, one was supporting the consumption of tea and the other the consumption of coffee. The argument became so harsh that the King decided to make an experiment in order to show, in an indisputable way, what was the superior beverage. It is said that in the Royal jails there were two twins: the King decided that one would have had tea and the other would have had coffee. During the experiment the two subjects were observed while waiting to see who was the first one to die. The funny thing was that both the physicians in charge to conduct the experiment as well as the King died before the two prisoners. As a matter of fact, the twin forced to drink tea died first, because of his old age and not because of the beverage we was forced to drink, at age 83. The other died at the age of 100 and therefore decreeing the victory of coffee over tea.

 In Turkey, as coffee started spreading, the businessmen introduced rumors about Allah drinking tea and coffee before he started the creation of the world. During the reign of Soliman the great, in Constantinople were started coffee shops reserved to respectable people where they could drink the new beverage and they could spend some time talking. The famous shops spread everywhere.


Qualities of Coffee

 Among the known species, 60 belong to the variety “coffea”, of these only 25 are marketed, and only 4 are the most important ones: coffea Arabica, coffea Robusta, coffea Liberica e coffea Excelsa. Coffea Arabica, mainly cultivated in Arabia, has an intense and aromatic smell, and the most renowned variety certainly is “Moka”, other varieties include “Tipica”, “Bourbon” e “Maragogype”. Coffea Robusta, with its characteristic “umbrella” flowering, produces grains which are richer in caffeine and as they are toasted become very aromatic. Coffea Robusta discovered in Congo is very cultivated both for its abundant production and for its resistance to diseases as well as for its adaptability. This variety is spread in India, Western Africa and Indonesia. By the crossing from coffea Arabica and coffea Robusta has been created the “Arabusta” variety.

 Coffea Liberica, coming from Liberia and Ivory Coast, is a longeval plant, strong, very resistant to parasites, even though it needs an adequate climate and lots of water in order to grew up well. For this reason it is usually used to obtain, by means of crossing, other varieties. Despite of the fact its fruits are of inferior quality, they are however aromatic and pleasing. Coffea Excelsa is a species very resistant to drought and to diseases, it gives very low yields, and its grains produce a very aromatic and pleasing coffee similar to Arabica quality.

 The plant of coffee is spread in almost every country of the world therefore the period of harvesting is variable and it depends by the quality and the place where it is being cultivated. The ideal condition consists in harvesting the grains when they are at their right maturation in order to get the highest quality possible, however this scrupulous operation done by hand is very expensive and, for this reason, in some countries, the grains not perfectly ripe are harvested as well in order to decrease costs of workmanship while obtaining a product of lower quality.

 Consumption in Italy occupies a relevant position and the country imports more than 320.000 tons of green coffee, equally divided from Arabica and Robusta. Statistics show that the consumption of coffee in bars is of about 14 billions of cups. In France is preferred a more diluted coffee and the consumption is of about 180.000 tons. In Germany is preferred a coffee with a lighter toasting, whereas English generally use soluble coffee. Finnish consumes about 12 Kg (26 lbs.) of coffee per capita and are very exacting about quality. In Japan coffee, besides being very expensive, is highly esteemed by people and they even dedicated to it a holiday, October 1st.


Keeping and Brewing Coffee

 Coffee can be kept in a regular sack at room temperature, however it must be observed that within two weeks the aroma will be completely dispersed. In order to avoid this inconvenience, coffee can be kept in azote, a condition that can make it last for many years. Toasted grains or ground coffee must be kept in a vacuumed container in order to preserve its organoleptic characteristics. It should also be considered that during the process of toasting it is lost up to 22% of humidity, therefore coffee is very hygroscopic and attracts humidity and odors. Many people scrupulously keep coffee in hermetic containers without considering temperature which should not be below 10°C (50°F) in order not to freeze natural oils and fats, therefore compromising both the aromaticity and the brewing of a good coffee.

 The process of toasting is done by heating grains at a temperature of about 210°C (410°F) until the grain does not get a dark brown color. During this process the grain loses about 20% of its weight, mainly water. This operation is extremely important because the grain must be homogeneously toasted both to the inside and to the outside. During the process of toasting, internal oils, made of more 600 chemical substances, come out to the surface giving coffee its typical aroma.

 There are many ways for brewing coffee and every country has its customs and traditions. One of the most popular methods is the one which makes use of a “percolator”, boiling water is poured on a filter made of fabric or paper which contains ground coffee. Among the most popular methods there is also the famous “Italian Espresso” where water at a temperature of 90°C (194°F) and a pressure of 9 atmospheres is forced to pass through a filter filled with coffee. Famous is also the Turk method where the coffee finely is grounded and put, together with sugar, in a pot and then boiling water is added. In the brewing by using the “Moka”, the water contained in a boiler, because of the effect of boiling, is pushed through an upper filter in order to be transfered in the upper part of the coffee pot. In order to brew a good coffee it should be remembered that the coffee powder must not be pressed in the filter and it must not have any clot, fire must be medium and the coffee pot must be clean from any coffee stains or residuals and without making use of any soap.

 According to a nutritional point of view, coffee is not an indispensable food for the body, however certain substances it contains are beneficial to the organism. Caffeine is an alkaloid having stimulating effects on the nervous central system and when assumed in the right quantity provokes the releasing of adrenaline. When assumed in right quantities it is beneficial to humans, to their intellective and sexual needs, and it also has some defensive actions for the body. Coffee is a stimulant beverage having effects on the nervous central system and provoking a sense of general wellness, promotes a higher condition of awake and working activity, not only physical, but also and in particular for the kind of works requiring promptness. However it should be remembered that abuse is always harmful to the body.


 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 9, June 2003   
CoffeeCoffee Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 8, May 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 10, Summer 2003

Wine Parade


The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.

Rank Wine, Producer
1 Capo di Stato 1998, Conte Loredan Gasparin
2 Teroldego Rotaliano Granato 1998, Foradori
3 Masseto 1998, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia
4 Semillon Sauvignon 2001, Cape Mentelle
5 Château Laroque Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classè 1998
6 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2000
7 Shiraz 2000, Plantaganet
8 Muffato della Sala 1999, Castello della Sala
9 Chardonnay 2000, Planeta
10 Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Cakebread
11 Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto Superiore “Prova d'Autore” 2001, Bonfiglio
12 Fumé Blanc Napa Valley 2001, Grgich Hills
13 Trentino Bianco Villa Margon 2000, Fratelli Lunelli
14 Meursault 2000, Bouchard Aîné & Fils
15 Hill of Gold Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, Rosemount

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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 9, June 2003   
CoffeeCoffee Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 8, May 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 10, Summer 2003



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