Coffee history and stories
There is no official evidence about the true origin of coffee. However, many stories have been told about it, and one of the most widely spread ones claims that the plant was discovered by a shepherd name Kaldi who lived in old Abyssinia, currently Ethiopia, about a thousand years ago.
The word coffee comes from the Arab word qahwa, which means wide. This is why coffee was known as “Arab wine” when it reached Europe in the 14th century.
In Brazil, coffee reached the city of Belém in 1722. Through explorers´ hands, coffee reached Suriname, Santo Domingo, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Guyanas. At that time, the product was already valuable commercially.
With the right geographic and climate conditions, coffee set a new economic cycle in Brazil in no time. Haiti, the leading coffee producer at the time, was facing a crisis related to its struggle for independence from France, and that was when Brazil started to lead coffee exports.
For over a century coffee was Brazil´s greatest treasure and its commercialization benefitted the entire country. Its culture took up valleys and mountains, bringing with it the development of towns and of important centers. Railroads were built so it could be transported, substituting animal-based transport and further encouraging the inter-regional commerce of other important goods. Coffee brought numbers of immigrants to Brazil, consolidated the middle class, diversified investments and even intensified cultural movements.
In 1870 a great hailstorm hit the crops in the southeast region of São Paulo in full; the damage was insurmountable. This crisis lasted for some time and in 1929 the crash of the New York stock market was yet another blow to the coffee economy´s stability. Even so, after a few years, coffee once again became an important factor in the Brazilian economy. Despite having lost consumers to other producing countries, Brazil is currently the greatest coffee producer in the world as it currently holds approximately 32% of the international market share.
Different coffee species yield beverages with different flavors and aromas. Generally speaking, coffee plants flower from May to July. Coffee harvesting periods are usually from May to October.
Coffee production worldwide has increased in the past 30 years; on average, 1 million 60-kg bags are produced yearly. In 1970, the total volume worldwide was 65-70 million bags. Since 1999, that number has surpassed 100 million bags, according to the ICO (International Coffee Organization).
ROASTING: DEFINING THE FLAVOR AND AROMA OF THE COFFEE
During the roasting process, the coffee beans undergo great physical transformations which define its aroma and flavor. Water evaporates and the coffee beans become yellowish and crunchy. They also become lighter and approximately 25% bigger.
Temperature and roasting time are decisive factors in the final product´s aroma and flavor. If the coffee is not roasted long enough, the taste is bland. If it is roasted too long, the taste becomes bitter and strong.
The reason for that is that the coffee beans´ surface oil needs time to evaporate. When the bean is roasted too long, this oil is carbonized.
After roasting, the beans are quickly cooled so that the roasting process comes to an end.
In the past, roasting was essentially a family operation, practically artisanal. Nowadays this is process is done exclusively by machines, which yields a final product of greater quality.