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Guide to Coffee

History

Coffee  can be traced back at least to the early 9th century.  As the story goes, Ethiopian shepherds saw that their goats appeared to dance due to their increased energy levels after consuming wild coffee cherries.  Coffee soon spread to the nearby regions of Egypt and Yemen, but it was the Arabians that first roasted and brewed beans to create a drink similar to the one we know today.  The rest of the Muslim world followed suit, and around the 16th century, coffee had spread to Italy.  Pope Clement VIII called it a "Christian beverage" in 1600, which set the stage for the eventual popularity of coffee houses around Western Europe.  Coffee became wildly popular in North America following the British taxation on tea, and today it is one of the world's largest legally traded commodities.

Tasting Tips

  • Aroma is the first thing you notice about the coffee you are about to taste.  Do you detect smokiness or earthiness?  Are there floral or citrus notes?  Is it nutty or spicy?
  • Acidity is the palate-cleansing property in a cup of coffee, a burst of flavour associated with your first taste.
  • Body relates to the mouth feel of the beverage: the way the coffee feels on your tongue.  
  • Flavour is the combination of aroma, acidity and body that creates the overall impression.

Growing Regions

Central and South America

Coffees from Central and South America are often very crisp and bold.  They are known for their tangy and bright flavours and a relatively high acidity, but South American coffees are heavier-bodied than their Central American counterparts.  Want a treat?  Try a Costa Rican  blend or Jamaican Blue Mountain .  If you'd like to sample some South American, you can't go wrong with Colombian .

Africa and Arabia

African coffees are known for citrus notes and exotic flavours whereas Arabian blends tend to have berrylike notes and wine-like qualities.  Yirgacheffe , with its floral bouquet and rich body, is considered to be the finest Ethiopian coffee, but Sidamo  is also extremely tasty.

Indonesia 

Indonesian blends are prized for their rich taste and smooth finish.  Coffees have a very heavy body, full flavours and low acidity.  Try Sumatra Mandheling  for a bold taste you won't soon forget, or if you're more of the adventurous type, Kopi Luwak  might be more your speed.  This rare blend is the by-product of the Luwak, an Indonesian civet cat that consumes the coffee cherry.  The Luwak passes the beans, and they are then made into a blend reputed to be low in acidity and exceptionally smooth.

Related Guides

Coffee Makers

Espresso Machines

Coffee Grinders