The wonderful world of coffee! Everything you need.

Welcome to a special edition of the Cultural Reads newsletter!

Today, I’ll share the world of coffee, a global market that makes over 127 billion dollars annually.

I used to be more of a tea drinker and disliked the strong black filter coffee, which seemed to be designed with the sole purpose of making you run to the bathroom as quickly as possible.

That completely changed when I discovered filter coffees that taste like fine wine, with every sip taking you on a unique flavor journey.

I want to share this newfound love and history by creating a Coffee 101 Course.

📜 A Short Coffee History

Ethiopia: Coffee beans were first discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th century by a shepherd whose sheep ate the coffee fruit and stayed up all night.

Yemen: In 1450, Sufi monks in Yemen brewed the first coffee to stay up all night for religious ceremonies.

Italy: Coffee came to Europe in 1615, exported from Mocha (Yemen) to Venice, and used for medicinal purposes.

Netherlands: At the time, the Dutch were in charge of a big part of global trade and didn’t like the Italian coffee monopoly. That’s why Pieter van den Broecke went to Mocha for some seeds and installed them at the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam.

Indonesia: Because the Dutch climate wasn’t suitable for large-scale plant cultivation, it wasn’t until 1658 that the Dutch brought coffee to the territories they colonized, Sri Lanka and Java. Due to the climate, Java soon became the primary supplier of coffee to Europe.

France: The French also cultivated coffee in the areas they occupied, such as Martinique and French Guiana. In 1727, there was a border dispute between Dutch and French Guiana, and the countries asked the impartial Brazilians to intercede (Brazil was still under Portuguese control).

Brazil: Brazil send Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta. However, settling the dispute wasn’t his only goal. Francisco had a reputation for being a Casanova and seduced the French governor’s wife, Marie-Claude de Vicq de Pontgibaud.

Later, to thank him for brokering an agreement on the border, she gave him a bouquet of flowers and enough hidden coffee cherries to start a farm he planted in the Pará region of Brazil. These beans became the foundation of the Brazilian coffee industry, which by 1840 accounted for 40% of the world’s production.

North America: The Dutch introduced coffee to North America in the 1600s. It shared its position with tea, but as tensions grew between the colonists and the British Crown, the taxes on tea grew, and tea became a drink representing British colonialization.

After an incident where colonists dumped four shiploads of tea into the sea, coffee became the new drink. It later grew in popularity during World War I & II due to its importance for soldiers and the lack of stability in Europe providing opportunities for the Americas.

Companies such as Hills Bros also played a massive role in marketing coffee to the American consumer. By the 21st century, Americans consumed 25 percent of the world’s coffee.

Worldwide: By 2014, coffee was one of the most valuable agricultural products in the world, with cherries grown in Colombia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Uganda, Guatemala, Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, and Ethiopia. I’ll share more about that later in this newsletter.

🌱 Types of Coffee

The two most popular coffee beans are Robusta & arabica.

Arabica coffee is known for its complex, nuanced flavors, often with fruity and floral notes, while Robusta has a more pungent, bitter taste with higher caffeine content.

Arabica thrives at higher altitudes, while Robusta is hardier and grows at lower elevations, making them suitable for different climates and tastes.

Vietnam has a better climate for Robusta, which may be one reason why Starbucks’ weaker Arabica coffee isn’t that popular.

Although Arabica and Robusta are the most popular, to become a connoisseur, you must realize that many other types exist, like LibericaExcelsaMaragogipeGeisha, and Bourbon.

🌍 Coffee Production & Consumption (Infographics)

Although Yemen discovered coffee, the country now plays a minimal role in international exports. 

The graph above shows that the biggest coffee producers are #1 Brazil, #2 Vietnam, #3 Colombia, #4 Indonesia, and #5 Ethiopia. 

The biggest coffee importers are #1 USA, #2 Germany, #France, #4 Italy, and #5 Belgium. 

These fun infographics show that the Finnish are the most significant coffee drinkers, with an average of 12kg of coffee consumption annually.

📗 The Monk of Mokha (Book)

The Monk of Mokha is one of my favorite books and the first on my list of the best books to read in 2024.

It tells the story of a Yemeni American who decides to start a coffee company to put Yemen back on the map and gets war trapped in Sana’a by civil war.

Aside from the crazy stories, I loved learning more about the history of coffee, how the market works, and the process of becoming a certified coffee roaster

🍿 The Coffee Man (Movie)

If you want a more visual experience of a coffee professional, consider watching The Coffee Man.

The documentary follows the Bosnian Sasa on his journey to the 2015 World Barista Championships and his mission to create the perfect cup of coffee.

It’s wonderful to see someone’s passion and gives a unique insight into the world of coffee.

☕ Ways To Prepare Coffee

There are many different ways to prepare coffee, from Vietnamese Phin drip coffee to strong Turkish coffee with drab.

This article explains 19 ways of brewing coffee worldwide and the pros & cons. If you want to keep things simple, check out these six ways. It includes the costs and brewing times.

🎧 The World's Favorite Stimulant (Podcast)

Mark Plotkin is a famous Ethonobotanist (plant researcher) at Harvard. He is the mentee of Richard Evans Schultes, known as the father of ethnobotany and the first Westerner to discover Ayahuasca.

Mark also wrote one of my favorite books of all time, Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, which features his stories from working with indigenous tribes in South America.

In this podcast episode on the Tim Ferris Show, he explains everything you need to know about coffee, from history to chemistry. 

🔎 Follow These Two Coffee Experts

Are you ready to get started? Start with these two coffee experts. 

1. James Hoffman, with his books World Atlas Coffee and How to Make the Best Coffee at Home.

2. Sprometheus on YouTube is for espresso lovers and casual coffee drinkers who want to make better coffee.

🎁 Buy Me a Coffee

If you like this special edition and want to support it, you can by buying me a coffee.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have more tips!

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