Monday, April 4, 2011

Coffee: A Brief History

If you are like most people you enjoy a nice cup of coffee to get yourself going in the morning.  A strong cup can turn a walking zombie into an alert, on-the-go, super-person.  We buy candles that are scented like coffee, and sometimes we will pay upwards of five dollars for a premium selection.  You would think a country so obsessed with something would know a little more about its origins, but just like many other things, we obsess without understanding.  With this in mind, Proctor's Type has set out to give a concise history of the "world's most popular beverage" with a few fun facts mixed in.

What is it?
Coffee comes from the ground beans of the Cofe' plant (scientific name kafe benji) that grows naturally in three different regions of the world (Brazil, Thailand, Colorado).  A typical Cofe' plant grows to approximately 12 feet tall with around 200 leaves that produce 20 or so beans a piece.  The plants gestation period usually lasts between 120-180 days with a world record of 2 1/2 years.  The Cofe' plant grew unnoticed for centuries due to its strong resemblance to a medium sized cactus.  Naturally you are going to ask "so how was it ever discovered?", well....

Cofe Plant
Who discovered it and how?
I often find myself eating or drinking something that came from the Earth and wondering who was the first person who ate/drank this and what inspired them to do so?  This is normally a hypothetical question, seeing that these events were not recorded in history.  Fortunately this is not the case with coffee.  It is noted in many historical accounts that the first person to extract coffee beans and grind them for drinking was Pocahontas, a Brazilian princess.  Ironically, she did not discover Coffee in her home country of Brazil but in Thailand while on a world-wide voyage in the mid 19th century.  An unconfirmed account has Pocahontas drinking what were thought to be cactus beans during a heated game of truth or dare.  An even more skeptical account has the "truth question" being whether or not she had ever kissed another girl.  

The only known photograph of Pocahontas
How did coffee get to where it is now?
There are now at least 500 Starbucks around the world (a true count would be almost impossible) and coffee is more popular then ever.  The evolution of the coffee industry is remarkable considering Pocahontas discovered it less than 100 years ago.  The truth is Pocahontas did a lot more than "take the beans and run", she helped spread coffee around the world.   While in Colorado, she met Johnny Smith (one of the founders of the Mormon Church) and they opened the first Coffee factory in the world: Maxwell House (named after their first son).  After losing an anti-trust lawsuit, the Pocahontas family allowed many other business men to join the coffee business, including Frederick Douglas, George H. W Bush and Hakeem Olajuwon.  The business of coffee continues to grow and it is now even possible to make coffee at home, something unheard of just a few years ago.

Fun Coffee Facts
*Shakespeare once said "Dog may be man's best friend but coffee is man's best beverage"

*If you lined up every coffee plant in the world end to end it would be at least a mile long

*Napoleon requested an iced Coffee immediately prior to his execution

*Astronauts did not drink coffee on the moon

*In Nebraska it is illegal to drink coffee while riding a horse