If there’s anything that a stay-at-home order and working from home has taught me, it’s that my days are inextricably linked with that of the greatest caffeinated beverage on Earth: coffee.
(Sorry, tea drinkers).
“I’m not myself until I’ve had my morning cup,” is a common phrase for a reason. Humanity loves coffee. We drink it non-stop. Sure, people in some places, like New York City, drink more than others – about seven times more than that of any other city in the world, according to an infographic from Massive Health. And if you’ve ever been to NYC, then you know it’s easier to find a coffee shop than a subway stop.
All jokes aside, coffee has been a cornerstone of humanity’s long relationship with culinary arts. Many fans of the energizing brew have heard the tale of the Ethiopian goat herder who discovered the plant after noticing his goats acting strange when they ate the fruit from a particular bush. Whether there’s any historical validity there, I don’t know. The history of coffee’s consumption – in plant and liquid form – is hotly debated (no pun intended, iced-latte advocates).
You’ll find more contesting results than you’ll know what to do with if you search online. But we do know the earliest-documented coffee house was in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) in 1544, therefore suggesting it was consumed long before the 16th century.
Yet, the fact a beverage could even inspire stories like the goat herder speaks to its influence.
And it envelops so much more than our history. Coffee is a lynchpin of the relationship between culture and food. We make clothing, towels, bumper stickers, jokes and even innuendos about it – I like my coffee like I like my commentaries: rich but smooth, down-to-earth but flavorful, and warm but thought-provoking enough to keep me up all night.
Talk to any Turkish coffee enthusiast and they’ll tell you it is more than just a robust picker-upper. The Japanese may have had a tea ritual, but the Ottoman Empire had coffee houses. We know which has stood the test of time. In fact, the sultan eventually lifted the empire’s religious ban on the drink due to widespread popularity.
Coffee has been claimed to be the second-most traded commodity in the world, next to oil, but fact-checking has proven this statement inaccurate. However, in 2013, coffee was the world’s largest beverage commodity by trade volume, according to business-to-business journalism site Food Processing Technology.
Oh, and just in case anyone was wondering how seriously humanity takes its coffee, people dig through wild cat feces to harvest a partially digested strain called kopi luwak. And it’s one of the most highly valued beans in the world; one pound of the aromatic substance sells for about $140.
Obviously, humanity doesn’t settle for the “standard” cup o’ joe. There are countless variations (beans, roasts, accoutrements) of coffee available for consumption. So much so, in fact, that the number of menu choices can be paralyzing in that split-second after you hear, “What would you like to order?”
Personally, I’m a big espresso fan – have been since college, and I don’t think that will ever change. If coffee is a life-saver, then espresso is a high-octane nectar of the gods. Plus, with espresso, you can order an affogato on a date and hide your sweet tooth behind “sophistication” – not that I’ve ever done that.
I have a machine that uses the single-use, prefabricated cups, and I love it. Nothing is more convenient than being able to skip the rush at the drive-through in the morning and enjoy my French vanilla latte for a fraction of the cost.
There are tons of guides out there for decoding the jargon that has evolved from the coffee trade. Have a look online.
What are you waiting for? Go forth, and drink life (or coffee) to the lees!