5 things you didn't know about coffee

There are lots of things that you probably didn’t know about coffee but here we’ve chosen our top 5. Enjoy.

1. Italy didn’t invent coffee

Historic distribution of coffee arabica

Source: Specialty Coffee Association of America

In fact, it was a worldwide collaboration that brought this beverage to us. We can thank Ethiopia for the discovery of the coffee plant in the 7th century, and Yemen for commercially cultivating the coffee. Then we can thank the Dutch for disrupting the 700 year long Arabian coffee trade monopoly by smuggling some live beans into Europe. We can thank the French for the expansion of coffee into Central and South America by literally planting ONE single coffee tree on an island over there. Thank a few select men from Japan, New Zealand and America who collectively developed “Red E Coffee” (also known as instant coffee). Finally, we can thank Istanbul for opening the first cafe in 1453, Italy for creating and standardising espresso, and even Starbucks for contributing to the globalisation of coffee. At least the world is united in one way: Coffee is essential.

2. Humans didn’t discover coffee

goats sitting in trees

Yep, that’s right, Goats did. The legend tells of a young goat-herd (circa. 600AD) who noticed some goats eating red cherries from a tree and then jumping around like little kids on red lollies (no pun intended). After trying it for himself and experiencing the exhilarating brain buzz, he took the seeds to a local monastery but the Holyman disapproved of the evil seeds and threw them in the fire. Upon burning, the seeds let off an amazing aroma which brought other nearby Holymen to the fire and they raked the roasted beans out of the embers, crushed them and dissolved them in hot water to create the world first coffee brew.

3. There are 25 different Coffee species; we only use two

coffee cherries at different stages of ripeness in ladies hands

Arabica is by far the most widely used species of Caffea (Genus) with 75% of the production. Robusta is just under 25% and the rest fall into the void somewhere. The reason Arabica is so widely used is not just because it is significantly better tasting than the rest, but also because production is quicker. I can’t vouch for the other 23 species because I’ve never tried them, but apparently they are quite horrendous in flavour and just aren’t commercially viable. Even Robusta coffee on it’s own is a bit too full on in flavour, which is why most astute roasters will often only blend in a Robusta bean with mostly Arabica ones.

4. If you have 16 square metres in your yard you can meet the demand for your own coffee consumption

16sqm equates to about 16 coffee trees which produce somewhere close to 5kg of coffee cherries a year. When you remove the seed (green bean) from the cherry you really only get 1kg. On average we consume around 3.25 coffees a day, getting ~90 cups of coffee out of a kilo so 16 coffee trees would be just about enough for any moderate coffee consumer. What are you waiting for? Grab some green beans and throw them in the backyard!

5. The world’s first webcam was made for Coffee

I’m not making this up. The invention came from a couple of students of Cambridge University in 1991 who decided to connect a camera to a local network within their computer laboratory. They created a live feed for everyone around to have access to see if the coffee pot is empty or not.

Sounds a little excessive to create a 24hour video stream just to confirm whether or not you should bother leaving your seat for a coffee, but some of the offices were located 3 flights and several minutes walk away from the Trojan Room where the coffee pot resided. It was often the case that students would walk the entire length of the building to the coffee pot only to find that someone closer has already beaten them to it and it was empty. The coffee pot only holds enough for a few cups of coffee so you can see the necessity for the camera feed. Of course, it didn’t solve the problem of someone drinking the last cup of coffee before another student could reach the Trojan Room (if only they had smartphones back then, they could have watched it while they walked).

Trojan room Coffee pot webcam feed

Actual image of the Trojan Room coffee pot camera feed. It was only 128 x 128 pixels large.

When web browsers (1993) started to allow for live video feeds, it made more sense to use this as a way to connect the coffee camera thus creating the very first ever webcam.

The webcam stayed on for 10 years and helped 1000s of students know if a trip to the coffee pot room was worthwhile. In August 2001, the webcam was switch off when the computer department moved buildings.

If you want to learn more about the details, read the creators own story http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/coffee/qsf/cacm200107.html : “Trojan Room coffee pot xcoffee” by Quentin Stafford-FraserTrojan Room Coffee Pot biography. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.