Coffee, introduced to Europe by the Arabs in the sixteenth century, is the most widely drunk beverage in the world.
It is enjoyed not only for its rich flavor and aroma, which come from an oil called caffeol produced in roasting, but also for the caffeine it contains, which has a stimulating effect on the nervous and blood systems. Leading coffee drinking countries include the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. Great coffee plantations are found in Latin America, southern Asia, and Africa.
Growing and processing coffee
The common coffee plants are Coffea arabica (grown mostly in Latin America) and Coffea robusta (cultivated mainly in Africa). Coffee plants reach maturity after four years and remain productive for about 30 years more, but there is usually
a drop in quality in about the 15th year, after which the trees are usually replaced.
After the ripe berries are picked, the coffee seeds, or beans, are extracted by machine and the residual pulpy mass left over is used for fertilizer. The seeds are cleaned and then sun- or machine-dried, after which they are hulled, sorted by quality and size, graded, and shipped to market.
Most coffee beans are roasted before being sold; this gives them a dry, brittle texture and a deep brown color. They also
acquire their typically rich coffee aroma during roasting by undergoing a complex chemical change. The freshly roasted coffee is cooled and ground, although some customers prefer to grind and even roast the beans themselves. Instant coffee may be powdered or freeze-dried. Both types are made in two stages-brewing and moisture-removal.
More than 100 different kinds of coffee beans are marketed, each with its own flavor. The differences arise mainly from the climate and soil types in the various growing regions.