A cup of coffee
A cup of coffee

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. It is prepared from the roasted seeds—commonly referred to as beans—of the coffee plant, and is usually served hot but can also be served cold. A typical 7 fluid ounce (ca. 207 mL) cup of coffee contains 80–140 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the method of preparation.[1] Coffee represents 71% of all the United States caffeine consumption followed by soft drinks and tea.[2] Coffee, along with tea and water, is one of the most frequently-drunk beverages, its volume amounting to about a third that of tap water in North America and Europe.[3] In 2003, coffee was the world's sixth largest agricultural export in terms of value, behind wheat, maize, soybeans, palm oil and sugar.[4]




The English word "coffee" is believed to be derived from the name of the place from which coffee originated, Kaffa, Ethiopia. Coffee's Arabic name, قهوة qahhwa, was borrowed by Ottoman Turkish as kahve, which in turn was borrowed into Italian as caffè.[5] The word "coffee" itself came into use in the last decade of the 16th century.[6]



The history of coffee can be traced at least as early as the 9th century, in the highlands of Ethiopia. From there it spread to Egypt and Yemen,[7] and by the fifteenth century had reached Persia, Egypt, Turkey, and northern Africa.

Coffee was at first not well received. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca. However, the popularity of the drink led these bans to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I. In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked.[8]

From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Europe, where it became popular during the seventeenth century. The Dutch were the first to start the large scale importation of coffee into Europe, and eventually smuggled out some seedlings in 1690, as the Arabs were not allowed to export the plants or unroasted seeds. This led to coffee growing in Java, which was owned by the Dutch.[9] In 1538, Léonard Rauwolf, a German physician, having returned from a ten-year trip to the Near East, gave this description of coffee:[10][citation needed]

A beverage as black as ink, useful against numerous illnesses, particularly those of the stomach. Its consumers take it in the morning, quite frankly, in a porcelain cup that is passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu.

When coffee reached the American colonies, it was initially not as successful as it had been in Europe, as colonists found it a poor substitute for alcohol. However, during the Revolutionary War, the demand for coffee increased to such an extent that dealers had to hoard their scarce supplies of it and raise prices dramatically; part of this is due to the reduced availability of tea from British merchants. Americans' taste for coffee grew during the early nineteenth century, following the War of 1812, which had temporarily cut off access to tea imports, and high demand during the American Civil War as well as many advancements in brewing technology cemented the position of coffee as an everyday commodity in America.


The Plant


Coffee seed types

Coffea arabica—Brazil
Coffea arabicaBrazil

There are two main species of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica being the older one. Coffee is thought to be indigenous to south-western Ethiopia, specifically from Kaffa, from which it may have acquired its name.[11] While more susceptible to disease, it is considered by most to taste better than the second species, Coffea canephora (robusta). Robusta, which contains about 40–50% more caffeine, can be cultivated in environments where arabica will not thrive and probably originated in Uganda.[11] This has led to its use as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Compared to arabica, robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a telltale "burnt rubber" or "wet cardboard" aroma and flavor. Good quality robustas are used in some espresso blends to provide a better "crema" (foamy head), and to lower the ingredient cost. In Italy, many espresso blends are based on dark-roasted robusta. The large industrial roasters use a steam treatment process to remove undesirable flavors from robusta beans for use in mass-marketed coffee blends.[12] Other species include Coffea liberica and Coffea esliaca, believed to be indigenous to Liberia and southern Sudan respectively.[11]

Arabica coffees were traditionally named by the port they were exported from, the two oldest being Mocha, from Yemen, and Java, from Indonesia. The modern coffee trade is much more specific about origin, labeling coffees by country, region, and sometimes even the producing estate. Varietal[13] is a botanical term denoting a taxonomic category ranking below species, a designation more specific than arabica or robusta and unrelated to the coffee's place of origin. Coffees consisting entirely of beans from a single varietal, bourbon, for example, are generally referred to as such, along with a reference to their place of origin (as in: Rwanda Blue Bourbon). Coffee aficionados may even distinguish auctioned coffees by lot number.[citation needed]

Most arabica coffee beans originate from one of three growing regions; Latin America, East Africa/Arabia and Asia/Pacific. Beans from different countries or regions usually have distinctive characteristics such as flavour (flavour criteria include terms such as "citrus-like" or "earthy"), aroma (sometimes "berry-like" or "flowery"), body or mouthfeel, and acidity. Acidity refers to a tangy or clean-tasting quality, typically present in washed or wet processed coffees. It does not refer to a coffee's pH level. (Black coffee has a pH of around 5).[14] These distinguishing taste characteristics are dependent not only on the coffee's growing region, but also on its method of process and genetic subspecies or varietal.[15]

A peaberry, (also sometimes called a "Caracoli"[citation needed] bean) is a coffee bean that develops singly inside the coffee cherry instead of the usual pair of beans. This situation occurs 5–10% of the time. Since flavour is concentrated when only a single bean is grown inside the cherry, these beans (especially Arabica) are highly prized.[16]


The Drink


Processing and roasting

Roasted coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans
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Much processing and human labour is required before coffee berries and its seed can be processed into the roasted coffee with which most Western consumers are familiar. Coffee berries must be picked, defruited, dried, sorted, and—in some processes—also aged.

Coffee is usually sold in a roasted state, and the roasting process has a considerable degree of influence on the taste of the final product. All coffee is roasted before being consumed. Coffee can be sold roasted by the supplier; alternatively it can be home roasted.

Coffee roasting is a complicated chemical process that creates the distinctive flavor of coffee from a bland bean. Unroasted beans contain all of coffee’s acids, protein, and caffeine — but none of its taste. It takes heat to spark the chemical reactions that turn carbohydrates and fats into aromatic oils, burn off moisture and carbon dioxide, and alternately break down and build up acids, unlocking the characteristic coffee flavor. One of these aromatic oils is caffeol, which is largely responsible for coffee's aroma and flavor.[9]

Decaffination is often done by processing companies, who sell the extracted caffeine to the pharmaceutical industry.[9]



Espresso brewing
Espresso brewing

The processing of coffee typically refers to the agricultural and industrial processes needed to deliver whole roasted coffee beans to the consumer. Grinding the roasted coffee beans is done at a roastery, in a grocery store, or at home. It is most commonly ground at the roastery and sold to the consumer ground and packaged, though "whole-bean" coffee that is ground at home is becoming more popular despite the extra effort required. A grind is referred to by its brewing method. "Turkish" grind, the finest, is meant for mixing straight with water, while the coarsest grinds, such as coffee percolator or French press, are at the other extreme. Midway between the extremes are the most common: "drip" and "paper filter" grinds, which are used in the most common home coffee brewing machines. The "drip" machines operate with near-boiling water passed in a slow stream through the ground coffee in a filter. The espresso method uses more advanced technology to force very hot (not boiling) water, through the ground coffee, resulting in a stronger flavor and chemical changes with more coffee bean matter in the drink. Once brewed, it may be presented in a variety of ways: on its own, with sugar, with milk or cream, hot or cold, and so on. Roasted arabica beans are also eaten plain and covered with chocolate. See the article on coffee preparation for a comprehensive list.

A number of products are sold for the convenience of consumers who don't want to prepare their own coffee. Instant coffee has been dried into soluble powder or freeze dried into granules, which can be quickly dissolved in hot water for consumption. Canned coffee is a beverage that has been popular in Asian countries for many years, particularly in Japan and South Korea. Vending machines typically sell a number of varieties of canned coffee, available both hot and cold. To match the often busy life of Korean city dwellers, companies mostly have canned coffee with a wide variety of tastes. Japanese convenience stores and groceries also have a wide availability of plastic-bottled coffee drinks, which are typically lightly sweetened and pre-blended with milk. Lastly, liquid coffee concentrate is sometimes used in large institutional situations where coffee needs to be produced for thousands of people at the same time. It is described as having a flavor about as good as low-grade robusta coffee, and costs about 10 cents a cup to produce. The machines used to process it can handle up to 500 cups an hour, or 1,000 if the water is preheated.[17]


Caffeine Content

Depending on the type of coffee and method of preparation the caffeine content of an average cup of coffee can vary greatly. Even when prepared using the same equipment large variations can take place. However, on average for a 7oz cup of coffee the following amounts of caffeine can be expected: [18] [19]

Drip: 115-175mg

Espresso: 100mg (serving size 1.5-2oz)

Brewed: 80-135mg

Instant: 65-100mg

Decaf, brewed: 3-4mg

Decaf, instant: 2-3mg



Coffee tasting, also known as coffee cupping, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. It is a professional practice but can be done informally by anyone. Standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee, then loudly slurping the coffee so it spreads to the back of the tongue. The coffee taster attempts to measure aspects of the coffee's taste, specifically the body (the texture or mouthfeel, such as oiliness), acidity (a sharp and tangy feeling, like when biting into an orange), and balance (the harmony of flavours working together). Since coffee beans embody telltale flavours of the region in which they were grown, cuppers may attempt to determine the coffee's origin.


Coffee with food

Coffee is often consumed as an accompaniment to an informal meal or with breakfast. However, coffee has a somewhat more restricted role in a more formal setting, usually appearing only at the end of a meal. Coffee is sometimes consumed with a variety of pastries and chocolate.

When the main focus of consumption is the coffee itself but some sort of snack is desired, sweeter foods are usually chosen. Shortbread, danishes, and croissants (which can be dipped into the coffee) are popular choices, as are cookies and muffins, though the latter are found more predominantly in North America.


Coffee & Society


Coffee as a stimulant

Coffee contains caffeine, a mild stimulant. Drinking coffee results in an increase of the heart rate of the drinker, increased blood flow to the muscles, and an increase in blood pressure and it causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin and to the inner organs. Most importantly for many drinkers, the level of dopamine in the brain increases.

Coffee is often consumed because of its stimulating properties, as an aid to beginning one's day by reducing the aftereffects of sleep or as a way to ward off fatigue in general.


Social aspects of coffee

See also: Coffeehouse for a social history of coffee, and caffè for specifically Italian traditions.

Coffee plays an important role in many societies throughout the world today. From the coffeehouses of the 16th century, to the modern day cafés, coffee has had a profound impact on the lifestyles of people from all walks of life. When it first appeared in Africa and Yemen, it was commonly used as a type of religious intoxicant. This usage in religious rites among the Sufi branch of Islam led to it being put on trial in Mecca for being a "heretic" substance much as wine was. It was briefly repressed at this point, and was later part of a larger ban in Ottoman Turkey under an edict that led to the death of thousands of people.[20] Its early association in Europe with rebellious political activities led to its banning in England, among other places.[21]

In India the Indian Coffee Houses became an icon of the worker's struggle. This restaurant chain is now owned by the workers of ICHs, as a result of the struggle performed by the thrown-out workers from the Coffee Houses of Coffee Board. This struggle was led by famed Communist leader of India A. K. Gopalan. Thus the ICHs became the meeting places of the progressive-minded in India later.


Health and pharmacology of coffee

Many studies have been performed on the relationship between coffee consumption and many medical conditions, ranging from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer and cirrhosis. Studies are contradictory as to whether coffee has any specific health benefits, and results are similarly conflicting with respect to negative effects of coffee consumption.[22] In addition, it is often unclear whether these risks or benefits are linked to caffeine or whether they are to be attributed to other chemical substances found in coffee (and whether decaffeinated coffee carries the same benefits or risks).[citation needed]

One fairly consistent finding has been the reduction of diabetes mellitus type 2 in coffee consumers, an association that cannot be explained by the caffeine content alone and indeed may be stronger in decaffeinated coffee.[23]

Recently, coffee was found to reduce the chances of developing cirrhosis of the liver: the consumption of 1 cup a day was found to reduce the chances by 20%, and 4 cups a day reduced the chances by 80%.[24]


Economics of coffee

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Coffee being ground at a coffee shop in Chennai, India
Coffee being ground at a coffee shop in Chennai, India

Coffee is one of the world's most important primary commodities due to being one of the world's most popular beverages. In total, 6.7 million tonnes of coffee were produced annually in 1998–2000, and the forecast is a rise to 7 million tonnes annually by 2010.[25] Coffee also has several types of classifications used to determine environmental and labor standards.

Shade-trees in Orosí, Costa Rica. After the harvest, they are pruned
Shade-trees in Orosí, Costa Rica. After the harvest, they are pruned

Brazil remains the largest coffee exporting nation, but in recent years the green coffee market has been flooded by large quantities of robusta beans from Vietnam.[26] Many experts believe the giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975–1989 with Cold War pressures led to the prolonged pricing crisis from 2001 to 2004.[27] In 1997 the "c" price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb.[citation needed] Robusta coffees (traded in London at much lower prices than New York's Arabica) are preferred by large industrial clients (multinational roasters, instant coffee producers, etc.) because of their lower cost.

The preference of the "Big Four" coffee companies for cheap robusta is believed by many to have been a major contributing factor to the crash in coffee prices,[28] and the demand for high-quality arabica beans is only slowly recovering. After the crash, many coffee farmers in Africa, Indonesia and South and Central America lost their livelihoods, or turned to illicit crops such as coca to earn a living. The Dutch brand 'Max Havelaar' started the concept of fair trade labeling, which attempted to remedy the situation by guaranteeing coffee growers a negotiated pre-harvest price.[29] Another issue with coffee is ecological: the American Birding Association has led a campaign for sustainably harvested, shade-grown and organic coffees vs. the newer mono-cropped full-sun varieties, which lead to deforestation and loss of bird habitat.[30]

Coffee ingestion on average is about a third that of tap water in most of North America and Europe.[3] In 2002 in the U.S., average coffee consumption was 22.1 gallons per person.[31]


Other Usages


Coffee in art



Spent coffee grounds are used as fertilizer in gardens for their high nitrogen content. Some coffee companies and coffee shops, including Starbucks, give their used coffee grounds to gardeners for this purpose.[32] Coffee grounds have a beneficial effect on the acidity of garden soil by the same chemical processes to which the use of sawdust as a composting material gives rise.[citation needed]



Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to their religious beliefs, should not consume coffee. Contrary to popular belief, this is not due to the presence of caffeine in coffee. Rather, it stems from the 1833 declaration by Joseph Smith, commonly called the "Word of Wisdom," that "hot drinks are not for the belly." (Doctrine & Covenants Section 89) This was later clarified to mean coffee or tea. Coffee is avoided by Mormons, as should be any thing that might be habit forming, including caffeine. However, the Mormon Church has never officially said that its members should avoid caffeine in order to be temple worthy.


Documentary films about coffee


See also



  1. Erowid (2006). Caffeine Content of Beverages, Foods, & Medications. Retrieved on 2006-10-16.
  2. Traister, Rebecca. Glamour Magazine. October 2006.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Villanueva1, Cristina M., Cantor, Kenneth P.; King, Will D.; Jaakkola, Jouni J. K.; Cordier, Sylvaine; Lynch, Charles F.; Porru, Stefano; Kogevinas, Manolis (2006). "Total and specific fluid consumption as determinants of bladder cancer risk". International Journal of Cancer 118 (8): 2040–2047. DOI:10.1002/ijc.21587. Retrieved on 2006-08-02.
  4. FAOSTAT Agriculture Data. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved on 2005-10-31.
  5. "Definition of Coffee" in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  6. Coffee:Definitions from in
  7. John K. Francis Coffea arabica L. RUBIACEAE Factsheet of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
  8. J. E. Hanauer (1907). “About Coffee”, Folk-lore of the Holy Land, 291. “(...) [All] the coffee-houses [were] closed, and their keepers pelted with the sherds of their pots and cups. This was in 1524, but by an order of Selìm I., the decrees of the learned were reversed, the disturbances in Egypt quieted, the drinking of coffee declared perfectly orthodox”.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2
  10. Léonard Rauwolf. Reise in die Morgenländer (in German).
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Mekete Belachew, "Coffee," in von Uhlig, Siegbert, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Weissbaden: Horrowitz, 2003), p.763.
  12. Process for improving the quality of Robusta coffee - US Patent 5019413. Retrieved on 2006-08-26.
  13. Dictionary Version 1.0.1 (1.0.1) Copyright © 2005 Apple Computer, Inc.,
  14. pH Scale: Some Common Solutions - Chart - MSN Encarta. Retrieved on 2006-07-23.
  15. The Perfect Cup, by Timothy James Castle; Coffee: A Guide to Buying Brewing and Enjoying, 5th Edition, by Kenneth Davids
  16. Feature Article: Peaberry Coffee. Retrieved on 2006-11-10.
  17. Regarding liquid coffee concentrate: Wall Street Journal, March 21st, 2005, page C4, Commodities Report
  18. Coffee and Caffeine's Frequently Asked Questions from the alt.drugs.caffeine,, Newsgroups, January 7, 1998
  19. Bunker and McWilliams in J. Am. Diet. 74:28-32, 1979
  20. Hopkins, Kate (2006-03-24). Food Stories: The Sultan's Coffee Prohibition. Retrieved on 2006-09-12.
  21. Allen, Stewart. "The Devil's Cup".
  22. Kummer, Corby (2003). The Joy of Coffee, pp 160–165.
  23. Pereira MA, Parker ED, Folsom AR. (2006). "Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.". Arch Intern Med 166 (12): 1311–1316. PMID 16801515.
  24. Klatsky, Arthur L., Morton, Cynthia, Udaltsova, Natalia, Friedman, Gary D. (12 June 2006). "Coffee, Cirrhosis, and Transaminase Enzymes". Archives of Internal Medicine 166 (11): 1190–1195. DOI:10.1001/archinte.166.11.1190.
  25. FAO (2003). Coffee. Medium-term prospects for agricultural commodities. Projections to the year 2010. Retrieved on 2006-10-16. “Global output is expected to reach 7.0 million tonnes (117 million bags) by 2010 compared to 6.7 million tonnes (111 million bags) in 1998–2000”
  26. "Vietnam has played a major role in the increase of global coffee supply", "Nearly all coffee grown in Vietnam is of the Robusta variety"
  27. amsterdam coffee shop, amsterdam coffee shop information. Retrieved on 2006-08-26.
  28. CoffeeGeek - So You Say There's a Coffee Crisis. Retrieved on 2006-08-26.
  29. Fair Trade Coffee. Retrieved on 2006-08-26.
  31. Bottled water pours past competition - Brief Article DSN Retailing Today - Find Articles. Retrieved on 2006-07-23.
  32. Composting with Coffee Grounds - Page on official Starbucks website describing their composting efforts. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.



External links

Facts about coffee: History of coffee | Economics of coffee | Coffee and health
Species and varietals: List of varietals | Coffea arabica: Kenya AA, Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain | Coffea canephora (robusta): Kopi Luwak
Major chemicals in coffee: Caffeine | Cafestol
Coffee bean processing: Coffee roasting | Home roasting coffee | Decaffeination
Common beverage preparation: Espresso | Drip brew (from coffeemakers) | French press | Turkish coffee | Instant coffee | Chemex
Coffee and lifestyle: Social aspects of coffee | Coffeehouse | Caffé

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