“O Coffee! Thou dost dispel all care, thou are the object of desire to the scholar. This is the beverage of the friends of God.”
–“In Praise of Coffee,” Arabic Poem (1511)
After practicing my calligraphy like a crazy person, I decided to test my new skills for a map I had planned to make while reading Uncommon Grounds. I was really happy with how my coffee belt map turned out, and doing the watercolor and calligraphy have helped me remember what flavor profiles the different regions of coffee are known for: Latin America for notes of cocoa, soft spice and nuts, Africa for floral, fruity and berry notes, and Asia for earthy, herbal notes. I also enjoyed making the little coffee cherry diagram, as it put an image to the descriptions I’ve read about coffee cherries. I was thinking that if I can figure out how, I’d like to submit my map to the really fun website They Draw and Travel.
Please click on the image to see a larger version!
Now that I’ve written a bit about the Coffee Belt, where most of the world’s coffee is grown, here are twelve of my favorite facts gleaned from Uncommon Grounds:
1. “By 1700, there were more than two thousand London coffee houses, occupying more premises and paying more rent than any other trade. They came to be known as penny universities, because for that price one could purchase a cup of coffee and sit for hours listening to extraordinary conversations…” (12). “‘The best stories [are told] over coffee,’ wrote a wise commentator in 1902, ‘as the aroma of the coffee opens the portals of [the] soul, and the story, long hidden, is winged for posterity'” (425).
2. “Wherever [coffee] has been introduced it has spelled revolution. It has been the world’s most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think. And when the people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants” (17).
3. “The caffeine content of coffee probably evolved as a natural pesticide to discourage predators” (43). “Although some bugs and fungi adapt to any chemical, it is quite likely that plants contain caffeine because it affects the nervous system of would-be consumers, discouraging them from eating it. Of course, that is precisely the attraction for the human animal” (412).
4. During the civil war, soldiers “preferred to carry whole beans and grind them as needed. Each company cook carried a portable grinder. A few Sharps carbines were designed to hold a coffee mill in the buttstock of the gun, so the soldier could always carry his grinder with him” (49). “Real coffee was so scarce in the war-torn south that it cost $5 a pound in Richmond, Virginia, while one Atlanta jeweler set coffee beans in breast pins in lieu of diamonds” (40.)
5. “In eighteenth-century Sweden twin brothers were sentenced to death for murder. King Gustav III commuted it to life sentences in order to study the then-controversial effects of tea and coffee, One brother drank large daily doses of tea, the other, coffee. The tea drinker died first, at eighty-three” (105).
6. A German housewife, Melitta Bentz, created the once-through drip method with a filter in 1908 (117).
7. During WWI, “Brazil also went to war with Germany, but only after the United States promised to purchase a million pounds of coffee for its expeditionary forces” (145).
8. During the prohibition, many coffee men were excited and hopeful for more coffee consumption:
“When there’s such a drink as this,
Liquor never need we miss.
All its virtues we repeat:
‘Coffee! Coffee! That’s the treat!'” (156).
9. “In Europe, economizing on coffee wasn’t so much a matter of choice as necessity. As late as 1947 coffee had been to scarce that it was used instead of money on the European black market” (245).
10. Howard Schultz of Starbucks hired Dawn Pinaud in the 1980’s and, with her staff, they created their own lingo. “…[Service] people weren’t soda jerks or flunkies. They were baristas, spotlighted as though on stage. A drink wasn’t small, medium or large. It was short, tall, or grande. A double espresso with a splash of milk was christened a doppio macchiato. ‘It’s amazing to me that these terms have become part of the language,’ Pinaud says. ‘A few of us sat in a conference room and just made them up’ (369).
11. Caffeinism is recognized as an ailment for those who consume excessive quantities of the drug, and caffeine intoxication is described similarly to a panic attack. “The only difference,” writes author Mark Pendergrast,” is that someone must have recently drunk coffee, tea, or soft drinks, which appears to have a circular diagnostic logic. At various times while writing this book, I have exhibited five of these symptoms, including restlessness, excitement, insomnia, periods of inexhaustibility, and particularly, rambling flow of thought. I drink only one or two daily cups of coffee, in the morning” (414).
12. “Inviting a woman for coffee in Finland is a sure sign of romantic interest. Finnish personal ads seeking a ‘day-coffee companion’ are understood to be ads for casual sex. In nearby Norway, distances used to be measured by ‘coffee boils’–the number of times someone had to stop to prepare coffee along the way” (420).
I hope you enjoyed these segments I learned about from Uncommon Grounds as much as I did. When was the last time you had an engaging conversation over coffee? Would you be satisfied with coffee if you lived during the prohibition? How many ‘coffee boils’ would it take for you to get to where I’m from: Michigan? 🙂