musings about food, travel, creativity and life

That First Cup

My favorite morning beverage is a caffè latte with homemade almond milk. After I assemble my first cup, I travel out to our porch, take in the valley view, settle on the green love seat that was my mom and dad’s and take that first sip. Ah… yes. Then it’s on to writing in my journal and reading.

What caught my eye one morning this week was an entire magazine* devoted to coffee. Reading it changed my daily coffee into a little world history lesson. Here are just a few things I learned…

The coffee plant produces a stone fruit called a “cherry.” Coffee “beans” are actually the pits/seeds of the cherry. The cherries have to be picked at just the right time and harvested with precision and care.

Most coffee beans are grown in an area around the equator, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The best beans, to some coffee aficionados, are called Arabica and grow at the higher altitudes of 5,000 feet of altitude or more. The other well-known beans are called Robusta, which are a little more acidic and bitter.

Certain countries, and their coffees, are famous in coffee bean lore:

  1. Ethiopia, where many believe coffee originated around 850 when an Ethiopian goat-herder discovered the coffee cherry after one of his goats ate one and got “energized.”
  2. Yemen, where coffee was first cultivated and commercialized. The coffee nickname “Mocha” comes from Yemen’s port city of Mokha.
  3. Holland, with its outpost Indonesian plantations on the island of Java and thus the origin of yet another coffee nickname.
  4. Martinique, where in 1723 a French captain brought a coffee tree from Java that had been given to Louis XV by the Dutch and helped inaugurate hundreds of plantations in the Caribbean.
  5. Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, where supposedly the world’s first recorded coffee house opened in 1475, and Venice, Italy for the beginning of coffee house culture in Europe.

Today, coffee beans come from over 50 countries.

Hundreds of people are involved in the coffee supply chain, ranging from the pickers, sorters, cleaners, driers, “cuppers,” to the buyers and roasters. Finally, the beans or grounds make their way to us lucky imbibers.

Just think how much geography, history and humanity are in that first cup each morning. I sip and enjoy, and, like those goats of yore, wait for that jolt of energy. Ah, little coffee beans, thank you.


*Coffee:The Culture.The Business.Your Health. Special Edition. Time Books, Inc. 2018.



6 thoughts on “That First Cup”

  • In Venice in 1475 that was Mr. Starbucks Great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandfather! Imagine that? Happy sipping!

  • Loved your blog on coffee. That is the very first thing I do in the morning also~make my coffee and go into my backyard to check things! Love the yard.
    Have you read The Monk of Mocha by Dave Eggers. It is a true story of a Yemeni boy who grew up in the tenderloin of SF and was headed for a “no good” future. He went back to his homeland and taught the natives how to grow “good” coffee bean, etc. Look it up. It is a good read.
    Enjoy the summer.

    • Always fun to find kindred coffee spirits! And thank you for the book recommendation. As coincidence would have it, that
      book is sitting right in front of me now; a friend had recommended it to me last year, I bought it, and then it disappeared
      onto the “to read” shelf. While reading my coffee magazine this week, I retrieved The Monk of Mokha and have just started reading it!
      It’s already grabbed me. Enjoy your coffee and enjoy your summer, as well.

  • My favorite “field trip” of all time was when we traveled to Antigua, Guatemala with John and Mary some years ago. Our tour of the FICA Coffee Plantation was enlightening and educational. I had no idea how many steps are involved in making a good cup of coffee. The sorting and raking and roasting; the colors and the smells …..treating my senses, building my anticipation for the cup of coffee that awaited me at the end of the tour.

    • That sounds fantastic! I bet that cup of coffee was one of the richest you’ve ever had! I’d love to do a tour like that…
      kind of like our cheese-making tours, or winery tourw. Such opportunities to see how many resources/people/activities go
      into bringing us our daily needs and/or pleasures. Nice reminders of all we have to be grateful for.

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