history

  • Coffee History: Japan

    It’s time for another look at coffee history, this time, in Japan! So much wonderful coffee gear comes from this island nation, so we wanted to take a look at how the drink has had an influence on the culture there! Let’s jump in.

    Coffee Arrives in Japan

    Like many goods, coffee first arrived in Japan in the 18th century, sometime around 1700. Our favorite bean found its way to Japan via Dutch traders, some of the first foreigners to make contact with the Japanese. For most of these early years, coffee was a luxury brewed at home by the wealthy, rather than at coffee shops like in most places. It wasn’t adopted widely in the country until the Meiji Era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. Even during this time, its popularity was brief and limited.

    In 1888 the first coffee shop opened in Japan, and it closed just a few years later. It’s hard to pinpoint why the beverage had trouble catching on. A factor that may have been related is cost and difficulty in importing beans, especially already roasted ones.

    Coffee During the 20th Century

    During World War II, coffee was seen as a Western influence. This was true of many Western items, and was a function of the government’s stranglehold on the populace during their Imperialistic attempts at expansion. As a result of this, coffee was banned in Japan and didn’t have much presence in the country until well after the war was finished.

    Coffee began its resurgence in Japan in the 1960s, and grew immensely in popularity over the rest of the century. According to Rochelle and Viet Hong (Coffee In Japan: 100 Years of Mornings), imports grew from just 15,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 440,000 tonnes today. Part of this rise can be attributed to the ways in which Western culture became a fascination in Japan in the latter half of the 20th century. That, coupled with coffee’s marketing as an on the go beverage made it a convenient thing to enjoy on the way to work or school. This worked well in Japan’s busy, always in motion economy. 

    Modern Coffee Consumption

    In modern Japan, coffee occupies an interesting place in culture. It is still viewed as a Western beverage, and is treated like many elements of Western Culture. Much like American fast food and theme parks, coffee is viewed as a novelty. While still a largely on the go drink, it’s also one that’s enjoyed as a solitary one by most people. Unlike the United States, where coffee is often a social activity, this is largely reserved for tea in Japan. The exception comes from young people, who view coffee as a disruptive drink, and often enjoy it in groups as a counter-culture activity.

    We couldn’t talk about modern coffee in Japan without mentioning how much Japan has influenced Western coffee culture. Manufacturers like Hario have created some of the finest equipment for pour over in the world. Coffee may come to Japan from the West, but Japan has certainly made its mark on the way the world drinks coffee too!

  • Weird and Wacky Coffee Machines

    There have been a lot of strange and wonderful coffee machines over the years. From visual flair to interesting combos, we’re taking a look at some wacky coffee designs. All of the images we’re featuring today were captured at La Marzocco’s private Seattle machine collection.

    All-In-One Breakfast Stop

    Olimpic’s “Toast Cafe” was the perfect machine for you if you wanted your morning espresso and your breakfast in one spot. With an old fashioned manual toaster on the right side, you’d toast your bread with one hand and pull a shot of espresso with the other hand! This little wonder even included a timer for toasting the perfect morning slice and a steam wand for steaming up a latte to go with it. We’re not sure how well this machine performed either task, but it sure brings a whole new meaning to the term “all-in-one”

    Watch the Magic

    This classic European commercial espresso machine includes a window so the customer can watch their shot be pulled. This machine fits the trend of making the cafe a place of wonder as much as a place to grab a cup of coffee. Customers would pay for their beverage and get the full show of a beautiful shot of espresso making its way from the group head, through the puck, and into their cup. This machine used a manual pump with a heated boiler, so there really was a lot of finesse on the part of the barista to get the best possible caffeinated treat.

     

    Radical Designs

    This machine (and the one at the top of this post) was designed with a bit of extra flair. Eye catching and striking, these are examples of the kind of art that coffee shops would (and do) go to to draw in the customer. What on earth could a drink from such a strange looking machine taste like? It turns out, it tastes a lot like any other commercial espresso, but the visual appeal of the machine is enough to add a few extra points. The two machines like this that we feature here were designed with inspiration from sailboats and automobiles, two natural coffee companions!

     

    Oodles and Oodles of Espresso!

    This machine is a real head scratcher on first glance. It’s a manual espresso machine that would have been found in a very busy cafe, but perhaps not for the reason you’d expect. It’s true that it has a dozen brew groups, but it’s not so it can brew a dozen coffees at once! Because of the way older boilers and brew groups were designed, there was a recovery time associated with cooling down the group head. High volume machines like this solve that problem by featuring so many group heads. By moving from group to group, baristas could ensure that there was always one at the perfect temperature to pull a tasty shot. Perfect for a busy cafe needing to move extra fast!

     

    There’s a world of wild machines out there, and we’re always on the lookout for more!

  • Coffee Culture: Spain

    The history of coffee is closely tied to the movement of people and goods around Europe. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Spain has an incredible rich history and culture surrounding our favorite drink. Join us as we take a look at some of the ways coffee affects culture in Spain!

    A Coffee With Every Meal

    Most coffee served in Spain is grown in countries like Angola and Mozambique. The Spanish tend to prefer darker, full flavored roasts, not dissimilar to Italian and French roasting. Coffee is, as you might have guessed, a major part of daily life in Spain. Many Spaniards start their day with a cafe con leche, a drink consisting of a 1:1 ratio of coffee and scalded milk. Spanish coffee drinkers will often have multiple cups of coffee at different times throughout the day. Other popular styles include a small, very dark espresso called a cafe solo. 

    The Spanish Coffee that you might be familiar with could be a Cafe Carajillo. This coffee drink involved a small, dark espresso mixed with hard spirits like brandy or whiskey. Mixing alcohol and coffee is a standard practice in Spain, even in the mornings.

    Spanish Coffee Shops

    Coffee houses in Spain are often slightly more formal than we’re used to in the U.S. While not always true, many cafes have beautiful flooring and architecture, with patrons dressed up to match. All of this plus a slightly reserved atmosphere may be a culture shock for Americans visiting traditional coffee houses in Spain. 

    But formal coffee isn’t always the way. Jovial Spanish meal times are almost always accompanied by fresh coffee. In this way, enjoying this great, truly global beverage is a joyous experience, often accompanied by delicious food, family, and friends. Not so different from the rest of the world!

     

  • Coffee History: The French Press

    The History of the French Press isn’t as French as you might think! We decided it’d be fun to take a look at the history of this beloved brew method. Let’d dive in!

    Beginnings

    The first coffee presses likely did originate in France. These very basic, rudimentary presses followed similar principals as today’s coffee presses. They were likely homemade as well. These proto-coffee presses usually involved using a metal screen or some cheese cloth with a metal rod acting as the plunger. You’d simple press the whole thing down into an appropriately sized vessel after steeping to separate the grounds and the liquid. While simple and perhaps more clumsy and messy than today’s presses, they did the job. 

    We say that it’s likely these presses originated in France because of the French obsession with coffee in the 19th century. They were generally on the forefront of developing new ways to brew and enjoy coffee. For the next step in the French Press story, we head to one of their neighbors.

    The Milanese Not Quite French Press

    The first patented coffee press was developed by Milanese designer Attilio Calmani in 1929. Over the course of the next 30 years this press saw design modifications and updates. Many of these updates were developed by Faliero Bondanini, who later patented the design in 1958. This is how we finally got the name “French Press.” The reason for this is the factory that Bondanini built his presses in was located in France. They originally produced cabinets!

    His brand, Melior, was aided in its rise to popularity by being featured in the 1965 film the Ipcress File, which starred Michael Caine.

    The 1960s to Today

    After the success of the Melior French Press, British and European countries began to take notice. Of particular note was Danish kitchenware company Bodum, who you’re probably familiar with. They took the press worldwide, and developed it into the cylindrical design you’re familiar with now. 

    From the past to the future, the French Press is a bonafide legend!

     

  • Coffee History: Brazil

    Hello coffee fans! We're back with yet another coffee history! This week we're looking at a major coffee producing country and its history: Brazil!

    A Storied History

    Coffee in Brazil stretches all the way back to the 1700s. The first coffee plants were planted in the late 1720s in the Brazilian state of Pará. Pará is located in the north-central part of the country, bordered by several other states as well as by the ocean to the Northeast. From there, coffee plants spread south throughout the country, eventually reaching Rio De Janeiro later in the century. This coffee was planted primarily for Brazilians to enjoy domestically. However, over the course of the century, demand for the bean grew through the Americas and in Europe. In the early 19th century, plantations expanded all over Brazil, and soon it was the number one export in the country.

    Over the next century, Brazil became the leading producer of coffee in the world, supplying 80% of the world's coffee beans. Processing in Brazil was primarily done by hand using natural methods. While early processors used this method due to a lack of equipment, it had a silver lining. Because Brazilian coffee is typically grown at a lower altitude than in some coffee producing countries the cherries tend to be a little less sweet. The natural process imparts more of the fruit's character in the bean than a machine washed process. This increase in fruitiness helps Brazilian coffee to develop its unique taste.

    But while Brazil remains a major coffee producer, why isn't it still the coffee producer?

    An Evolution of the Market

    One cause for this is the way the coffee industry has evolved. Early in the drink's history, purchasers were careful as to where they bought beans from. This meant that Brazil's reputation for quality product was key to its expansion in the global coffee market. As the world modernized, coffee began being consumed more in pre-ground and instant forms. This evolution of the industry led to less concern over where the beans came from. On the flip side, as third-wave roasting renewed an interest in carefully sourced coffee, more producing nations began to make a mark. The result is wider diversity in coffee availability. While this may have hurt Brazilian exports, it means more choice for roasters and end consumers, and rising demand for the drink means it will be a part of Brazil's economy forever!

    It's no surprise that we love Brazilian coffee, and we hope you've enjoyed this look at the country's early years producing it!

  • Coffee Culture: Canada

    Coffee is a 6.2 BILLION dollar industry in Canada. Our favorite beverage is a big deal just a few hours north of us here in Seattle! In fact, coffee is the most consumed beverage in Canada by adults. That means adults in the great white north drink coffee more than beer, wine, soda, even tap water! So what makes Canadian coffee culture tick? How different is it than our own coffee scene in the United States? We thought we'd find out!

    The Coffee Association of Canada found that 72% of adults drink coffee daily in the country in 2018. Wow! Of that number, 60-70% of them, broken down by ethnic group, prepare their coffee at home. Most Canadians favor drip coffee, but espresso based drinks are becoming more and more popular. Only 13% of adults with a coffee brewer own an espresso machine, so most espresso is consumed from cafés and restaurants.  However, 59% of those with a brewer at home have a drip brewer, showing the preference for drip coffee. There's also a large number of instant coffee drinkers, but with fantastic roasters like 49th Parallel on the rise, the paradigm is shifting.

    Much like in the United States, specialty roasting is largely being done in major cities. Vancouver B.C., just a few hours away from our home in Seattle, has many roasters like 49th supported by bustling cafés. This thriving coffee tradition has a long history. The first coffee shop in Toronto opened all the way back in 1801, and coffee has continued to be a popular beverage since. Coffee shops across the country run the gamut from trendy spots all the way to homey, family run cafés.

    Many coffee shops in Quebec model, as expected, European affairs. From Italian and French inspired facades to more traditional drinks, these shops feature classic, beautiful atmosphere. As you might expect, Canadian coffee culture is as vast and diverse as what we experience in the United States!

  • Coffee History in Mexico!

    This week we're taking a look at the history of Mexican coffee!

    Mexico is a fascinating nation with a rich coffee heritage, but how did coffee arrive there?

    Origin and Spread

    Coffee was first produced in Veracruz, a state in Eastern Mexico. This occurred late in the 18th century and became a popular crop of the region. Over time, coffee production in Mexico developed and became more and more affordable. By the end of the 19th century much of the production in the country had been moved to Chiapas. Over time Chiapas developed into the primary producing region in Mexico. To this day, most of the country's coffee is produced there!

    Coffee production really took off in the mid 20th century. Due to the low cost of Mexican coffee, it became hugely popular all over the Americas. In the 1980s, coffee production spread across the country. Before the end of the decade, plantations existed in twelve Mexican states occupying 500,000 hectares of land. During this time, coffee became the primary source of income for over two million people in the country. Employment rose around the industry as well in processing, logistics, and exporting of coffee.

    Mexican Coffee Crisis

    In the early 1960s, the International Coffee Agreement was developed to maintain a stable global coffee network. This act help to regulate pricing and quotas to ensure fair trade of coffee around the world. In 1989, the agreement was dismantled, creating problems for overproducing countries like Mexico. While programs like Fair/Direct Trade have developed to protect coffee farmers, these are more recent developments. During the 1990s, coffee prices in Mexico fell drastically. This led to large numbers of coffee farmers forgoing fertilizers and weeding. Because of these cost cutting measures, quality also began to decline, causing price to drop further. By the mid 2000s coffee production had seen an immense decrease and was no longer one of Mexico's most important imports.

    Since then, however, prospects have improved. Thanks to Fair and Direct Trade initiatives and a new generation of quality coffee producers, Mexican coffee is finding its way. We certainly hope that continues, as recent crops have resulted in some delectable roasts!

     

  • What Is Coffee Rust?

    One of the biggest threats to coffee around the world is coffee rust. This disease threatens every major coffee producing country in the world. So what is coffee rust? What does it do to coffee plants?

     

    Is this a new issue? What is it?

    Is coffee rust a new disease for our favorite plant? Well, sort of. The first reports of coffee rust came from English explorers in East Africa as far back as 1861. As such, this isn't necessarily a new disease, and it was quickly reported in other parts of the world as well. But what is coffee rust? Why do we call it that? It turns out that the name makes a lot of sense!

    Most Coffee Rust is a fungus called Hemileia Vastatrix. Another strain of the fungus, H. Coffeicola, is exclusively found in West and Central Africa. Both of these fungi create a distinct yellow-brown ring of lesions on the leaves of the plant. The appearance of these lesions are what gives coffee rust its name. It makes the leaves look like they are rusting. What sort of damage can this disease do?

    Because Coffee Rust is a fungus, it can quickly spread and destroy vast swaths of plants. The easily spreading disease can be devastating to individual harvests and the long-term health of a plantation. So what can be done to stop this disease?

    Spread and Management

    It is nearly impossible to save a crop once the Rust has developed. This means that the safest means of managing a Rusted crop is to quarantine it. This means ensuring that local farmers know not to remove any plants from the area, first and foremost. It is believed that the spread of this disease is carried out on the wind. This means that the only true barriers to the spores are large open areas like oceans. This is why it's extremely important for plant importers to check their plants for lesions before accepting the plant. Crops of infected plants are generally killed with herbicide to prevent their spread. It is also common practice to kill surrounding plants as well, so that the spores have nothing to cling to. The hope is that the colonies of fungus will die off before they can be carried to another plantation.

    There are some fungicides that can help prevent Coffee Rust. Application during wet seasons can help prevent spores from taking hold. Higher, cooler plants and those in shade are also less susceptible to the disease. Unfortunately rising global temperatures will likely eliminate this advantage. Some resistant strands of Robusta coffees have been developed, but these are often viewed as lower quality for consumption.

    Because this is such a global issue, many researchers are seeking ways to stem the tide of this disease. While continued climate change puts more plantations at risk, hope exists in developing technology to identify and eliminate spores before it's too late!

  • Coffee Culture: Thailand

    Last week saw the return of one of our favorite features: Coffee Collaboration! Our new host, Clementine, shared a recipe for making Thai Iced Coffee. Check it out here! We love the video so much that it led to a deeper look at Thai coffee culture. We wanted to share that with you in the return of our Coffee Culture blog series!

     

    Producer/Consumer

    Thailand's coffee culture is interesting because it's also a major producer! In many cases, because roasting coffee is an expensive endeavor, drinking coffee isn't a part of the lives of the people producing it. Thailand primarily produces robusta beans, which are generally considered lower quality than their Arabica counterparts. This means that much of the coffee produced in Thailand goes towards producing blends and instant coffee. With that said, a push is being made to plant and harvest more Arabica beans. Either way, coffee production remains a rich, historical trade in many Asian countries, and Thailand is not different!

    It is exciting, then, that the Thai people love this drink so much too! Coffee shops gained popularity in the 20th century as places to share news and talk politics. Because of the scarcity of televisions and other communication equipment, news traveled by word of mouth up until wider access to the Internet in Thailand. The popularity of these hangouts culturally also led to a love of consuming coffee as well! That's something that remains true to this day. Whether ordering out of a cart or café, coffee lovers in Thailand drink this beverage all day, every day. In this way, coffee consumption in the country is quite similar to the way it's consumed in the West. The main differences come from the way it's roasted and brewed!

     

    But how do they brew?

    Kafae Boran (or ancient coffee) is an interesting, unique roasting and brewing method developed in Thailand during WWII. Developed to answer the problem of scarcity, this method involved dark roasting robusta beans with grains, spice, and sugars. Sometimes even soy beans were used in the roast's production! From there, the coffee is brewed with a cotton filter and steeping in boiling water, in a manner similar to tea. Finally, sweetened or condensed milk is generally added to taste. Kafae Boran remained the dominate method of coffee roasting and brewing for decades in Thailand, but was joined by instant coffee. Near the end of the 20th century Starbucks began operating in the country. This led to wider availability of more kinds of culture. Despite this, Kafae Boran remains popular.

    One brew method that has found success in America is oliang. The word translates to "black cold," which when applied in this context refers to iced coffee! The Kafae Boran brew method is typically used, with ice being added brewing. From there condensed (gopi) or fresh (yoklo) milk can added. Thai restaurants will frequently add both to create the sweet "Thai Iced Coffee" you might be familiar with. Many street vendors even serve this cool treat in a bag with a straw instead of in a cup!

    We hope you've enjoyed this look at how coffee is enjoyed in this wonderful country. We'll have more coffee culture for you soon!

  • Coffee History: Seattle!

    Welcome to another installment of Coffee History! We decided one very important region to take a look at is our hometown! Join us for a look at what makes this town so very coffee focused!

    The Pick of the Pike

    Seattle has a long history in coffee, going all the way back to 1895. It was at this time that Oscar Delaloyes began pan roasting coffee after finding some beans spilled on the ground. First operating out of a cart, Delaloyes eventually opened Seattle Tea and Coffee In the Pike Place Market. That, however, was just the beginning.

    Alfred Peet, of Peet's coffee, began exploring the world in search of interesting coffee in the 60s. He opened Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, CA, which later supplied beans to the original Starbucks. Speaking of the coffee giant, they were one of several micro roasters to open in the 70s. This was an exciting time for coffee in Western Washington, with roasters popping up across the city, and even as far north as Bellingham. Starbucks opened multiple locations, including a move from their first to their currently advertised "Original Starbucks" in Pike Place Market.

    But roasting is only part of the coffee ecosystem. In 1978, Kent Bakke and John Blackwell began importing La Marzocco espresso machines from Italy. These machines were used in many local coffee shops, including Starbucks locations, for many years. The company still maintains a headquarters in Seattle to this day!

    Through the 70s and 80s, cafés and roasters continue to boom in Seattle and the greater region. Roasters evolve from being nothing more than suppliers to local cafés to actually serving the coffee they roast as well. This entire period is known as "second-wave" roasting, an evolution from the totally utilitarian approach to coffee production of the 19th century.

    Growth and Expansion

    Throughout this second-wave roasting boom, Seattle roasters developed a reputation for dark roasts. later in the 80s and through the 90s, Starbucks continued to expand and grow on the back of full bodied, darker roasts. This led to massive expansion for them, and a strong local roasting scene back home.

    As roasters began to experiment with lighter roasting techniques and higher quality green coffee, the third wave was said to have begun. This obsession with quality can be seen today in Washington roasters like Olympia, Bluebeard, and Elm. During this time, Starbucks also solidified itself as the "mainstream" coffee brand across the country and in Seattle. The company acquired many local competitors such as Seattle's Best. In 1984, Starbucks founder Jerry Baldwin purchased 4 Peet's coffee locations, later leaving Starbucks to focus on work with Peet's.

    In the meantime, micro-roasters and cafés continued to push boundaries in more niche departments. Perfecting specific flavors and discovering the unique properties of beans from different regions became an art and a science. Today it's not hard to find an exquisite cup of Joe in the city, even if other cities like New York are making strides in the micro roasting space.

    We hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the history of coffee in Seattle! Give us a wave the next time you'r here for a visit!

     

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