history

  • 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!

     

  • Coffee History: Colombia!

    Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world. It's no surprise then that the nation has a rich history with coffee. Join us as we explore the introduction and development of the coffee industry in this wonderful country!

     

    European Influence

    Coffee isn't native to Colombia. The plant was originally brought over by missionaries from Europe in the 16th century. This led to backlash initially. Most natives resisted the encouragement to grow the bean because of how long it takes for coffee plants to produce their first crops. Because of the 5 year wait, many farmers questioned how they would make a living while their plants matured.

    Eventually, priests were able to convince farmers to grow coffee instead of traditional penance. Before long, coffee was thriving domestically. Between colonist love for the beverage and popularity among natives, coffee had been cemented as a cornerstone of Colombia's agricultural landscape.

    From Domestic Treat to Global Trade

    As the world's economy inched towards globalization, Colombia began to trade coffee with it's neighbors. In 1835 Colombia began exporting coffee to the United States. At this point Colombia was exporting 2500 bags of beans to the U.S. 50 years later, that grew to nearly 200,000. Since then, Colombia's coffee exports have topped 10,000,000. This put Colombia squarely in second place in terms of coffee production in the world.

    While Vietnam is now the number 2 producer, Colombia remains squarely in third. Part of Colombia's success is due to marketing in the late 1950s that included the character of Juan Valdez. This character, appearing with his donkey, created a strong association with certain brands and Colombian coffee. This brand association persisted through the 20th century and solidified Colombia as an exporter of quality coffee.

    person holding beans in dark room

    Characteristics of Colombian Coffee

    Colombian coffee is grown at high altitudes. It often shares farmland with rubber and banana trees. This combination of factors, plus the volcanic activity in the nation, creates excellent soil for coffee plants. The coffee grown in Central Colombia tends to be balanced and rich with a heavy body. This crop tends to be great for medium and medium-dark roasts. By contrast, coffee grown in the Eastern region of Bogota is usually less acidic, but heavier and richer. This tends to create full, rich dark roasts.

    With all of this in mind, Colombian coffee works great in a variety of contexts. The complexity and richness leads to unique and interesting single origins. On the other hand, the versatility and base level of quality in Colombian coffee makes it perfectly suited for blends as well.

    We hope this spotlight on Colombia has added some context to your favorite cup of joe! Join us next time for more coffee history!

     

  • Coffee Culture Around the World: China

    You might think that Chinese consumers would only ever want tea. The country is known for producing and consuming this herbal beverage, but coffee is growing in popularity as well. Join us as we take a look at China's burgeoning coffee culture in another installment of Coffee Culture Around the World!

    The Land of Tea

    As mentioned above, the main source of caffeine for most in China is tea. This makes sense, tea is produced en masse in China, and it's very affordable. In many cases, imported coffee is very expensive, and China's roasting industry is practically non-existent. Instead of specialty coffee like you might be used to, most Chinese consumers drink instant. This means that our favorite brewed beverage isn't really consumed to enjoy, so much as for the caffeine. Perhaps most interestingly, China does actually produce a fair amount of green coffee.

    Almost all of the coffee grown in China is arabica. This green coffee is usually shipped to roasters in Germany, because its quality isn't high enough to go to craft roasters. It's also too high quality to be consumed locally, which has hurt coffee's prominence in the country. Just over the border is Vietnam, which produces most of the instant coffee that the Chinese people drink. This coffee is usually made with robusta beans, which are most prevalent in Vietnam. This has led to coffee's aforementioned status as a utilitarian drink.

     

    Western Influence

    China's interest in coffee has grown considerably over the last couple of decades. As major coffee brands continue to seek entry into this massive market, young people in China are also voting with their wallets. Many millennials see coffee and other Western products as a status symbol. Drinking coffee may be more expensive than tea, but it's also a symbol of one's position. This increase in demand has led to a more active roaster scene in the country as well. Instead of just enjoying instant coffee at home, young people in China are seeking coffee shops and cafés to try out new roasts.

    In this way, large, corporate coffee producers are actually driving a smaller, more innovative roasting scene. This tracks with the arc of coffee popularity in neighboring Japan as well. It's an exciting new frontier for coffee that will hopefully breed innovation in the West as well!

    Thanks for joining us for this look into coffee culture in yet another interesting locale. Remember to make coffee you love!

     

  • Coffee History: The Great Italian Coffee Ban

    If you've been following our coffee history series you know that coffee has had a long and storied history. From its discovery and popularization in the Middle East to it's place in kitchens around the world today, times haven't always been easy for coffee drinkers. This week we're taking a look at one of those harder times to get a cup of Joe!

     

    The Great Italian Coffee Ban

    When coffee reached Italy in the 16th Century it received a frosty reception. When you consider the politics of the region at the time, it's not hard to see why. Italy was the seat of the Catholic Church's power, and the church had extensive power throughout Europe. Because coffee originated in the Middle East, many god fearing Italians took pause at it's arrival.

    While time had passed since the era of the crusades, many Catholics still did not trust goods emerging from the Middle East. This was especially prevalent among clergymen. Add to this the fact that coffee had an energizing effect, and the puritanical church of the time panicked at the spread of the beverage.

    This fear of "mind altering" effects was common among all major religions during medieval and Renaissance Europe. It's the same mindset that led to coffee's initial struggles at being accepted in Mecca shortly after its discovery. When its place of origin and effects were combined, members of the Catholic church demanded that the beverage be labelled as Satanic.

    While this fear and uncertainty around coffee did result in a countrywide ban, all was not lost. Pope Clement VIII, it turned out, was a big fan! Upon tasting coffee, the pope remarked that it was a tasty beverage, and deserved to be baptized. Thanks to this blessing, coffee quickly took root in Italy. The rest of Europe soon followed, and coffee became an international favorite!

    Thanks for reading! Remember to make coffee you love!

  • Coffee Culture Around the World: The French Café

    Hey there, and welcome to another entry in our Coffee Culture Around the World series!

    Distinct Places, Distinct Tastes

    One of the most distinctive parts of a place's coffee culture is its cafés. In many places, the gathering place the people visit to drink coffee shapes the way it is consumed regardless of venue. This week, we're going to take a look at how Café culture has evolved in one of the most coffee centric countries on Earth, France!

     

    French Café's differ depending on where you go in the country. France breaks its regions into 5, based on climate and culture. As such, visiting a café in Paris (Central France) is very different than visiting a café in Cannes (Southern France). One thing does unite these regions however, and that is a love of coffee. We'll focus on the quintessential Parisian café experience for this piece, but we'll definitely be revisiting this diverse country in later entries!

    The Parisian Experience

    As in any major city, life in Paris can move fast. In France, however, food and drink are of paramount importance. It's a standard Parisian pastime to sit outside of a café and people watch for hours. In the past, café coffee was frequently mixed with chicory, as it was easier to grow and maintain. Nowadays, chicory is an acquired taste, but the culture persists.

    Nearly as important to the experience as the coffee is a pastry to go with it. It is rare to stop at a café and not have a croissant or other pastry with your cup of coffee. But there's more than food and drink to be had at a Parisian café. These places are hubs of activity for their neighborhoods. Café serve as meeting places and conversation centers for people. They also serve as culinary centers, usually offering a full menu alongside coffee and pastries. Finally, sitting outdoors in a Parisian Café is a must, for it offers a view of the world.

    A Piece of History

    The oldest Café in Paris is Café Procope in rue de l'Ancienne Comédie. Le Procope opened in 1686, and is still in operation today. It was one of the first businesses to align with revolutionaries, and was a regular hangout of folks like Voltaire, Ben Franklin, and John Paul Jones. Post revolution it became a meeting place for intellectuals from all over the world. It still serves high class food and drink to this day!

    As you can see, Parisian café culture has meant a lot to the city over its history. From people watching to revolutions, the French café is about far more than coffee!

     

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