Using Chemistry to Improve Coffee

The term ‘coffee’ originates from the Dutch word ‘koffie’ and was first used in 1582. This goes even further back to the Arabic word for coffee, ‘qahwa,’ which has been ascribed to originate from either ‘quwwa’ (defined as power or energy) or even Kaffa (also spelt Kefa), a mediaeval Ethiopian kingdom that exported coffee plants to Arabia.

It is believed that coffee was discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia who noticed that after consuming the coffee fruit (also known as cherries), the energy level of his goats increased. Coffee consumption spread from Ethiopia to the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Except for water, coffee has surpassed water as the world’s most consumed beverage, from transparent drip coffee to the thickest espressos. This beverage is so ingrained in all cultures that contestants from South Korea, Greece, and Canada took the top spots at the 2019 World Barista Championships.

Excellent Coffee: Not as Simple as You Might Believe
Coffee is available in a variety of forms, with speciality roasters constantly on the lookout for new flavours. Specialty coffee is also in high demand, owing to the growing gourmet coffee market. Global Brands Magazine reported that Black Ivory Coffee would cost $ 500 per pound in 2020.

Civet cats are capable of digesting coffee beans, resulting in a one-of-a-kind coffee experience with a hefty price tag. Metrohm Middle East FZC is the source of this image.

Why is it so Expensive, and is the Taste that Expensive?
To make Black Ivory Coffee, the coffee cherries are fed to and digested by elephants. This is similar to the process used to create Kopi Luwak (or civet coffee), another high-end coffee variety created by fermenting coffee cherries in the guts of civet cats. After that, the coffee beans are cleaned, dried, and roasted.

Apart from these high-priced small batches, other varieties of coffee beans (robusta, arabica, and liberica) are roasted in large quantities for mainstream consumption. Arabica beans account for 60% of the global market, with 2.5 million tonnes exported annually from Brazil alone.

Robusta beans are primarily produced in Vietnam, where they account for just under 40% of the market. Robusta beans contain a higher concentration of caffeine, have a bitter flavour, and are used to make instant coffee.

Liberica beans, in comparison to the other two major species, have a low caffeine content but a high sugar content. Due to the difficulty of mass-producing this variety due to its extremely low yields (two to four times lower than the others) and larger plant size, it accounts for less than 2% of the global coffee market.

Numerous varieties have been developed using these major coffee species, each with a unique flavour profile and caffeine content. Although the ideal climate varies by species, coffee is typically grown in (sub)tropical regions.

Certain species are better suited to mountainous regions due to their preference for higher altitudes. Others require dry, hot conditions in order to produce the best beans.

There are now over 70 countries that produce coffee, which is fortunate given that global coffee consumption is expected to reach 167.23 million 60 kg bags – or more than 10 million tonnes – in 2020/2021.

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