Interesting Facts About the Coffee Plant - Beginning of Coffee
The coffee plant is native to Ethiopia and can be found growing in parts of Asia and Africa. The coffee plant is evergreen belonging to the genus "Coffea" and family "Rubiaceae."
Coffee is a beverage that is obtained from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. Coffee cultivation began in the Arabian Peninsula and spread across the world. The word "coffee" comes from the Arabic word for "wine."
The two popular types of coffee are "arabica" and "robusta." Latin America, eastern Africa, Asia, and Arabia are the leading producers of arabica coffee, and Western Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil are major producers of robusta coffee. Today coffee is the second most important trading commodity after oil.
Discovery of Coffee
A goat herder discovered coffee in Ethiopia in 850 AD. He observed that the goats had a lot of energy and did not sleep at night after eating the coffee fruits. He went to the local monks with his observations; the monks made a brew with the coffee beans and drank it.
After drinking the brew, the monks realized that they had more energy and could stay up all night and pray. The monks spread the word to other Ethiopian monks, and soon it spread across the world. The beverage reached Italy, and the first European coffee house was opened in 1645.
Description of the Coffee Plant (Coffea arabica)
Coffea arabica is an evergreen shrub or a small tree that can grow up to five meters when left unpruned. The leaves are simple arranged in an alternate and opposite pattern on the branches. They are glabrous, dark green with a shiny surface.
The flowers grow in clusters at the axil of leaves. The flowers are star-shaped, white with a sweet scent.
The fruit is described as a drupe or a berry that is surrounded by a pericarp. The immature berries are dull green and turn yellow to bright red during ripening.
Each berry has two seeds that are ellipsoidal and pressed together by a flat surface that is deeply grooved with an outer convex surface. Self-pollination and pollination by honeybees occur. Dispersal of seeds is by birds and mammals.
Coffea arabica flourishes in regions with relatively cold climates. The optimum temperature for the best growth is between 15-24 degrees centigrade throughout the year, with rainfall of 1500-2500 mm over nine months.
The coffee fruit (coffee berry) is made of two main parts – the pericarp (outer covering) and the seed. The seed is also referred to as the bean. The pericarp is made of three layers - the exocarp, endocarp, and mesocarp.
Exocarp - The exocarp is the outermost layer of the coffee fruit. It is formed by a single layer of parenchyma cells.
Initially, the coffee berry is green; this is because the exocarp is green due to the presence of chloroplasts that disappear as the fruit matures. The color of the ripe coffee fruit is mostly red or yellow, depending upon the coffee variety. The coffee berry is also referred to as cherry because of its bright red color.
Mesocarp - The mesocarp is the fleshy middle layer of the coffee fruit. In an unripe coffee fruit, the mesocarp is rigid. It softens as the fruit matures. The mesocarp is rich in water, sugar, and pectins.
Endocarp - The endocarp is the innermost layer of the pericarp. The pericarp is the hull that envelops the coffee bean. It is formed of three to seven layers of fibrous sclerenchyma cells. The endocarp hardens as the fruit matures.
Coffee berries with a single bean in the center are called peaberries. Peaberries are considered to be sweeter and more flavorful than the standard coffee beans.
The coffee seed is also referred to as the coffee bean. It is made of silver skin, endosperm, and an embryo.
The silver skin is also called the perisperm or the spermoderm. The endosperm is the food reserve of the seed. The chemical content of the endosperm is vital because it is responsible for the flavor and aroma of the roasted coffee. The endosperm consists of large amounts of caffeine.
The embryo is composed of a hypocotyl and two cotyledons. Coffee seeds germinate by epigeal germination. In this type of germination, the hypocotyl elongates and pushes the seed upward above the ground. The original cotyledons stay underground.
Harvesting the Coffee Bean
Coffee beans are harvested by hand or through a mechanized process to produce green beans. The green coffee beans are transported to coffee manufacturing companies where these beans are roasted, graded, packaged and transported to retail outlets.
Arabica and robusta are the two main varieties of coffee. The robusta variety has a strong, harsh taste with high amounts of caffeine.
The arabica beans are high-quality beans that have more flavor and half the amount of caffeine when compared to the robusta variety.
Kopi Luwak - World's Most Expensive Coffee
The world’s most expensive coffee is known as kopi luwak or cat poop coffee. Kopi Luwak is produced from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive system of an animal called the Asian Palm Civet. (The civet is a raccoon-like nocturnal mammal native to the forests of Asia.)
The civet consumes the coffee beans fallen on the ground. Farmers collect feces of the civet and wash them thoroughly to obtain clean coffee beans. During the digestion period, the coffee beans remain intact in the intestine of the civet and undergo a unique fermentation process that gives the kopi luwak its unique flavor.
Skin Care with Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds help to exfoliate the skin and get rid of dead skin cells revealing a new layer of skin cells. Caffeic acid present in coffee beans is an antioxidant that helps to boost collagen levels and reduce premature aging of the skin.
Coffee helps to get rid of puffy eyes. Caffeine stimulates the blood flow and dilates the blood vessels. This helps to tighten the skin around the eyes and get rid of fluid buildup beneath the eyes.
Coffee grounds can be harsh on sensitive skin and skin affected by acne.
Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee helps to improve energy levels by blocking an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that causes a stimulating effect that helps to improve energy levels, mood, and brain function.
Caffeine can boost metabolic rate by 3% - 12% and this, in turn, helps to burn fat. It can be found in many fat-burning supplements.
Coffee helps to increase physical performance. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system causing the fat cells to break down and form fatty acids that are used to fuel the body and improve physical performance.
Coffee has essential nutrients such as riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), manganese, potassium, and niacin (vitamin B3).
Coffee is enjoyed by people across the world. Drinking three to five cups of coffee per day is considered to be a part of a healthy diet. Exceeding the limit of the recommended 400 mg caffeine per day for adults can cause irritability, nervousness, and insomnia.
© 2020 Nithya Venkat