By Al-Haytham Saleh
KUWAIT, Oct 1 (KUNA) -- Every year on October 1st, coffee lovers around the world come together to celebrate International Coffee Day.
This annual event, initiated by the International Coffee Organization in London, is a global toast to the world's second most traded commodity, rivaling tea as the most consumed beverage after water.
Each day, over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are sipped worldwide, with a staggering five billion kilograms of roasted coffee beans consumed annually.
This aromatic brew has been the fuel of choice for some of the world's greatest minds, including Montesquieu, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Pope, Immanuel Kant, William James, and the legendary French philosopher Voltaire, who was said to have enjoyed 40 to 50 cups daily, often mixed with bits of chocolate.
But where did this rich and beloved tradition begin? According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the captivating tale of coffee starts in the year 850 AD in the lush Ethiopian rainforests of Kaffa.
Here, a young Arab herder named Khalidi noticed that his sheep became unusually lively after munching on red cherries from specific trees. Intrigued, Khalidi tried the cherries himself and soon found himself joining the sheep in their energetic dance.
Excited by his discovery, Khalidi hurried to a nearby monastery, carrying the cherries with him. The monks, however, confiscated the cherries, fearing evil spirits, and tossed them into the fire.
Yet, as the aroma of the roasting beans wafted through the air, the monks experienced the same excitement as Khalidi. They reconsidered their actions, added water to the roasted beans, and thus brewed the world's first cup of coffee.
While debates continue over the exact origins, it is widely accepted that coffee's story began in the land of Kaffa. The English word "coffee" derives from Kaffa, where thousands of coffee tree species thrive naturally, untouched by human hands.
This region is the ideal environment for growing the finest coffee varieties, including the renowned "Arabica." In the 15th century, coffee trees made their way across the Red Sea to Yemen, where the ideal climate and soil conditions fostered the growth of rich coffee crops.
From there, coffee spread to the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Turkey, and Persia.
Yemen became synonymous with "Arabica coffee." The port of Mocha was the first to ship coffee beans, leading to coffee being called "Mocha." As its popularity grew and shipments from this coastal city increased, "Mocha" became synonymous with coffee in Europe.
Despite efforts to maintain Yemen's coffee monopoly, a daring Indian pilgrim named Baba Budan changed the game in the 16th century.
Smuggling seven fertile coffee beans from Yemen, hidden in his beard, he introduced coffee cultivation to India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, and beyond.
This humble act would eventually make coffeehouses a European phenomenon in the 17th century. Coffeehouses emerged as centers of intellectual and social exchange, spreading from the Netherlands to Austria, Germany, and Britain.
In 1669, coffee made its way to France when the Turkish ambassador introduced it to King Louis XIV, quickly overtaking other beverages in Paris.
In 1727, Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta established the world's first coffee plantation in Brazil, solidifying Brazil's position as a global coffee powerhouse.
By the time of the American Revolution in the 18th century, coffee had replaced tea as the preferred patriotic drink in the United States.
A group of nationalists famously boarded English tea ships in Boston Harbor in 1773, tossing the tea overboard in protest of English tea taxes.
In the mid-19th century, coffee became a crucial player in international trade, with its presence felt in stock markets in New York and London. Green coffee became one of the most traded agricultural commodities globally.
In 1962, coffee-producing and consuming countries came together under the "International Coffee Agreement" to ensure fair trade for this vital commodity. Today, the International Coffee Organization represents 42 coffee-producing countries and 7 importers, including the European Union, accounting for 98 percent of global production and 67 percent of consumption.
The United States, as the world's largest coffee importer, drives economies in Latin America, with Brazil leading as the globe's primary coffee producer. Hamburg, Germany, is home to the world's largest coffee shipping port, serving as a vital hub for coffee storage and distribution.
From the lush Ethiopian highlands to bustling cafes worldwide, the journey of coffee reflects the spirit of exploration, discovery, and unity. International Coffee Day is not just a celebration of a beverage; it is a tribute to the diverse cultures and communities it has touched, reminding us of the rich tapestry woven by this humble bean, connecting us all through our shared love for coffee.
In every corner of the world, coffee aficionados relish the intricate flavors of their favorite brews, often unaware of the alchemy that occurs within each cup. Beyond the casual sip lies a world of beans, each with its unique tale, comprising a mosaic of tastes and aromas. At the heart of this vast spectrum are Arabica beans, reigning over 60 to 70 percent of the world's coffee production. This variety, celebrated for its opulent flavor and subtle acidity, holds the taste buds captive with each velvety sip.
Yet, the journey into the coffee kingdom does not end with Arabica. Enter Robusta, a robust and bitter counterpart, constituting 20 to 30 percent of the global coffee production.
Hailing from the lush terrains of Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam, India, and Brazil, Robusta boasts a higher caffeine content and a distinctive aroma that sets it apart. Its resilience against diseases makes it a formidable contender in the coffee realm.
But the plot thickens with Liberica, a coffee variety that might just rewrite the narrative of the coffee world. Originating in Africa and the Philippines, this rarity accounts for a mere 2 percent of the global production. Its beans, though tougher and more challenging to prepare, have gained prominence due to their resistance against climate changes. As the finicky Arabica battles temperature and humidity fluctuations, Liberica stands resilient, offering a potential solution to the coffee industry's challenges.
And then, there's the legend of "Kopi Luwak," a brew so exclusive that tourists make pilgrimages to Indonesian shores, particularly Bali, to savor its unparalleled richness. With a price tag soaring above USD 1,300 per kilogram, Kopi Luwak is the crown jewel of the coffee world, embodying luxury in every sip.
Coffee's allure transcends its diverse varieties, seeping into various cultures and traditions. It has inspired a plethora of brewing techniques, from the nuanced art of roasting to the intricate dance of flavors when blended with elements like cocoa, cream, and caramel. For those seeking a gentler experience, decaffeinated options offer the same richness without the buzz.
In the modern world, coffee houses have become more than just places to grab a caffeine fix.
They are hubs of creativity and productivity, where ideas flow freely, and deals are sealed with a handshake over a steaming cup.
Even in the realm of education, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the excitement of learning in places like MOOCs, where knowledge is imparted amidst the comforting ambiance of cafes.
As we celebrate International Coffee Day, it is worth reflecting on the journey of this humble bean. From the mysterious origins in the Kaffa forests, where Khalidi danced with his sheep centuries ago, to the bustling cafes of today's metropolises, coffee has indeed come a long way. It is not merely a beverage; it is a global phenomenon, uniting people, sparking conversations, and fueling dreams, one cup at a time. (end) hss.gta