Firstly, coffee is a fruit. Let’s just let that sink in. It comes in two major varieties, Arabica, which is mostly the good stuff, and Robusta, which if you like coffee, you don’t really want to be drinking.
There’s tonnes of articles featuring pop psychology entitled “What Your Coffee Choices Say About You…” which are often embarrassing and obvious. Drink espresso? You’re a no-nonsense kind of gal. Take your iced frappucino with a double shot of vanilla hazelnut? You’re probably 15, and high on sugar.
This article takes a look at the world’s third best-selling drink, after water and tea, one of which is a major ingredient of coffee so shouldn’t really count. And tea production only really took hold in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) after a pesky fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, pretty much wiped out that country’s coffee industry in 1869.
You’ve probably read those conspiracy articles on line about instant coffee being made of wood shavings or not actually containing any coffee. Well, that’s a lie. It’s made of freeze-dried or spray-dried dehydrated coffee.
It’s also the stuff that uses up 50% of the world’s green coffee beans and is what 75% of people in the UK drink at home.
Instant coffee contains less caffeine than the real thing and was invented by a Frenchman in the late 19th century, Alphonse Allais, as a reaction to his fellow soldier’s complaints about the coffee drunk during his national service. He also notably created shells laden with hair, and frosted glass aquarium for shy fish, two inventions which didn’t seem to hold the enduring appeal of instant coffee.
Coffee originates from East Africa, being first consumed after a farmer allegedly saw a marked spike in the way sheep gambolled around having consumed berries from a coffee plant. Real brewed coffee – as we know it today – actually took hold in Yemen in the middle of the 14th century, being drunk with a degree of ceremony at Sufi temples, but with a far lower degree of Instagram.
If you are cool – and let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, you really are – then you need to ensure you are drinking ethical coffee, friend. Time to move away from the instant brew scene and get into speciality coffee from that little joint around the corner. You see, the coffee industry is dominated by large, multinational companies which supply cheap, generic products to supermarkets.
Most ethical problems in the coffee industry start with poor quality, low altitude Arabica and most of the world’s Robusta, which ends up in that jar of instant coffee in your cupboard. The big companies don’t look for high-quality beans – they want volume. Buying massive amounts means these big players get what they want, at the cost of good practices. Farmers, keen to supply the big buyers often use cheap labour. They clear indigenous trees to create more space to grow coffee trees and use the cheapest pesticides. Then they get a bad deal for their coffee when it comes to selling it.
So, what do your coffee choices say about you? Head to the nearest ‘greasy spoon’ and ask for a Jamaican Blue Mountain ristretto or a nice Chemex of Sidamo and you might receive a confused, withering stare, but hold your head up high that your coffee choices – based on choosing a delicious, fresh, fair trade coffee – make a real difference in the world. Celebrate your choices!