Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kona Coffee

Excellent coffee from a tropical paradise

Kona coffee comes from Hawaii, but only from the exclusive Kona region on the west coast of Hawaii island. Hawaii does produce other varieties of coffee, but Kona stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. Some of the other coffee regions around Hawaii are: Molokai, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

As with most excellent coffee-growing regions, it's the tropical environment that makes Kona such a gem. The days are bright and sunny, with rain most afternoons. The nights are mild, with no fears of frost. The Kona soil is deep, dark and richly volcanic.

Part of the special charm of Kona coffee is its production. The Kona region spans across nearly 2300 acres, and is home to more than 600 independent coffee farms. These small, family-owned farms typically harvest their coffee crops by hand. Some sell their harvest to larger Kona processors, but more and more farms are taking their product one step further and selling the green or even roasted beans directly to consumers under their own label.

It has a medium body, but a rich flavour that has hints of wine and spice.

As with all coffee varieties, peaberry is the most desirable type of Kona. There are usually two beans in each coffee cherry, but when only a single bean is formed, it is much more flavourful than regular coffee.

Coffee is not native to Hawaii, but was brought from Brazil by Reverend Samuel Ruggles in the early 1800s during his missionary work there. When the price of coffee crashed in 1899, the huge plantations were broken up and leased to the families that worked on them. These small family farms are what we still see in Hawaii today.

Coffee and Caffeine

Coffee and Caffeine

Coffee contains caffeine... a mild stimulant to the central nervous system.

The caffeine in coffee occurs naturally; it’s not added to coffee (as it is, for example, added to many soft drinks.) Coffee – with its stimulating constituent, caffeine – is the most popular mood-altering substance on the planet, and has been for more than 300 years.

Caffeine promotes wakefulness by interfering with adenosine, a chemical in the body that acts as something of an natural sleep-promoting drug. In addition to its wakeful properties, caffeine – in moderate amounts – has been shown to enhance mood and increase alertness.

In moderate amounts, caffeine has been shown to decrease pain, alleviate asthma symptoms and migraine headaches, even to combat jet lag. The key, of course, is the phrase we seem to be repeating quite a lot… moderation.

What’s moderate? The medical community today generally agrees that 3 or 4 cups of coffee a day should be considered moderate consumption. What’s moderate for you, however, is largely a matter of how you respond to caffeine. If you have questions or concerns about your own consumption of caffeine, please talk to your doctor.

Relative Caffeine Content


Serving Size


Brewed Coffee

6 oz.



1.5 oz.


Brewed Decaf Coffee

6 oz.


Iced Tea

12 oz.


Hot Tea

6 oz.



12 oz.


Chocolate Bar

2 oz.


Coffee and Nutrition

Coffee and Nutrition

Nutritionally speaking, brewed coffee is pretty much inert.

Coffee has virtually no calories or fats, no carbohydrates, no sodium, no cholesterol… if it were required to carry a nutritional product label, that label would consist mostly of a lot of zeros. (In fact, coffee is exempt from federal food label programs precisely because it has zero nutritive value.)

That said, coffee does offer a number of trace minerals (Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese) and is a good source of Potassium, Pantothenic Acid and Riboflavin. A 6 ounce cup of brewed coffee may contain 2 to 4 milligrams of Sodium… most from the water used to brew the coffee and not the coffee, itself.

Our flavored coffees are likewise free of calories and carbs. Our flavored coffees have no additional nutritional impact. We add no sugars or sweeteners of any kind. So while our flavors may taste indulgent, they're absolutely guilt-free. (Note: Our Fair Trade Rain Forest Nut® no longer features slices of Brazil nuts.)

Sugar? Milk? Cream?

While coffee itself has virtually no nutritional impact, the things you might add to our coffee will, in turn, dial up those numbers. And, if what you ’re really doing is adding a little bit of coffee to a large cup of steamed milk (with a few tablespoons of flavored syrups on top!) the results can be pretty dramatic.

Serving Additive Calories Carbs Fat Cholesterol


Milk, 2%






Milk, Whole






Half & Half























If you’re watching your diet, be sure to watch what you’re adding to your cup!

Coffee and Health

Coffee and Health

Like so many of the beverages we enjoy today, coffee was once prescribed as a tonic for what ails you…

Provided that what ails you is a lack of alertness or a sour mood, it’s good on its promise. Let’s leave patent medicines aside for the moment, though, and ask:

Is coffee good for you? The answer is, quite simply, yes!

Coffee has been a frequent subject of scrutiny by the medical community… perhaps because it’s so widely consumed, yet offers no apparent nutritive value. Or, maybe doctors are just looking for a really good cup of coffee!

Despite some 30 years of study, the field of medicine has yet to draw a direct correlation between moderate consumption of coffee and any medical disease or chronic health condition. Studies that have suggested worrisome links between coffee consumption and reproductive health, for example, have been put to rest by subsequent studies – larger, and more thorough – that have exonerated our favorite beverage.

More recent studies by the medical science community are now finding numerous positive benefits of moderate coffee consumption! These studies suggest that drinking coffee may reduce risks of colon cancer by 25% and cirrhosis of the liver by 80%, and may reduce the onset of Parkinson’s disease by up to 80%. More, brewed coffee has been found to have 3 to 4 times the amount of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants as green tea.

Still, we don’t recommend drinking coffee as a tonic – we think it tastes good and we enjoy how a great cup of coffee makes us feel. If you have specific concerns about coffee, please, talk to your family physician.

Learning what you like

Learning what you like.

At Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, we believe that the perfect cup of coffee is as individual as you are.

There is no single perfect cup... it's a matter of personal preference. Yours.

Maybe it's that morning cup that starts your day on the right foot. Or maybe you prefer lingering over a rare, exotic origin on a rainy day. Whatever your mood, we offer coffees to make your experience complete. To help narrow your search, you might try matching your coffee personality.

The Armchair Traveler. Maybe you were profoundly moved by your trip to Europe. Maybe you've never been, but simply long for the experience. Try our Single Origin Coffees... coffees of unmatched flavor, balance and character. Rare in production and limited in supply, they represent the pinnacle of the craft that creates the world's best beans.

Quintessentially American. You've little taste for the exotic, thanks very much. You prefer your coffee to taste, well... like coffee! Straightforward, brisk and direct. We suggest the coffee blends in our Signature Collection. Tried and true customer favorites that are mild, smooth and aromatic.

Coffee for a Cause. Maybe you're not an every-day activist, but you can be an activist at breakfast. Our Fair Trade Organic Coffees arent' just exceptional origins and blends, they help improve the quality of life in coffee communities around the world.

A Little Indulgence. You're not looking for coffee with dessert... you want coffee for dessert! Our Flavored Coffees are rich, delectably fragrant and guilt-free indulgences.

Tasting coffee

Tasting coffee.

After reading how we cup coffee, you might be wondering... is this really any way to enjoy coffee? Well, no.

Our formal process of cupping coffee is all about evaluating coffees... it really has little to do with enjoying them. When we want to enjoy a cup we brew some in a press pot, or vacuum pot, or take a stroll over to the coffee lab and enjoy the coffee team's fabulous espresso drinks.

Cupping coffee is a ritual... and outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, there really are no similar rituals for folk who aren't in the coffee industry.

Or are there?

Consider the breakfast cup. For millions of people their day simply hasn't begun 'til they've had their morning cup — whether alone, or in the company of croissant, beignet, bagels or bacon and eggs. There is perhaps no more contemplated cup in the world.

Consider the ritual of the dessert cup. Whether your after-dinner treat is tiramisu, death by chocolate, or a few chocolate chips, there are few better companions than an equally rich cup of fresh-brewed coffee.

There are more... coffee and biscotti. Coffee and Mozart. Even coffee and Zen. No rituals, indeed.

Savoring a great cup of coffee deserves a ritual. It merits taking some time. Paying attention. Freeing yourself to be fully in the moment. We suggest the following:

  1. Grind your coffee. Note the fragrance of the fresh-ground beans... spicy, earthy, perhaps nutty.
  2. Brew your coffee. Enjoy the aroma as it brews... heady and full of promise.
  3. Pour your coffee. Find a comfy place to sit. Feel the cup warm your hand.
  4. Sample the aroma of the cup. Is it sweet? Fruity? Notes of caramel?
  5. Breathe.
  6. Sip your coffee. Go ahead... slurp it if you like. Focus on its flavor... is it complex? Is it direct, straightforward?
  7. Breathe out through your nose. Savor the aromas that waft through your sinuses... are there herbal notes? Fruit?
  8. Sip your coffee again. Wiggle your tongue. Does the coffee feel heavy? Viscous? Or is it light and delicate?
  9. Breathe out through your mouth... feel your breath on your tongue. What new flavors and aromas do you sense?
  10. Repeat, as often as you like.

Iced Coffee Recipes

Iced Coffee Recipes

Our flavored coffees (and flavored decafs) make great iced coffee cocktails without the fuss of sticky, calorie-laden syrups. If you're a single-cup coffee fan, you can make delicious iced coffee with your Keurig coffee brewer! Simply brew a single cup of your favorite coffee (we recommend a small cup) and follow our basic technique for a flavorful iced coffee cocktail.

Nutty Rainforest Freeze

The flavors of caramel and brazil nuts in our Fair Trade Rain Forest Nut® coffee blend delightfully with dairy to make this one of our favorite coolers.

  • 1 cup (6 oz.) Fair Trade Rain Forest Nut coffee (brewed strong)
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream (or half & half, or…)
  • 2 tsp. Sugar (or 2 packets Splenda)

Use basic technique: brew fresh coffee, add sweetener to hot coffee. Fill shaker with ice, add dairy over ice. Add coffee, shake, strain and serve in chilled glass. Garnish with a sweet strawberry, split and hung on the rim of the glass.

Blueberry Rhapsody

A stunning way to enjoy the fruity flavors of our Wild Mountain Blueberry coffee!

  • 1 cup (6 oz.) Wild Mountain Blueberry coffee (brewed strong)
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream (or half & half, or…)
  • 2 tsp. Sugar (or 2 packets Splenda)

Uses basic technique. Garnish with fresh blueberries, of course!

Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee

Hot times! Summer's finally here and we can't help but think of swimming holes, shady porch-swings and a tall cup of coffee.


Sure! Coffee's not just for breakfast any more... or the blustery days of winter, either. When the mercury climbs – or whatever that stuff is they put in thermometers today – all you need are a few handy tools and a little know-how and you can make easy and refreshing treats to see you through the summer heat.

The tools.

You may think you need a fancy blender to make a smooth iced coffee drink. Not so! Our favorite drinks require little more than ice, coffee and some kind of leak proof container to shake ‘em up. Of course, there's really no better tool for the job than a cocktail shaker... We like those that are made of durable, dishwasher-safe stainless steel, and feature a built-in strainer.

For drinks that are stirred, not shaken, you might also consider ice-cube trays. Even if you've got one of those automatic ice-maker gadgets in your freezer, the humble ice-cube tray has its uses... and one of those is to freeze coffee into cubes so that as the ice melts it doesn't dilute your lovely iced coffee beverage.

The ingredients.

We like our iced coffee with a little bit of creamy dairy goodness (Vermont is a dairy state, after all!) and a little bit of sweetener. Having said that, you've got a lot of options... you can use skim milk, or heavy cream, or anything in-between. (Heavy cream often has carrageenan, a natural thickener, added to it to give it added body – this is especially nice in frozen coffee drinks!) As for the sweet stuff: sugar is fine, honey is heavenly, but calorie and carb-neutral sweetening products will work as well – sometimes better. (More about that in a moment.)

The basic technique.

Brew fresh coffee. This is important! Who wants to drink coffee that's been left to cool (and loose its aromatics and flavor?) We like coffee that's to be iced brewed strong... even double-strength.

If you're adding sweetener, add it to the just-brewed, hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Neither sugar nor honey are soluble in cold liquids (but many sugar substitutes are, and can be added directly to your cocktail shaker.)

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Don't skimp... too little ice will leave you with a luke-warm, watery mix.

If you're adding dairy products, pour them over the ice in the cocktail shaker. It's a good idea all around to keep cold with cold until we're ready to bring them all together.

Shake, shake, shake! Add your hot coffee to your cocktail shaker, top with its lid and shake vigorously, all at once rapidly chilling the hot coffee, mixing coffee, sweetener and dairy, and frothing the whole mixture. Shake for no less than ten seconds and rarely more than twenty. Shaking done, simply strain your coffee concoction into a tall, cold glass – maybe even a classy martini glass or two – and enjoy.

With the basics in-hand, you can make iced coffee treats tailored to your tastes. To help you get started, here are some of our favorite coffee cocktail recipes.

Here's to a sweet summer!

Brewing a Great Cup of Coffee.

Brewing a Great Cup of Coffee.

There are a great many ways to brew a great cup of coffee. The basics, however, are universal.

You've heard it before... maybe you've even said it. "But I make terrible coffee!" Don't panic. Brewing delicious coffee isn't difficult, you simply need to mind a few details. The following tips cover most every thing you need to know.

Buy whole bean coffee. Buying and storing our coffee in whole bean form keeps delicate oils and aromas where they belong —in the bean— safely locked away from their primary enemy, oxygen.

Store unopened bags of our coffee in a cool, dry place. We eliminate most of the oxygen in our bags by flushing them with nitrogen, an inert gas that won't cause staling. After you open the bag, store unused beans in an air-tight canister.

Don't buy more coffee than you'll use in a matter of weeks. With our Café EXPRESS program, you can have fresh coffee delivered to your door when you choose, so you don't need to worry about running out!

Grind your beans just before brewing... and be sure to choose a grind appropriate for your brewing method. Grind coarsely for use in a coffee press, less so for a vacuum pot. Grind fairly fine for auto drip.

Always use fresh, good-tasting, cold water. Brewed coffee is about 98% water, after all.

Measure your coffee. Tastes vary widely, but a good place to start is between 1 and 2 tablespoons for each 6 ounces of water. Too little coffee won't make a weaker brew... it'll make a bitter brew. If your coffee is stronger than you like, you can always dilute it with additional hot water.

Brew your coffee using clean equipment. Whatever your method of brewing, start with sparkling clean gear.

Enjoy your coffee immediately... or store it for an hour or two in a thermal carafe. Don't let your coffee sit on a warming plate.

Cupping Coffee

Cupping Coffee

We're constantly tasting coffee... We taste to evaluate coffees at origin, and when receive new shipments of coffee here in Vermont. We taste to discover the best roast, we taste to blend. We taste our finished product every day, to ensure its quality and consistency.

Cupping coffees is one of the most unique aspects of our craft. It involves intense focus as we bring all our senses to bear on the cup in front of us... punctuated by noisy, explosive slurps. (It might look and sound silly, but it's a very effective way to taste!)

When we "cup" coffees, we formally evaluate their qualities using very precise sensory criteria. For cupping, we roast coffees very lightly, so that nuances of the coffee's own flavors and aromas aren't obscured by the roasting process itself. We then grind and brew these coffees in open bowls, and judge their merits on the following qualities:

We evaluate the fragrance of the just-ground coffee, before it's brewed. The coffee's fragrance can speak volumes about the coffee's origin, and the care of its processing.
We judge the aroma of the brewed coffee. Coffee's aromas vary dramatically from origin to origin. Some have floral qualities, others offer citrus and fruit, even wood and earth.
Acidity, or brightness, is not the PH level of the coffee, and an "acidy" coffee won't upset your stomach... instead, it will make your taste-buds tingle. Bright coffees offer a pleasing tang on the tongue.
The diversity in coffee's flavor from origin to origin is astonishing... even coffees from the same origin surprise us!
The coffee's body is the sensation of weight or texture that it offers on the tongue. Full-bodied coffees may be buttery or even syrupy.
We call the sensations that remain in the mouth when the coffee is gone its finish, or aftertaste. Some coffees impart a sweet, lingering finish; others are more direct, even abrupt.
Evaluating a coffee's balance is really about how all its individual flavors and taste sensations come together. Balance tends to separate good coffees from great coffees, in which the overall composition is somehow greater than the sum of its parts.

Throughout our process of evaluation it's important to keep in mind where a particular coffee is from. Qualities that are highly desirable in an American coffee —bright, citrus aromas and clean, polished flavors — are not the same qualities that are desired in coffees from Indonesia, where a more muted acidity and a lush, lyrical body is the norm.

Roasting & Blending Coffee

Roasting & Blending Coffee

If sourcing green coffee is a little like botany (and it is!) then roasting and blending is more akin to alchemy.

Roasting is a craft that's part art, and part science. It involves matching roast temperature and time with a given bean to maximize its potential. When you start with beans of great character, it's crucial that you roast them appropriately, so as not to obscure the coffee's origin flavors and aromas.

That's precisely what we do... in fact, we call our approach, Appropriate Roast™. Even our darkest roasts (our French Roast, for example) take care always to respect the integrity of the coffee.

We apply the same principles to our blends. We roast and blend carefully to develop the unique character of all of a blend's origin coffees.

The result? A large and varied palette of flavors to blend with. It's that palette that makes it possible to create our signature blends, like Vermont Country Blend® and Nantucket Blend®. It's extra effort, sure... but we think you'll agree it's worth it.

Sourcing Coffee

Sourcing Coffee

A great cup of coffee begins where the beans are grown...

We travel to coffee-growing countries the world over not only to discover great new coffees, but to strengthen our relationships with our current coffee producers.

Working side-by-side with coffee farmers allows us to identify opportunities to improve the process... from choosing the the best coffee varietals to plant and grow, to ensuring the health of the coffee trees and the overall ecosystem. We may find a cooperative would benefit from a new coffee drying patio, or better source of fresh water or power. Often we can help finance these improvements.

It's immensely satisfying to find a coffee producer that has the potential to grow exceptional coffee, and then to help them get there. It would be a simple thing to simply dictate quality standards. It's far more effective —and ultimately, more rewarding— to work with our growers to ensure they attain them.

Lending a Hand

Lending a Hand

Coffee growers are made of sturdy stuff... The work is demanding. The hours are long. There's always something that needs doing no matter the time of year.

Farming has its rewards. It builds strong families, and it can be a healthy lifestyle, deeply rooted in nature. A new school for La VozBut it's often the only choice of rural inhabitants in developing countries to provide for their families.

Like family farmers everywhere, coffee growers are well aware that farming is a risky business, and some things are simply out of their control. A spell of bad weather can ruin a bountiful crop. And a turn in the market can render a great crop unprofitable.

For too many years now, the global commodity price for coffee has been at historic lows. An oversupply —a glut, really— of cheap, low-quality coffee from newly-planted growing regions has depressed the coffee market price under the point of profitability. While buyers of quality beans, like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, have a long tradition of paying farmers prices substantially above the commodity market price, the specialty grade beans we buy comprise just 5 to 10% of the total global crop.

Programs like Fair Trade help a lot of farmers who are members of coffee cooperatives, but a great many family farms remain out of their reach. To extend our own reach, we've partnered with Coffee Kids, Heifer International and Grounds for Health. And, where we can, we invest directly into coffee communities in need, with the goals of creating ever-greater self-sufficiency, and ever-improved coffee quality.

If we can help our producer partners to grow, harvest and process more coffee that meets our high standards, then we can buy more of that farmer's crop. And farmers that can develop a direct market for their quality coffee with roasters like us can better withstand stormy commodity market prices. We believe it's our responsibility to help steward the sustainability of our industry by helping coffee farmers, and their communities, develop a strong future.

We're committed to quality. We're committed to our growers, and to our relationships. Together, we'll help our farmers —our partners— weather the storm.

Processing Coffee

Processing Coffee

The question of how to process just-harvested coffee is answered only in part by geography, and by the resulting natural resources... it’s also a question of tradition.

A farmer of high-grown coffees on a finca or co-op in Central America wouldn’t Removing leaves and stems as the coffee is washed.dream of dry-processing his hard, dense and fruity beans… he’d probably sooner leave them on the tree (which, in countries like Yemen is a not an altogether unusual practice).

And while it might occur to the farmer in Sumatra to wet-process his beans, to gently ferment them to loosen the sweet pulp, and then to carefully sun-dry the result (precisely as that finca in Costa Rica or Guatemala has done for generations) it’s likely our farmer in Sumatra wouldn’t find much of a market for his beans. While there’d be nothing wrong with the resulting coffee, neither would it have the cup characteristics long associated with the origin.

But even tradition can’t begin to explain why coffee growing regions that may not have an abundance of water resources – Kenya, say, or Ethiopia – have come to rely on wet processing for their specialty coffee crop. Sorting coffee in EthiopiaIt can be argued that these regions have an ample natural resource… the sun! As it happens, there are regions within Ethiopia that that dry-process and sun-dry their coffees, to wonderful effect… it’s just this process that gives us the celebrated Ethiopian Harrar coffee.

Ultimately it’s all about the coffee itself, and the potential found within. Dry-processing yields lovely mocha-like flavors in an Ethiopian coffee – winey and wild and fruity – but wet-processing yields something altogether different: explosively perfumed aromatics, sparkling citrus, vibrant, flowered fruit… flavors and aromatics that make Ethiopian Yirgacheffe arguably the most distinctive coffee in the world.

While geography and tradition still play a role, theirs is a bit part compared to the starring role commanded by the coffee crop, itself.

Growing Coffee

Growing Coffee

What a poignant irony that Coffea aribaca —our prized coffee tree— thrives only in sheltered, mountainous, subtropical microclimates… far flung places with steeply sloping terrain that defies every step of those who labor to tend it.

And labor it is… prized coffee trees must be carefully tended if they are to produce an abundance of coffee cherries. Soil must drain well, be slightly acidic and rich with minerals. Weeds and creepers must be kept in check, but not eliminated; they cling to precious soil that might otherwise wash down the mountain slopes. Finally, coffee trees must be shaded from harsh sun, so a canopy of banana, nut and other fruit and hardwoods is planted and tended, too.

When the coffee cherries ripen, it’s all-hands to the harvest. It’s back-breaking work to hand pick the fruit on these steep, tangled slopes… and picking is done exclusively by hand, as only the ripest cherries will do. Fruit that’s too ripe will be sorted out in later processing, but under-ripe fruit is left on the tree for later pickings. Each tree will be visited as many as four times over the precious few days that ripeness is at is peak.

At day’s end, weary coffee-pickers haul their sacks of cherries down the steep slopes, and empty them onto burlap mats, where everyone joins in to pick out any green cherries, twigs and leaves. The cleaned cherries are carefully weighed. There’s good-natured rivalry here… ribbing for those who picked less than their usual; a sense of accomplishment for those who’ve picked most. It’s not just pride involved, however; workers are paid by how much they’ve picked, not by how long they’ve labored.

While the coffee pickers collect their day’s pay and head for home, the fresh-picked coffee cherries have only begun their journey… within hours the sweet, picked fruit will begin to ferment in its own skin. Uncontrolled, that ferment will flavor the coffee beans inside. If the beans taste of ferment, despite the care they’ve seen in growing and harvesting, they’re practically worthless.

Penny Universities

Penny Universities

Coffee made its introduction to Europe in the early 17th century as medicine for what ails you… whether your ailment include headaches, consumption, dropsy, gout or scurvy.

First offered by apothecaries in Venice and street vendors in Milan, coffee found footing in Vienna by way of a failed Ottoman invasion, and found the fancy of Germany’s upper crust: it inspired Johann Sebastian Bach’s Coffee Cantata, and obsessed Ludvig van Beethoven, who was rumored to grind precisely 60 beans for his morning cup.

It was in London, however, where coffee –and coffee houses– became the rage. The first London coffee house opened at Oxford University in 1650, and by 1700 more than 2000 coffeehouses dotted the London landscape. Early coffeehouses served more than coffee; they also served as hotbeds of conversation, politics and commerce. One coffeehouse might serve as a gathering place for physicians, another for actors, or musicians, or lawyers or clergy. These gathering places became known as Penny Universities… for the price of a cup of coffee, one could sit for hours and participate in the discourse of the day.

Or, one could conduct his business of the day… and a great many did. Mr. Edward Lloyd’s coffee house catered largely to merchants and sailors of the day, as well as the underwriters who met over coffee to offer insurance. In time, Lloyd’s Coffee House became Lloyd’s of London, the storied insurance company. Likewise, other coffeehouses –centers for news, currency and futures markets– became newspapers, banks, and stock exchanges, many of which thrive still today. Behold, the power of coffee!

While coffee flourished in Arabian lands

While coffee flourished in Arabian lands, the legend of its powers of sobriety and mental clarity quickly spread far beyond Arabian borders.

While its historic roots are still shrouded in legend, by the middle 15th century the people of Arabia were roasting and brewing coffee to enjoy a beverage much as we know it today. Wine was forbidden to Moslems, so coffee became an integral part of Arabian society. Sharing coffee became ritual, and should a man of Arabia to fail to provide his wife with coffee, it was grounds for divorce.

Venetian traders were introduced to coffee by Arabian merchants, who'd insist on a cup as they bartered and bargained for hours. Soon coffee was offered by apothecaries in Venice — by prescription only. Some feared the power of "the devil's cup" and brought coffee before Pope Clement VII, hopeful he might condemn it from Christendom. To their dismay, Clement immensely enjoyed the beverage, and baptized it, so that all could enjoy the beverage without guilt… and without a prescription.

While Arab traders were keen to ship boiled or parched seeds the entire world over, they were careful to never allow beans or cuttings that could create new coffee plants to leave Arabian borders... coffee had become so precious to them, it was made illegal to export fertile beans.

On pilgrimage to Mecca in the middle 1600s, Baba Budan, a revered holy man from India, discovered for himself the wonders of coffee. In his zeal to share what he’d found with his fellows at home, he smuggled seven coffee beans out of Arabia, wrapped around his belly. On his return home, he planted the beans in the hills of Mysore, India, and nurtured the young coffee bushes that resulted. Coffee flourished in the hills of India – hills now named after Baba Budan.

In short order, enterprising Dutch traders bought some of these coffee plants, and shipped them to faraway colonies in Indonesia and Ceylon. The Arabian monopoly of the coffee trade was over, and the Western world was waking up to a new aroma… one that would play a fateful role in Europe, and beyond.

The Legend of Kaldi

The Legend of Kaldi

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Ethiopia —or maybe Abyssinia, it was a very long time ago, after all— there lived a young goatherd named Kaldi.

By all accounts (and there are many, as the story has been retold many, many times) Kaldi was a very responsible young man, and not one to do foolish things. Every day Kaldi would set his goats to grazing in the hills that surrounded his village, and every evening his loyal goats would return home. This, of course, would suggest that the goats were the responsible parties. How foolish is it, after all, to just turn your goats loose into the hills every morning? But, back to our story...

One evening, Kaldi's goats did not return home. The young man, no doubt feeling a little foolish by now, searched for his herd all through the night, and as morning broke he found them, leaping and dancing with reckless abandon and apparent glee round a stand of shiny, dark-leafed shrubs with bright red berries. Kaldi took in the scene before him, amazed. He soon decided it must be the berries that caused such reckless behavior in his otherwise responsible goats, and — forgetting everything his mother told him about eating strange foods from strange places — Kaldi sampled the berries, himself. In no time, he too was dancing gleefully with his goats around the green-leafed shrubs.

Soon, we are told, a wise and learned man passed by —an imam, or monk— trudging sleepily on his way to prayer. The imam rubbed his eyes and took in the scene before him —Kaldi and his goats— dancing gleefully about a stand of shiny, dark-leafed shrubs with bright red berries.

Being both a curious and learned man, the imam gathered some of these berries, himself, and on returning home he studied them. In his experiments with the bright red berries, he roasted them, boiled them and sampled the resulting beverage. He shared what he found with the rest of his fellow monks, and soon none fell asleep at prayers! And so coffee spread from place to place, creating a more gleeful, and wakeful, world.

So what of Kaldi? Perhaps he and his goats are dancing, still.

Coffee. The very word is alive with memory and promise.

Coffee. The very word is alive with memory and promise.

Coffee is our constant companion...

We begin our day with a breakfast cup. Share stories and secrets and laughter over a late afternoon latte. We end a perfect meal with dessert and a dark-roasted demitasse.

Coffee's heady aroma can transport us... to gramma's kitchen table. To that little French bistro, or that memorable Autumn in a quaint Vermont village.

For all the tremendous effort required to grow and harvest coffee — and the passion to select, roast and blend the beans just-so — coffee remains one of life's few simple pleasures.

This is the story of coffee. Of its rich history, its legend and lore—and its long journey from tree to cup.

We begin somewhere between history and lore, with the tale of a young herdsman named Kaldi...

The Story of Coffee

Have you ever wondered how the secret of coffee was discovered and just how it became popular all over the world?

The discovery of coffee
It is not known exactly when the first person discovered the effects of the coffee plant and brewed a drink from the berries, but there are two stories about the origins of coffee. The first comes from an Arabian doctor called Rhazes, who mentions it as a medicine from about 900 BC. The second story is about an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi (around 300 AD). Different versions of both stories are told but the basic story remains the same.

The story of coffee

The legend of Kaldi

The legend tells the story of Kaldi the goatherd, who lived in Ethiopia about 300 AD. He noticed that after the goats had been eating red berries from a tree, they were lively and energetic until late in the evening. He tried the red berries himself and experienced the same effect. He mentioned this to the monks in the nearby monastery, who from then on took the berries to stay awake during the nightly prayer gatherings. By chance they discovered that the beans could be roasted and that a beverage prepared from the roasted beans not only produced the same effect, but also tasted far better. The coffee beans and the beverage made from them, were from then on regarded as a luxurious stimulant.

Coffee spreads around the world
The first systematic cultivation of coffee began in the terraced gardens of the Yemen, and with help of the Islamic pilgrims going to Mecca and Medina the use of coffee spread to the Near East. Later the cultivation spread to Arabia and Egypt, where drinking coffee (or "Kahweh") soon became a daily habit.

From the early 17th Century coffee become known in Europe and its popularity grew very quickly. Coffee houses sprang up everywhere, especially in Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Early in the 18th century, the Dutch spread the cultivation of coffee to Indonesia; the French took some plants to Martinique while the Spanish started plantations in the Caribbean, Central America and Brazil.

It was in 1753 that the story of Douwe Egberts begins.

Coffee today
Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, followed by Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia. Many other countries produce coffee but they have a smaller output.

So who drinks it? Well, many of us drink coffee, from North to South, from East to West, from morning till night. We have many recipes and many rituals, and everyone knows coffee! More than 20 million people world wide are estimated to work in the coffee- industry or related businesses.

History Of Coffee

There are countless legends built around coffee and as is common in this kind of story, dreams and fantasy get mixed with reality.

One of these legends takes place in the Yemen, a place near "Chehodet" monastery. A herd of goats was grazing in the rough hillsides of the region, when the goatherds realised that some had strayed. They went to the mountain to search for them and there, they discovered that the animals were unusually excited and that they were chewing the red fruits and leaves of an unknown bush.

The goatherds quickly told the Chehodet monks about it and they, feeling curiosity, decided to study those bushes that had been ignored till then.

One day, one of the monks put some branches loaded with berries near the fire. He wanted to dry them, so that they could use them during the rains.

Absent-mindedly, he forgot them and the berries began to be roasted spreading a subtle smell, which could be felt around the whole monastery and astonished the community.

A short time after that, another monk took the beans out of the fire and ground them with a stone. With the powder he obtained, he prepared the usual beverage.

They discovered, not only that the beverage was better like that, but also that its properties remained undamaged.

Coffee History

Coffee History

According to a coffee history legend, an Arabian shepherd named Kaldi found his goats dancing joyously around a dark green leafed shrub with bright red cherries in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Kaldi soon determined that it was the bright red cherries on the shrub that were causing the peculiar euphoria and after trying the cherries himself, he learned of their powerful effect. The stimulating effect was then exploited by monks at a local monastery to stay awake during extended hours of prayer and distributed to other monasteries around the world. Coffee was born.

Despite the appeal of such a legend, recent botanical evidence suggests a different coffee bean origin. This evidence indicates that the history of the coffee bean beagan on the plateaus of central Ethiopia and somehow must have been brought to Yemen where it was cultivated since the 6th century. Upon introduction of the first coffee houses in Cairo and Mecca coffee became a passion rather than just a stimulant.

Espresso Tamping

Espresso Tamping

espresso tampingEspresso Tamping is an art that is often neglected in espresso preparation. The goal is to create a pellet of coffee through which the hot water from the espresso machine will penetrate evenly. Since the water from the espresso machine is under pressure, the espresso pellet must be hard and evenly tamped. The water only knows how to go from a region of high pressure to a region of low pressure. Therefore it is important to prevent paths of least resistance in the coffee pellet and force the water to evenly permeate and extract the coffee.

This chapter assumes that one has read and understood how to dose the coffee properly. After the ground coffee has been dosed into the porta-filter it is unevenly distributed. Hold the porta-filter in one hand while using the other hand to quickly, but gently level the coffee. This is usually accomplished by pulling the coffee to one side of the basket with a slightly curled pinky, then pushing the coffee back to the opposite side of the basket (Picture 2). The key is to evenly distribute the coffee without pressing into the grounds or leaving any empty space on the sides of the basket.

Correct Espresso Tamping

Once you are done distributing the grounds, it is time for the first tamp. Without moving the porta-filter, hold the espresso tamper so that the base of the handle fits into the palm of your hand. Your wrist should be straight, and the espresso tamper should be a straight extension of your arm. Press gently on the coffee with five pounds of pressure (Picture 3). You will notice that some of the grounds will stick to the side of the basket. Therefore, one must gently tap the basket with the handle on the porta-filter to knock the grounds onto the flat pellet you just formed (Picture 4).

The next step is to apply the finishing espresso tamp (Picture 5). The shape of the pellet has already been formed, and the finishing tamp confirms this impression. With the tamping tool held as before, press on the pellet with thirty pounds of pressure. It is useful to tamp espresso on a bathroom scale until you become comfortable with the amount of force necessary to achieve the appropriate pressure. After tamping, turn the espresso tamper 720° while continuing to apply pressure to polish the surface. Make sure you tamp evenly. An uneven espresso tamp will result in an uneven extraction.

The above steps should be carried out in about thirty seconds. Although speed is important, it is necessary to be careful not to bump the basket during this process. Sharply hitting the basket will unevenly distribute the grounds allowing shortcuts for the water to pass through. As any scientist can appreciate, the path of least resistance is preferred. If there are any weak spots or holes in the espresso pellet the water will push through this area, over extracting this portion of coffee while under extracting the rest of the pellet. Improper espresso tamping will result in a twirling pour or white crema.

Check the spacing above the espresso pellet and below the dispersion screen. You can do this by dosing, distributing, and tamping as described above. Then insert the porta-filter and remove it. Does the screen or screw press down onto the coffee? If so, the coffee will not have enough room to expand as it is brewing. On the other hand you want to have between 16-18 grams of coffee in the basket. Experiment with these two factors until you achieve a good height for the espresso pellet.

Choosing the Correct Espresso Tamper

Just as correct espresso tamping is essential, so is the use of a proper espresso tamper. The first action you should take is to throw away the plastic round bottom tamper that you currently have. The espresso tamper should be made of aluminum or similar light metal and should have a diameter so it fits firmly into the basket. Marzocco baskets are 58mm, so order the appropriate size. Without a flat packing surface, you create indents which cause uneven extraction. You may order your espresso tamper from Vivace's which sells several different size pistons to perfectly fit your basket. Currently, Vivace's has recommended the use of a round bottom coffee tamper rather than the traditional flat bottom tamping machines. This suggestion is welcome to further discussion. Currently, my observations do not support the conclusion that the rounded bottom tamper is better. Initial crema is thicker, but overall crema is less. I will continue tests with other espresso machines and with other espresso blends. You should also order the book "Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques," a great book on espresso preparation.

An Espresso Timeline

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An Espresso Timeline

Luigi Bezzera files a patent for machine that contained a boiler and four "groups". Each group could take varying sized filters that contained the coffee. Boiling water and steam were forced through the coffee and into the cup. Ambrogio Fumagelli (see ref. later) claims that this was the birth of espresso coffee.
Bezzera's patent purchased by Desiderio Pavoni.
The Pavoni company begins manufacturing machines based on the Bezzera patent.
First espresso machine installed in the USA. A "La Pavoni" machine at Regio's in New York. (Still there on display)
Earlier espresso machines forced steam through the coffee, causing a burnt flavour. In 1938 Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot (but not boiling) water through the coffee. It is first installed at Achille Gaggia's coffee bar but World War II prevented further development at that time.
Gaggia begins manufacturing a commercial piston machine. The resulting coffee has a layer of foam or crema.

The Coffee Museum in London has several interesting machines on display, including this one:

Unfortunately, the museum has no information at all(!) about the machines on display but this machine may well be one of the early Gaggia machines that use a separate heat exchanger to avoid forcing steam through the coffee. (More photos from the museum below.)

Faema launches a pump based machine. Instead of a hand operated piston the water is forced through the coffee by an electric pump. Water is taken from the fresh water supply and travels through a tube that is passed through the boiler and then through the coffee. This allows the water to be at the optimal temperature (~200F), filtered and not have to stay in the boiler for a long period. Almost all modern restaurant machines are essentially this design.

Modern innovations continue in the design of espresso machines. Many of these innovations are designed to produce a consistent product irrespective of the operator.

Some changes are simple, such as precise metering of the amount of water passed through the coffee. Earlier designs were based on the operator deciding when to stop the flow.

Other developments include "fully automatic" machines that grind the beans, froth the milk and deliver a complete cup, all with the touch of a button.

Most of this information (but not the form of words) was obtained from various books, including "Coffeemakers" by Ambrogio Fumagalli. This is a fascinating book of photos of coffee machines from 1800 to 1960 with a little bit of history thrown in. The English version is published by Chronicle Books of San Francisco. The definitive work in the area is "Coffee Floats Tea Sinks" by Ian Bersten.

A machine of similar style to the one in Regio's New York. (London Coffee Museum)
An early single group Faema hand pump machine. (London Coffee Museum)