An Introduction to Coffee
In this part of the guide we’re going to give you a brief overview of the history of coffee’s development, from the initial discovery of the coffee bean, our understanding of the coffee bean’s molecular structure, and what you need to know about coffee plants and harvesting.
Coffee is a product of the Renaissance era. It was (likely) discovered in Africa by a perceptive goat herder who noticed how his goats became more energetic after eating certain plants that grew on their terrain (“Kaldi”)1.
Of course, once humans tried it out, they too began to feel more energetic - and less drowsy - after ingestion. It became an instant sensation throughout most parts of the world.
Legally traded in some countries as early as the mid-1600s, coffee has become an important part of culture for many people worldwide.
Caffeine’s Chemical Structure
Caffeine is an Alkaloid, which means it falls in the category of “naturally occurring” compounds that can be produced by plants with nitrogen in them.
The scientific name for the caffeine compound is “1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine”.
The molecular structure of caffeine, the active ingredient in many drinks and foods (like chocolate truffles or coffee beans) is very similar to a compound that controls part of our nervous system.
This naturally-occurring compound is called adenosine and it turns down nerve activity which in turn causes drowsiness.
Caffeine causes the body to prevent adenosine from reaching its receptors resulting in people who ingest it feeling less sleepy and more energized.
Coffee is a science that has been studied and fine-tuned for centuries. In truth, you could say that the human body was not meant to handle caffeine, but God knows people have tried their best because it's so good!
Growing Coffee Plants for Harvesting
Growing coffee beans requires an understanding of how plants grow; harvesting them involves careful attention to both plant growth as well as crop protection practices such as roasting or grinding during processing in order to get all those tasty flavors out into the product.
All that to say.. the art and science of coffee-making, even in the early stages of the process, is a complicated subject.
The more you know about it the better you'll be able to shape and produce a great quality coffee.
If you understand things like why water has to be a specific temperature, how the size of the coffee particles impact extraction, and the different rates at which compounds are soluble, you'll have internalized some of the important principles behind coffee making and be better able to make your own professionally.
Did You Know?
According to a famous diary belonging to Samuel Pepys, who was a British Naval administrator, England’s first coffeehouse was the grand cafe in Oxford, established in 1652. The Cafe is still around and not only can you visit it, you can also book a room for private gatherings.
What exactly is Coffee?
Fundamentally, you can say that coffee is a beverage created by brewing roasted coffee beans sourced from coffee plants (member sof the genus “Coffea”) with very hot water.
Does caffeine mimic adenosine?
The short answer is yes.
Caffeine is considered an adenosine receptor antagonist, which means it blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. It does this precisely because it mimics adenosine which “tricks” the brain into thinking it is receiving sufficient adenosine.
What is the birthplace of Coffee?
Generally it’s believed that coffee beans were first discovered in Ethiopia.
How Large are Coffee Plants?
Coffee plants can be very large, growing to nearly 32 feet (or 10 meters) tall.