If you thought your favourite cup of coffee was unhealthy, think again!!
Coffee’s origin can be traced back to the 12th century in Ethiopia, where it is believed to have been first harvested. “Traders brought coffee to the Middle East, from where it began to spread outward in the 15th century, penetrating every corner of Europe over the next two hundred years”. Brazil is one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world.
The last few years, urban India has acquired a new coffee culture. International chains are opening coffee shops and doing brisk business, even in smaller towns. While, South Indian filtered coffee has been a tradition, India in general is waking up to coffee.
Coffee beans are cured either by air-drying or fermentation. The dried hulled beans are then roasted and ground. The green coffee beans have little flavor and aroma, until they are roasted. Beans expand to one-and-a-half times of their original size and become porous and are classified according to the colour of roasting into light, medium, dark, Italian or French, which are very-dark.
Most coffee beans are harvested directly from coffee trees, while, a special variety called Kopi Luwaka also known as civet coffee beans are passed through the digestive tract of a cat-like animal called civet. The enzymes in the civet’s digestive system break-down some proteins that give the beans bitterness and its unique mellowness. Interestingly, this is the world’s most expensive coffee, which typically sells for $200- $600/lb.
These treasured coffee beans come from Indonesia and other southeast Asian countries, and their supply is limited.
While there are several coffees, most of the world’s coffee comes from two species – coffea Arabica and coffea Robusta. Both these kinds of coffee bushes bear the fruit called cherry. Most cherries have two coffee beans in them, but a small percentage of cherries of the Arabica have only one coffee bean and this is the rare pea-berry bean. This pea-berry has much more flavor than its sister bean on the same Arabica plant, which is called the plantation bean. Arabica provides more taste and flavor, while Robusta more body and caffeine.
Other forms of coffee include – decaffeinated, instant, iced and flavoured coffee. Many health-conscious people have turned to de-caffeinated coffee, but there have been questions regarding safety of the decaffeinating process itself. Several de-caffeination processes are available including water, steam, carbon-dioxide, ethyl-acetate, methyl-chloride or coffee oils.
However, now most decaffeinated coffee is made from methods which use water and steam with no chemical solvents and are therefore safe. Instant coffee powders contain dry, powdered water-soluble solids produced by drying very strong brewed coffee. The flavor of instant coffee is similar to that of freshly brewed coffee but the aroma is somewhat lacking in comparison with the freshly brewed beverage. These coffees should be kept packed in air-tight containers because they tend to absorb moisture.
Coffee contains more than 400 chemicals including trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Caffiene is the main stimulant. A regular cup of coffee contains approximately 100 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content varies enormously depending on how strong the coffee is made. Caffeine increases epinephrine (adrenaline) release, which stimulates the central nervous system, increases states of alertness and increases heart-beat.
Despite it’s growing popularity, most people believe coffee to be somewhat toxic addiction taken only as an indulgence or to overcome sleep and boost alertness. Several, health concerns have been attributed to coffee drinking including it’s addictive nature, ill-effects on digestion, bone health, cardio-vascular health, disturbed sleep, high blood pressure, infertility and increased incidence in pancreatic or bladder cancer.