Caffeinated Goats – Some facts about coffee

I was considering writing a post on a technical aspect of coffee, perhaps on growing regions or something of the like. However, as I sit here drinking my own cup of coffee, I realize that most people wouldn’t necessarily want to take 10 minutes out of their day to read about technicalities. As such, I thought it best to go with a more lighthearted, easy-to-read post, particularly for those who don’t know many technical nuances of the world’s favorite pick-me-up. For those who are interested in the nuances, however, fear not – I’ll certainly work on more in-depth coffee posts for the future, but for now, I thought I’d just give a few fun facts about coffee that I find interesting, humorous, or just weird. Some of these I found while reading a book about coffee or from friends, others I already knew and thought it’d be fun to share.

  • Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th century…by goats. When a shepherd noticed his goats seemed to have more energy after consuming cherries from a certain plant, he tried them for himself, and noticed they had the same effect on him. Those cherries were coffee cherries, and as such, Ethiopia became known as the birthplace of coffee.
  • Today, the largest producer of coffee is Brazil, as it has remained for a century and a half. Vietnam and Colombia take 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.
  • The world’s most expensive coffee is made out of wildcat crap. This particular coffee is made by feeding coffee beans to a Luwak, as its called, whose stomach is unable to digest coffee beans, and using their stomachs to ferment the bean. $600 per pound. Yeah. Let that sink in. Would you try it?
  • Coffee isn’t a bean or legume – it’s a fruit. What we know as coffee beans are actually the pit of a small, red fruit (which is why they’re known as coffee cherries). They’re simply called beans because of their appearance in similarity to actual beans.
  • Darker roast coffees have less caffeine than lighter roasts. This is because darker coffees are roasted for longer, and roasting actually burns away caffeine. On that same note, decaf coffees actually aren’t decaf – at least not entirely. On average, a decaf cup of coffee has approximately 5% the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of the same size.
  • Finally, coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, second only to water.

 

Thanks for reading! – Ryan

A Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Tasting

For many, there’s quite a difference between enjoying a certain coffee, and appreciating the differences and intricacies from cup to cup. If you’re interested in becoming one of the latter, a good first step is to learn how to do a proper coffee tasting. When done correctly, a coffee tasting is planned to bring out every aroma, taste, and feel of said coffee. Keep in mind that tastings should be done only with black coffee – any added sugar or cream will dilute and alter the original qualities of the coffee.

Although not required, you may get better results when tasting two different coffees side-by-side. This allows comparison between the two, allowing you to make observations based on what each coffee does or doesn’t have (i.e. Coffee A has more acidity than Coffee B, or Coffee C has a mouthfeel of [blank], while the mouthfeel of Coffee D is more akin to [blank]).

If you are just beginning coffee tastings, don’t worry when you aren’t able to pick up many differences between the coffees you taste – a more refined coffee palette comes with experience. The more coffees you taste and are able to describe, the better-equipped you’ll be to point out the differences between each.

Step 1 – Defining Aroma

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The nose can determine dozens more scents than the taste buds can pick up, so figuring out what aroma the coffee gives off is a logical first step.

After pouring the coffee, take your hand and cup in around the top lip of the cup, pressing your nose under it, creating a natural funnel for the aromas to reach your nostrils. Breathe in deep with your nose, doing your best to describe what aromas you sense. Nutty, floral, chocolaty, earthy, basil?

Step 2 – Defining Taste

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To be honest, this step always makes me chuckle, because while teaching people how to do coffee tastings, my advice for this step is basically “be as obnoxious as possible.” When doing the actual ‘tasting’ part of a coffee tasting, slurp the coffee. Yes, slurp it! If the person next to you can’t hear your slurp, you aren’t doing it right. By slurping, the coffee is spread out all over your mouth and tongue, allowing different tastes receptors to pick up different, well, tastes. Some parts of the mouth are more akin to picking up sour tastes, others better for sweet. By allowing the coffee to spread out over your palette, you can pick up more intricacies in the taste.

Step 3 – Determining mouthfeel/body

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As the picture above describes, body is basically how long the coffee sits in your mouth after you swallow it, and before that, where the coffee sits in your mouth. Take a sip and swallow. After the coffee goes down your throat, where is the taste (and general overall feel) lingering in your mouth? The middle of your tongue? Tip of your tongue? Sides of your mouth? Without going into too much detail, the mouthfeel of a certain coffee is often a good indicator as to how much acidity it has. Acidic drinks, such as orange juice, are felt on the sides and tip of your tongue – acidic coffees are the same way. Also, using the picture above, what is the “thickness” of the coffee? Is it smooth or almost watery, like skim milk? Or is it closer to whole milk, leaving a slight coating on your tongue?

Again, with your first few coffee tastings, don’t expect them to go perfectly. You won’t be able to determine every intimate detail of each coffee you try, but your palette becomes more accustomed to coffee with each new one you taste. Let me know if this technique works for you, and if this is all old news to you, let me know some of the best coffees you’ve tasted! I’m always looking for new ones to try!

Happy Caffienating!

  • Ryan