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15 Facts About Coffee

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1. BEETHOVEN WAS A BARISTA’S NIGHTMARE.

Beethoven enjoyed a cup of java, and he was particular about its preparation—he insisted that each cup of coffee was made with exactly 60 beans.

2. NOT EVERYONE WAS A QUICK COFFEE CONVERT.

As recently as the 18th century, governments were trying to stamp out coffee because it stimulated both drinkers and radical thinking. In 1746 Sweden took things to an extreme when it banned both coffee and coffee paraphernalia (i.e. cups and saucers).

3. BEER TRIED TO TAKE COFFEE’S SPOT AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE.

Three decades after Sweden locked down ceramics, Prussian officials grew worried that coffee consumption was interfering with citizens’ beer-drinking habits. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia issued a statement encouraging Prussians to drink beer—not coffee—with their breakfast.

4. COFFEE LOVERS HAVE A HERD OF DANCING GOATS TO THANK.

According to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed that whenever his goats munched on the bright red berries of an unusual tree on his property, they’d become euphoric and energized. So Kaldi did what any curious goat herder would and tried some of the berries himself. It wasn’t long before he was dancing along with his herd, earning himself the moniker of “the happiest herder in happy Arabia.”

5. COFFEE WAS ORIGINALLY CHEWED, NOT SIPPED.

A cup of Joe may be your preferred method of consumption, but coffee has not always been a liquid treat. According to a number of historians, the first African tribes to consume coffee did so by grinding the berries together, adding in some animal fat, and rolling these caffeinated treats into tiny edible balls of energy. It wasn’t until 1000 CE that the beans were turned into a beverage (a special wine, to be exact).

6. FINLAND IS THE WORLD’S COFFEE KING.

The world’s most caffeinated country? Finland! Though the country doesn’t produce any beans of its own, Finnish drinkers still manage to consume almost three times as much coffee as Americans each year. Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and the Netherlands round out the top five (in that order).

7. DRINKING DECAF FUELS THE SODA INDUSTRY.

After coffee beans are decaffeinated, several coffee manufacturers sell the caffeine to soda and pharmaceutical companies.

8. INSTANT COFFEE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR NEARLY 250 YEARS.

Instant coffee has been around for a while, making its first appearance in England in 1771. But it would take another 139 years for the first mass-produced instant coffee to be introduced (and patented) in the U.S. in 1910.

9. BALZAC KNEW HOW TO TOSS IT BACK.

French writer Honoré de Balzac didn’t have time to be that picky. He allegedly drank upwards of 50 cups of coffee a day.

10. COFFEE BEANS SENT BRAZILIAN ATHLETES TO THE OLYMPICS.

In 1932, Brazil couldn’t afford to send its athletes to the Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.

11. THERE’S A STARBUCKS AT CIA HEADQUARTERS.

Some officers at the Central Intelligence Agency call it “Stealthy Starbucks,” but employees at the Langley, Virginia location definitely aren’t your typical Starbucks employees. For one, they must undergo extensive background checks and they cannot leave their post without a CIA escort. On the positive side: they don’t have to write down or shout out their customers’ names!

12. THE FIRST WEBCAM WATCHED A COFFEE POT.

Though it was hardly what one might described as “action-packed,” it allowed researchers at Cambridge to monitor the coffee situation in the Trojan Room without ever leaving their desks. After the webcam portion of the Trojan Room coffee pot experiment was pulled, the pot itself—a non-working Krups ProAroma pot that would normally retail for about $50—was put up for auction on eBay, where it sold for just under $5000.

13. COFFEE HAS BEEN HIGH FASHION.

During the Civil War, Union blockades of the South kept the Confederacy in a permanently under-caffeinated state. Confederate troops tried their hand at creating substitutes using chicory and dandelions, but nobody’s taste buds were fooled. Coffee eventually became so prized that Southern jewelers used individual beans as gemstones in their creations.

14. “MOCHA” IS MORE THAN JUST A FUN WORD TO SAY.

It’s also a port city on the Red Sea in Yemen. Until the 17th century, nearly all of the world’s coffee was produced in the Middle East, and thanks to its ideal location for shipping, Mocha was the world’s top coffee marketplace. Although the expansion of coffee cultivation to European colonies in South America and Asia eventually diminished Mocha’s commercial power, beans exported from Mocha had been so popular in Europe that “mocha” became shorthand for any top-flight coffee.

15. THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE COFFEE COMES FROM ANIMAL POOP.

Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, earns its pricey distinction thanks to a surprising step in its production: digestion. In Indonesia, a wild animal known as the Asian palm civet (a small critter similar to the weasel) cannot resist the bright red coffee cherries that abound, even though they can’t digest the actual coffee beans. The beans pass through the civets’ systems without being fully digested.

Eventually, some brave coffee farmer collected these beans from civets’ droppings, thoroughly washed them, and tried brewing a cup. Surprisingly, the interaction with the civets’ digestive juices did something magical to the beans, resulting in a cup of coffee that was intensely flavorful and lacked any trace of bitterness. The process may not sound very appetizing, but the really tough thing to stomach is the price—a single pound of Kopi Luwak can set you back more than $600.

15 Facts about Coffee