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Coffee is a beverage prepared from roasted coffee beans. Darkly colored, bitter, and slightly acidic, coffee has a stimulating effect on humans, primarily due to its caffeine content. It has the highest sales in the world market for hot drinks.
Seeds of the Coffea plant’s fruits are separated to produce unroasted green coffee beans. The beans are roasted and then ground into fine particles that are typically steeped in hot water before being filtered out, producing a cup of coffee. It is usually served hot, although chilled or iced coffee is common. Coffee can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways (e.g., espresso, French press, caffè latte, or already-brewed canned coffee). Sugar, sugar substitutes, milk, and cream are often used to mask the bitter taste or enhance the flavor.
Though coffee is now a global commodity, it has a long history tied closely to food traditions around the Red Sea. The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking in the form of the modern beverage appears in modern-day Yemen from the mid-15th century in Sufi shrines, where coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed in a manner similar to current methods. The Yemenis procured the coffee beans from the Ethiopian Highlands via coastal Somali intermediaries and began cultivation. By the 16th century, the drink had reached the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, later spreading to Europe. In the 20th century, coffee became a global commodity, creating different coffee cultures around the world.
The two most commonly grown coffee bean types are C. arabica and C. robusta. Coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa. As of 2018, Brazil was the leading grower of coffee beans, producing 35% of the world’s total. Green, unroasted coffee is traded as an agricultural commodity. Despite sales of coffee reaching billions of dollars worldwide, farmers producing coffee beans disproportionately live in poverty. Critics of the coffee industry have also pointed to its negative impact on the environment and the clearing of land for coffee-growing and water use.
Coffee berries are traditionally selectively picked by hand, which is labor-intensive as it involves the selection of only the berries at the peak of ripeness. More commonly, crops are strip picked, where all berries are harvested simultaneously regardless of ripeness by person or machine. After picking, green coffee is processed by one of two types of method—a dry process method which is often simpler and less labor-intensive, and a wet process method, which incorporates batch fermentation, uses larger amounts of water in the process, and often yields a milder coffee.
Then they are sorted by ripeness and color, and most often the flesh of the berry is removed, usually by machine, and the seeds are fermented to remove the slimy layer of mucilage still present on the seed. When the fermentation is finished, the seeds are washed with large quantities of fresh water to remove the fermentation residue, which generates massive amounts of coffee wastewater. Finally, the seeds are dried.
The best (but least used) method of drying coffee is using drying tables. In this method, the pulped and fermented coffee is spread thinly on raised beds, which allows the air to pass on all sides of the coffee, and then the coffee is mixed by hand. The drying that then takes place is more uniform, and fermentation is less likely. Most African coffee is dried in this manner and certain coffee farms around the world are starting to use this traditional method. Next, the coffee is sorted, and labeled as green coffee. Some companies use cylinders to pump in heated air to dry the coffee seeds, though this is generally in places where the humidity is very high.