chocolate covered coffee beans

coffee: the nectar of the gods

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Coffee as a stimulant

Coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulant. For this reason, it is often consumed in the morning and during working hours. Students preparing for examinations with late-night "cram sessions" use coffee to maintain their concentration. Many office workers take a "coffee break" when their energy is diminished.

Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to its caffeine content. Coffee contains an as yet unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.[1]

For occasions when one wants to enjoy the flavor of coffee with almost no stimulation, decaffeinated coffee (also called decaf) is available. This is coffee from which most of the caffeine has been removed, by the Swiss water process (which involves the soaking of raw beans to absorb the caffeine) or the use of a chemical solvent such as trichloroethylene ("tri"), or the more popular methylene chloride, in a similar process. Another solvent used is ethyl acetate; the resultant decaffeinated coffee is marketed as "natural decaf" due to ethyl acetate being naturally present in fruit. Extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide has also been employed.

Decaffeinated coffee usually loses some flavor over normal coffees and tends to be more bitter. There are also coffee alternatives that resemble coffee in taste but contain no caffeine (see below). These are available both in ground form for brewing and in instant form.

Caffeine dependency and withdrawal symptoms are well-documented; see Caffeine for more on the pharmacological effects of caffeine.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Types of coffee plants

There are two main species of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica being the older one. Thought to be indigenous to Ethiopia, arabica was first cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula[citation needed]. While more susceptible to disease, it is considered by most to taste better than the second species, Coffea canephora (robusta). Robusta, which contains about 40-50% more caffeine, can be cultivated in environments where arabica will not thrive. This has led to its use as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Compared to arabica, robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a telltale "burnt rubber" or "wet cardboard" aroma and flavor. Good quality robustas are used as ingredients in some espresso blends to provide a better "crema" (foamy head), and to lower the ingredient cost. In Italy many espresso blends are based on dark-roasted robusta. The large industrial roasters use a steam treatment process to remove undesirable flavors from robusta beans [4] for use in mass-marketed coffee blends.

The largest coffee exporting nation remains Brazil, but in recent years the green coffee market has been flooded by large quantities of robusta beans from Vietnam.[5] Many experts believe this giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975-1989 with Cold War pressures led to the prolonged pricing crisis from 2001 to 2004. [citation needed] In 1997 the "c" price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb. Robusta coffees (traded in London at much lower prices than New York's Arabica) are preferred by large industrial clients (multinational roasters, instant coffee producers, etc.) because of their lower cost.

The preference of the "Big Four" coffee companies for cheap robusta is believed by many to have been a major contributing factor to the crash in coffee prices [6] and the demand for high-quality arabica beans is only slowly recovering. After the crash, many coffee farmers in Africa, Indonesia and South and Central America lost their livelihoods, or turned to illicit crops such as coca to earn a living. The Fair Trade organization has attempted to remedy the situation by guaranteeing coffee growers a negotiated pre-harvest price; many smaller roasters and recently Proctor & Gamble and Starbucks have joined Fair Trade [7]. Another issue with coffee is ecological: the American Birding Association has led a campaign for sustainably harvested, shade-grown and organic coffees vs. the newer mono-cropped full-sun varieties, which lead to deforestation and loss of bird habitat [8]

Arabica coffees were traditionally named by the port they were exported from, the two oldest being Mocha, from Yemen, and Java, from Indonesia. The modern coffee trade is much more specific about origin, labeling coffees by country, region, and sometimes even the producing estate. Coffee aficionados may even distinguish auctioned coffees by lot number.

Coffee beans from two different places, or coffee varietals, usually have distinctive characteristics such as flavor (flavor criteria includes terms such as "citrus-like" or "earthy"), caffeine content, body or mouthfeel, and acidity (black coffee has a pH of around 5).[9] These are dependent on the local environment where the coffee plants are grown, their method of process, and the genetic subspecies or varietal.

"Caracoli," also known as peaberry, is a coffee bean which develops singly inside the coffee cherry, which normally contains two. The Caracoli beans occur in all regions of the world, on all types of coffee bush (~4% of all beans). Since flavour is concentrated when only a single bean is grown inside the cherry, Caracoli beans (especially Arabica) are highly prized.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is a Los Angeles-based coffee chain, owned and operated by International Coffee & Tea, LLC. The company was founded by Mona and Herbert Hyman, one of the oldest and largest privately-held chain of specialty coffee and tea stores. The first store opened in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood in 1963. It now has stores all around the Southwest United States and expanding to Hawaii. A franchise purchase by the Singaporean entrepreneur Victor Sassoon in 1996 opened "Coffee Beans" throughout Southeast Asia. It now has more than 300 locations around the world.

Coffee Bean stores differ from other coffee chains such as Starbucks with their broad selection of tea drinks. It also popularized The Original Ice Blended® drinks and Chai Lattes.

Operated by International Coffee & Tea LLC, the company had sales revenue of $120 million in 2003. It recently partnered with SBC to implement wireless internet connections at 144 locations. Franchises exist mainly overseas with domestic locations largely company-owned. Countries where franchises are offered are currently: Israel, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Australia, Indonesia, East Malaysia, Philippines and Kuwait.[1]


Coffee is a beverage, served hot or with ice, prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. These seeds are almost always called coffee beans. Coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world (measured by monetary volume), trailing only petroleum, and one of the most consumed beverages, amounting to about a third of tap water consumption.[1] In total, 6.7 million tonnes of coffee were produced annually in 1998-2000, forecast to rise to 7 million tonnes annually by 2010. [2] Coffee is a chief source of caffeine, a stimulant. A typical 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 135mg of caffeine[3].


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