Coffee – A Brief History (Why We Love Espresso)

Nowadays the whole world wakes up with the scent of coffee, the most popular drink after water and wine. And for the Italians, nothing like the espresso cup brings home to mind. How many times abroad have we tried desperately a decent espresso, deceiving ourselves so many times in front of the machines similar to those of our bars?

The history of coffee is fascinating, and has a lot of exotic even though it is now so familiar. The name derives from the Turkish pronunciation qahvé, from the Arabic qahwah, which first meant wine (or perhaps an exciting drink), and then towards the end of the XIV century it was extended from Yemen to the drink made with coffee beans. Kava has remained the name of coffee even in European languages, such as Czech, or Croatian. In Prague, coffee becomes “kavarne” …

The coffee plant draws its origin from Africa, from the Ethiopian region of Caffa. Vegeta only in the tropical belt with warm and humid climate. The plant, which can reach a height of up to 4-6 meters, has the appearance of a cherry tree with fragrant flowers reminiscent of jasmine and leaves similar to those of laurel. The coffee is produced starting from the seeds of the fruit that measures from 5 to 10 cm. in diameter. The seeds are contained within a berry, which is born green (hence the name of green gold) and when it ripens it is covered in red.
The door for which coffee entered and spread to Europe was Venice; taking advantage of the good relations that the city had with the Arab people, Venice maintained the monopoly of the distribution of coffee throughout Europe until the century. XVII when the Dutch spread the production of the coffee plant, cultivated in greenhouses in Amsterdam.

There are many ways to make coffee: the ingredients are always the same, water and coffee. But what makes the difference is the way of extracting substances and aromas, that is the way of preparation. From the boiled coffee, the oldest, to the Neapolitan or home-made moka, to the “American” filters, or the Turkish coffee which fascinates by its ritualistic preparation: a coffee pot called cezve, (ibrik is the imported outside of Turkey), is used in which water is poured and sugar and leave it on the fire until the water boils. Remove the ibrik from the heat, add the finely ground coffee and put the pot back to boil. When the liquid is foamed, remove it from the heat and stir until the foam goes out. This operation is repeated two or three times. Often the fire is replaced by a layer of hot sand and the cezve, (ibrik), is patiently moved over the sand with almost ritualistic movements. The famous rites and rhythms of the east …

The espresso coffee machine was presented in 1855 at the Paris Universal Exposition. The main purpose was to eliminate the drawbacks of other systems, especially long brewing times. The machine was able to prepare 2 coffees in a short time, hence the name of espresso: made at the moment for those who request it.

For Italians, espresso has become synonymous with coffee, just as the moka (from the city of Moca in Yemen, where there is a high quality of coffee) is the unmistakable coffee maker that many foreigners now bring from Italy as a typical souvenir.

But the first example of espresso is found among the Arabs, when they infused some beans into hot water, which they used to cook food and prepare drinks; until then the grains were consumed whole or left to infuse for some time in cold water. It was around the year one thousand. Warning: coffee must never boil. According to tradition, a good coffee should be drunk at 165°F, (74 °C). A popular belief says that coffee should be drunk while sitting. If drink it standing up, you risk spilling it. But patrons of the bars must have forgotten this superstition!

Oh, and for an authentic treat, accompany your espresso shot with a chocolate.