The origins of coffee supposedly go all the way back to the 9th century when an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi first discovered coffee. At least that’s the way the legend of coffee has been told down through the years. Actually, there is no direct evidence of coffee in Africa before the 17th century. The earliest believable evidence of coffee being used as a drink comes from the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. It was there, in Arabia that someone actually picked coffee beans from a coffee tree, roasted them, and brewed them into the aromatic and delicious concoction we drink today.
If you believe the advertising gurus, the best coffee comes from Colombia and is mountain grown. I don’t even have to mention the brand name of that coffee – you know, the best part of waking up? Perhaps your coffee is good to the last drop, or hand-selected by a guy named Juan and his coffee-bean-basket-laden burro. Actually, the type of bean, in which climate it grows, and the type of soil have a lot to do with the taste, texture, aroma, and overall flavor of coffee.
When it comes to discovering which coffee beans make the best coffee, it’s best to find a gourmet coffee shop or specialty coffee shop where the sales folk are knowledgeable about all aspects of coffee. Let’s face it, with today’s busy schedule and lifestyle, the chance of learning everything about coffee is just not likely to happen – who has the time? Ask around and find a good, reputable shop that specializes in coffee only. Make sure to speak with someone who has spent a great deal of time in the business.
Spend a little time getting familiarized with the different kinds of beans available. Learn a bit about the different regions around the world where coffee is grown and which types of coffee are more valuable and why. Decide if you prefer a full-bodied, mild, nutty, or floral varieties. Sample a few different types of beans, just to get an idea of what you like. Most shops will let you taste the coffee before you buy it. When you hit on one you really like, buy a small bag, take it home and live with it for a while.
Buy only freshly roasted from a shop where the coffee is roasted daily. Check into the type of roasting, whether a coffee is roasted light or dark, French or Italian roast. There is even one place online where you can buy your own specific blend of beans, specify the type of roast, and have those freshly roasted beans shipped overnight. If you’re in a pinch at the supermarket, be sure to check the bottom of the bag and make sure the coffee is as fresh as possible. Don’t buy coffee from one of those bins where the coffee beans are broken and splintered. Fresher is better.
The manner in which the coffee is prepared is important, but if you have selected a premium coffee that has been roasted and ground properly, even a mid-level coffee maker is going to give you a great cup of flavorful coffee. Ideally, coffee should be prepared with water hot enough to extract the most flavor. That water should be hot but not boiling, which may give the coffee an unusual flavor. Most modern day coffee makers use gravity to pass hot water over the ground beans. Percolators use the pressure of boiling water to pass heated water over the grounds.
A French press allows the coffee to steep in the heated water for a few moments and leaving behind more of the sediment, essence, and oils of the coffee. Obviously, the French press method is going to create a stronger cup of coffee. Each method works best with a specific type and texture of grinds. Again, it’s probably best to check with your local specialty coffee boutique for advice.