Ah, coffee — the elixir of life. What would we do without it? (Not much, I assume.) To celebrate the beverage on its special day — aka, Sept. 29, National Coffee Day, here's how to celebrate and honor coffee the way it deserves.
Since 2015, Americans and international coffee lovers alike have gathered to give thanks for the caffeine-rich coffee bean. First promoted by the International Coffee Organzation in Milan on Oct. 1, the holiday is now celebrated in the United States primarily through retail promotions — aka, there are lots and lots of opportunities for free coffee. So on Sept. 29, pace yourselves — there's going to be a lot of caffed-up folks walking very quickly down the sidewalk and chattering about espresso and the art of steaming milk.
Although its fame and appreciation are well-documented, the economic and cultural history of coffee is not. First stop: coffee beans. Which grow on trees.
The current coffee world revolves around two major coffee bean species: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica trees were discovered in Ethiopia and still account for close to 70 percent of the world's coffee production. Although the trees are robust and the beans fetch the highest price on the global coffee market, they are expensive to cultivate, as their ideal terrain is hilly and difficult to access.
Robusta are grown in Brazil and Central and Western Africa, as well as parts of Southeast Asia like Indonesia. They're included in blends and often used for instant coffee.
According to the National Coffee Association, coffee is one of the most traded global commodity, second only to oil. It helps power the United States' economy, currently responsible for more than 1.6 million jobs. That's because there's so much more to coffee than just pouring out some grounds you bought at the grocery store. The coffee industry includes importers, roasters, packagers, transporters, sweeteners and flavorers, in addition to the operations end of the business - administrative, marketing, distribution, coffee accoutrements (stirrers, coffee machines, those tiny packaged cups of cream). Roasting in particular is imperative in the creation of coffee as we know it.
When you buy whole bean coffee, those aren't raw beans, plucked directly from the tree — coffee means actually come from cherry-like fruits, which offer "green" beans (which are, in fact, green, as well as tasteless and spongy) that are stored until they're ready to enter the retail market — and then they're roasted.
Roasting brings out the aroma of beans and locks in flavor. You know that decision one must make at the Starbucks counter? Light, medium, or dark? That's indicative of the roasting process. A lighter roast means a higher caffeine content. The darker the color, the stronger the flavor and noticeable bitterness.
Now that you've been given a coffee primer, go forth and appreciate. Check out these great ways of celebrating National Coffee Day. You won't be sorry. Overly caffeinated, maybe, but definitely satisfied.