Few events are as shrouded in legend as those concerning coffee.
How coffee was discovered remains a mystery. Legend has it that an Ethiopian goatherd called Kaldi was grazing his goats, and the animals found a coffee plant and began eating the cherries. They were later unusually lively during the night. Kaldi, connecting the coffee cherries with the strange behaviour of his goats, roasted the seeds of the fruits, then ground them and made an infusion. The first coffee of history had been made.
Whatever its true origins, starting in the 14th century coffee began to progressively invade Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. The first coffee houses appeared in the 16th century, thanks to the Venetian merchants, and became meeting places for artists and intellectuals. In the Enlightenment age, coffee was widely appreciated as a perfect tonic for stimulating reflection and debate: it is said that Voltaire drank some thirty cups a day. In the centuries that followed, coffee continued to spread, also gaining favour among the poorer classes, as an indispensable pick-me-up during hard working days. It is precisely this inter-class appeal, among both rich and poor, nobles and ordinary people alike, that has made coffee such a popular and inimitable symbol of taste, relaxation and pleasure.
Coffea, originally from Ethiopia, is a member of the Rubiaceae family. The plant, with a trunk 5-10 cm thick, is between 4 and 6 metres tall, with flowers similar to those of jasmine. Coffea grows in the tropical and equatorial bands of America, Africa and Asia, where the consistently mild climate allows a new flowering cycle at each rainy season: this is why it is possible to see newly budded flowers, unripe cherries and ripe cherries all at the same time.
Ripening takes around eight months for the red fruits, similar to cherries, which contain one or two oval seeds covered by two membranes: it is only these small seeds, with a thin central line, that are used for the production of coffee -- the future green coffee beans
The most common species of Coffea are Arabica and Canephora (in the variety known as Robusta). The former, the most highly prized, accounts for over 75% of global coffee production and grows at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 metres, while Robusta grows between sea level and 900 m. Arabica coffees are highly fragrant, sweet, round flavoured, slightly acidic and often chocolatey, with a pale caramel-coloured foam with a reddish tint, and an agreeable bitter note. Robusta coffees, instead, are characterised by marked sharpness and astringency on the palate, they are less fragrant and more bitter, with a greyish-brown foam. The Arabica bean is elongated, with a wavy centre line; Robusta beans are round, with a straight centre line.
Espresso is probably the best method for extracting and bringing out the flavour and aroma of coffee beans. With a pleasing aroma and a sweet, persistent aftertaste, a good espresso should have a thin, dense layer of caramel-coloured foam, which is one of the hallmarks of an Arabica blend. The foam is the heart of espresso, and contains hundreds of highly volatile aromatic substances.
A real Italian espresso can never lack this creamy layer. The absence of foam can be due to a number of factors: use of old coffee, failure to apply the correct technical parameters, condition of the machine or grinder, dosing, cleaning, purification.
Do you manage a bar? How skilled are you? Do you want to make an excellent espresso? Here are the golden rules to be followed at all times for a perfect espresso:
An ideal cup for coffee tasting should have a conical shape, which helps achieve a more compact and long-lasting foam, to better bring out the aromas.