Coffee 101 Part One

Coffee 101

That old cup o' joe. So, you think you know your coffee? Maybe you know what you like, and that is as far as your interest goes. But if you have a curious, questioning mind for a deeper understanding of the brew that opens your eyes every day, let’s explore.

Coffee is thought to be the result of a 10thcentury Ethiopian goat herder who noticed his goats became very energetic after eating berries off the coffee trees in the forest of the Ethiopian plateau. It was only a question of time before the energizing effects of coffee were recognized and exploited. By the 15thcentury coffee had made its debut on the Arabian Peninsula and became all the rage with coffee houses opening and coffee moving out of homes and into the commercial market place.

Coffee 101, Part One

Coffee houses became hubs of social interaction. In the 17thcentury coffee had established a hold in Europe and the New World, it found a secure home after the revolt called the Boston Tea Party.

And now here we are with coffee shops, coffee cafes, coffee breaks, and online coffee bars. There is hot coffee, cold coffee, iced coffee, coffee ice cream, coffee cake (not really made with coffee but as a pastry to go with drinking coffee), coffee candy, coffee liquor (Kahlua), and it appears this list can continue as far as a person’s coffee imagination can take them.

Taste, Aroma, Body

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty on coffee. The taste is the biggy for most people, but the smell is a huge contributor to the taste. Much like wine connoisseurs, sniffing and sipping, rolling around that sip in the mouth and fully appreciating the aroma and the taste, coffee connoisseurs are similarly picky.

If you think coffee is simply coffee, you are either misguided or your horizons have not been adequately opened. Coffee has taste, aroma, body, and types of acidity. Which comes first the aroma or the flavor? Anyone who has ever had a head cold knows that food has no taste when you can’t smell so, I guess that answers that question.

Aroma:  Does it smell smoky, nutty, fruity, chocolaty, spicy, or ??? The fragrance may be subtle or right in your face. Getting a good whiff of your coffee, and noticing that smell of the aroma, will enhance the flavor for you.

TasteTaste comes after aroma, as noted above. Descriptors of coffee flavors can be as simple as ‘it tastes great’ to as detailed as ‘I taste fruit and nuts’.  Our taste buds are widely diverse in our ability to discern the subtle flavors that come through the coffee of our choice. It goes back to paying attention to both the aroma and the taste coming off of that aroma.

Body:  Then, there is the body of the coffee. Is it thin or stout? An example of what this means is how your mouth feels the difference between skim milk and whole milk. Coffee can have the same type of consistency, thin or heavy. How rich or intense is the feel of a coffee in your mouth?  Is it thin and light or heavy, thick and viscous in your mouth?

Coffee body levels are genuinely in the mouth of the beholder. One person’s light-bodied coffee can be another person’s heavy-bodied coffee.

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