Here’s a confession: I stopped drinking coffee for quite some time now.
It had nothing to do with my health—at 21, in fact, I am pretty active. I guess I just never liked that “kind of a sour punch” I get whenever I finish a cup (ironic, since a coffee’s final sensory experience is its aftertaste). When I started writing for a daily and deadlines began to come even in the middle of the night, I found myself drawn to 3-in-1 mixtures; that is until it messed up with my routine and I urged myself to stop completely.
Today, I content myself with a signature chocolate drink sold by an artisanal shop in Capitol Commons. On days I have to keep my eyes open for work, I eat apples instead. However, as a former coffee drinker, I know what a good, life-changing cup can make you feel like.
Nespresso does, too, and in an afternoon of good conversations and a very useful coffee masterclass led by Novateur Coffee Concepts’ JR Abril, our friends from the Nestlé-owned label taught us about the origins of coffee, its distinct flavor profiles and how they make the perfect roasted beans.
Origins of coffee
The native and undomesticated origin of coffee bean is thought to have been Ethiopia. The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the early 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen, spreading soon to Mecca and Cairo.
There are also several legendary accounts of the origin of the drink itself.
The first account involves the Moroccan Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. When traveling in Ethiopia, he observed birds of unusual vitality, and, upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality.
Other accounts attribute the discovery of coffee to Sheikh Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhili’s disciple, Omar. Omar who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer was once exiled from Mocha to a desert cave near Ousab. Starving, Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubbery but found them to be bitter. He tried roasting the beans to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the bean, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. As stories of this “miracle drug” reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.
Finally, and perhaps the most popular, involves a 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder, Kaldi, who, upon noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself.
Two main species of coffee
There are over 100 coffee species, however, the two main ones that are widely produced and sold are Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (also known as Coffea Robusta).
According to JR Abri, more than three-quarters of the beans that are sold in the world today are Arabica, while the majority of the remaining bulk are Robusta.
In an article by Faith Durand published on thekitchn.com, Arabica beans are described to “tend to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Their acidity is higher, with that winey taste that characterizes coffee with excellent acidity. Robusta, however, has a stronger, harsher taste, with a grain-like overtone and peanutty aftertaste.”
Anatomy of an espresso
Contrary to popular belief, espresso is not a roast at all; it is a method of preparing coffee. Espresso coffee is often blended from several roasts and varietals to form a bold flavor.
JR says that a perfect espresso has three parts: crema, body, and heart. Crema, which is the top foamy layer of the shot, usually contains suspended coffee fragments and emulsified oils to protect the aroma. The flavor of the shot is in the body, while the heart contains the shot’s bitter qualities that balance the sweetness of the crema.
Basic coffee recipes
- Pure Espresso is basically coffee beans mixed in boiling water and consumed promptly after extraction in the following types of servings: Ristretto, Single Shot, Lungo, and Double Shot.
- Macchiato is a shot of espresso topped with a dollop foam
- Latte is a blend of creamy milk with espresso topped with a thin layer of milk froth
- Cappuccino is a shot of espresso topped with thick milk froth and, finally,
- Americano is an espresso shot topped with hot water
In addition, the intensity of the coffee is determined by the degree of roasting, its body, and its bitterness; it bears no relation to the percentage of caffeine in the espresso.