Coffee, the world’s second biggest commodity?

Coffee is one of the most beloved drinks in the world. People of all cultures and countries all share their love of coffee. No other non-alcoholic beverage worldwide has such a big following and industry around it. 

Read on for the top ten most interesting facts about coffee:

1- Is Coffee really the second most traded commodity in the world? Afraid not, contrary to popular belief. It may have been at some point in the 70’s, but not everywhere, and certainly not now. In fact Coffee just scrapes into the top 100 world commodities, at... number 98!!! We have MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC - and a real mouthful that, I’m sure you’ll agree) to thank for that little nugget.

2- Light coffee contains more caffeine than dark coffee.

Despite popular belief light roast coffee has a higher caffeine content than dark coffee. For a very simple reason: the longer the coffee bean is roasted, and therefore darkened, the more caffeine content is lost. Now you know why the humble “Americano” packs more caffeine punch than “Espresso”!

3- Coffee comes from a cherry.

Most people haven’t a clue where coffee comes from, nor for that matter what it actually is! Coffee comes from a tree or bush that bears a cherry fruit. The coffee bean is actually the pit that’s found within the cherry. The cherry is edible and actually is a very delicious tart fruit that people describe as tasting like light honey or a peach. I should know: I ate enough of them as a child growing up on my father’s coffee plantation...

4- There are Some 67+ different species of coffee plants.

Over 67 different species of coffee plants have been discovered throughout the world. However, of those only 2 species are commonly used in commercial coffee production: Robusta (primarily used for instant coffee), and Arabica (with all its attendant subtleties, explaining the nuances in coffee taste from country to country). 

5- Coffee is believed to have been discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia.

As legend has it, coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder. Some of his goats were acting quite strangely after eating berries from a particular bush: they were more excited, prancing around the field, and jumping up on their hind legs. Further careful observation made him realise the connection between the goats eating from the specific bush and their behaviour. So he decided to try the berries himself. He soon noticed that consuming the berries gave him more energy, and promptly told his wife about his discovery. Today, coffee is of crucial importance to the economy in Ethiopia. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s annual earnings come from the coffee trade.

6- Coffee can be used as a fuel source.

In 2008, researchers in Nevada, USA reported that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering vehicles. Coffee grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight which is nearly as much as traditional biodiesel sources such as soybeans or palm. With more than 16 billion pounds of coffee grown around the world each year, scientists estimate that roughly 340 million gallons of biodiesel could be produced from the “spent” grounds. 

7- Roughly 500 billion cups of coffee are drunk each year.

That’s an awful lot of drinking! And the trend is still on the upward curve... Of the 500 million cups of coffee, almost half are consumed at or for breakfast.

8- When coffee was first introduced to Europe, it was called Arabian Wine!

What? Hot wine? I guess that was accepted because of the “Arabian” bit! At least for a while, before the penny dropped that it couldn’t be wine if it was drunk hot...

9- Espresso is not a type of coffee bean.

Contrary to popular belief espresso is not a special kind of coffee bean. It is both a product and a process of brewing coffee that involves forcing a small amount of boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee. The result is that espresso is typically thicker in consistency than traditional coffee and has a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids.

10- Coffee was illegal in some parts of the world.

Over the years, coffee was deemed illegal in three countries by three different cultures. The first place to outlaw coffee was Mecca during the 16th century. It took 30 years of intense debate by academics, scholars, and jurists, before the ban was lifted. The second time coffee was outlawed was in Europe under the reign of Charles the 2nd. He had hoped to quell the ongoing rebellion by outlawing coffee. It failed however, and the law was never enforced. The last one to have a go at banning coffee was Fredrick the Great. He did so in 1677 because he feared the economic implications of importing a large quantity of coffee. Just as well none of those detractors succeeded. Where would we be today without our beloved daily caffeine dose?

Tempo Coffee - January 2021

Written by David Nkengmo
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