Originally Published: October 1, 2017

Love coffee? You’re not alone! This guide will tell you everything about the caffeinated drink of choice of the masses, from its origins to how to brew the perfect cup for you!

Where was coffee first discovered?

Legend has it a 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder named Kaldi first discovered the potential of coffee beans after noticing that his goats became so energetic that they didn’t want to sleep at night when they ate the red, cherry-like beans of a plant.

Other accounts say that coffee was discovered when Sheik Abou’l Hasan Schadheli’s disciple, Omar (who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer) was once exiled to a desert cave in Yemen. Omar tried to eat the red berries from a nearby plant to stay alive but found them bitter so he thought roasting the beans might improve the flavor, but they became hard so he boiled them to make them softer and found that drinking the resulting liquid revitalized him. Stories of this “miracle drug” reached the town from which Omar had been banished and he was asked to come home. On his return he made them coffee and they made him a saint!

When did everyone start drinking coffee?

The earliest evidence of coffee seeds first being roasted and brewed in a similar way to how it is now prepared, is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen when the monks used it to stay awake for their religious rituals. By the 16th century, coffee had reached the Middle East, by the 17th century it had made its way to Europe and it reached the New World during the early 18th century, but didn’t become popular there until the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

The “bitter invention of Satan”

By the 17th century, coffee was becoming very popular across the continent of Europe, however, not everyone was sold the new beverage. Some who really didn’t like coffee and were even suspicious of it called it the “bitter invention of Satan.” In Italy the local clergy condemned coffee when it arrived in Venice in 1615!

So which type of coffee beans are the best?

Great coffee starts with great beans. Arabica and Robusta are the two important coffee species. Arabica is descended from the original Ethiopian coffee trees which produce a fine, mild, aromatic coffee while Robusta has a distinctive taste and up to around 60% more caffeine, so for the most part it’s used in blends and in instant coffees. It takes years of training to become an expert at roasting coffee beans to bring out the aroma and flavor.

How do I make good coffee?

Once you’ve chosen your roasted coffee beans they then have to be ground and brewed in hot water long enough to allow the flavor to emerge, but watch out, the longer you leave it the higher the risk of bitter-tasting compounds being drawn out. There are a number of methods of preparing coffee – including using a percolator, French press or coffee machine. It’s up to you which one you prefer using, but just remember that, in addition to the type of beans used and the perfect roast, the brewing temperature of the water used is very important. Between 195°F – 205°F (91°C – 96°C) is ideal, and the closer to 205°F (96°C) the better. Don’t use boiling water (212°F – 100°C) because it will burn the coffee!

The perfect cup of coffee

There is no perfect way to make coffee, everyone likes it a little different so the right way to make it is how you like it best. Whether you like it strong and black or mild and rich, have fun trying out different varieties of coffee beans, adjusting the texture of your grinds and enjoying the results of these different combinations. When you get it right, you’ll know!

Where is the best coffee in the world?

Again, this is up for discussion but let’s just say one thing, coffee is considered an art in Italy. The caffe bar is to the Italians what the pub is to the British: an institution. Italians take coffee very seriously. So seriously that if you don’t want look like you’re completely out of your depth when ordering a coffee in Italy you’ll want to read this guide which will tell you all you need to know about how to drink coffee in Italy like a local.

Italian coffee culture goes international

If you’re looking for a damn fine cup of coffee and don’t want to hop on a plane to Italy or feel like making it yourself, don’t worry! Italian coffee culture has taken over the world. These days high-quality, artisanal coffee joints are springing up everywhere. You can usually spot them by their organic, fair-trade roasts, sexy baristas and the line of hipsters forming out the door.

Coffee in 2017

Today the goal of the ubiquitous commercial coffee chain like Starbucks or Costa Coffee is to give you a thousand and one options. You want a decaf, extra-hot, soy, vanilla macchiato? You got it! Some say it may have gotten a little out of hand and that coffee should remain a little purer and more authentic. It’s safe to say, these people are not in the Pumpkin Spice Latte camp.

Have a coffee with us on our Italian food tours

Join us for a coffee on our food tours of Florence and Rome to get a taste of Italy from a local perspective! We popped in to see our friends at Pergamino Caffè – which you can visit on our Vatican Area Tour for Foodies:

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