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Coffee Beans

Bean Power by the Cupful


The coffee plant is a powerful green plant that is grown in moist, cool and frost-free countries in the subtropical regions. It has small oval shaped leaves and white clusters of flowers that mature and become the coffee fruit that develop into bean pods. The fruit or the 'cherries' are covered by a soft edible thin skin that appeals to the taste buds of children in the subtropical countries while they spit out the coffee bean found inside. For coffee making purposes, however, the cherries are processed either by the natural method (sun drying) or the washed method (fermenting). Both processes reveal two seeds that are called the coffee beans.

Originally, the coffee plant was known to have originated from Ethiopia. Iin earliest times nomadic tribes used the coffee beans as food. They would smear the beans with fat as a preservative and carry them around as a staple food. Coffee beans reached the Arabian Peninsula through barter trading during those times. Initially though, the trade in coffee beans was banned in Muslim countries but the trading continued regardless and it became accepted as popular drink among the Arabs. From the Arabian Peninsula, it reached Turkey and Egypt and from there spread throughout the world's trade routes.

When the coffee beans reached Europe, the Catholic hierarchy labelled the drinking of coffee as 'heathenish' for a time. The Vatican also banned its consumption. But the merchants who traded coffee beans, knew they were onto a good business and managed to circumvent the policies of the Catholic Church. By the middle of the 17th century, Pope Clement VIII lifted the coffee drinking ban and the trade in beans in Europe flourished, spreading far and wide.

By 1668, coffee reached the Americas and has since become the country's favoured beverage. The biggest shift in its popularity came after the infamous episode of the "Boston tea party". On December 16, 1773 colonial traders disenchanted with the unfair burden of taxes on their shoulders rebelled against London ceremonially dumping overboard from ships cakes of tea they were carrying. Henceforth, tea was associated with colonialism and coffee with an independent America . The "Boston Tea Party" is regarded as the trigger that started the American Independence movement.

The little coffee bean has proven its powerful influence over the centuries as the source of some major upheavels, and not storms in a teacup, either!
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