Spilling the Beans on America's Coffee Obsession

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t indulge in a cup of coffee at least once in a while.
On the whole, Americans are smack-dab in the middle of a national obsession with coffee in all its forms, and we seem to be going steady…

(Amen to that!)

  • About 63% of Americans reported drinking coffee on a regular basis according to a study commissioned by the National Coffee Association of the USA (NCA)
  • One in three Americans reported that they drank approximately three cups per day.

It’s clear that coffee consumption is on the rise, and with good reason! What’s not to like?

A good cup of coffee is creamy, smooth, slightly acidic, and maybe a little sweet. It comes in a variety of flavors, is readily available, and pretty much instantly puts a little pep in your step.

But how much do you really know about this beverage?

Ever wonder what coffee beans are? Or, who discovered this magnificent treat? How about whether or not coffee’s good for you, or if coffee’s actually bad for you?

With National Espresso Day (23rd) and National Cappuccino Day (8th) fast approaching, we thought we’d round up a few of our favorite coffee-related tidbits, including a little history lesson, the tastiest coffee beverages, and some of our favorite coffee art.

Read on for a peek into the nebulous yet humble beginnings of one of the world’s favorite non-alcoholic beverages—you might just be surprised to learn there’s quite a bit you didn’t know about your morning cup of Joe.

One Thousand and One Nights Ago...

The means of making coffee are simple enough, and humans have had the technology to do it for centuries. Generally, all you need is water, fire, and roasted coffee beans.

Most historians agree that Coffea arabica, the most popular variety of coffee beans, was first cultivated and processed somewhere in the Arabic subcontinent, most probably Yemen.

At least, fifteenth-century Yemen is the first time coffee consumption is recorded in writing.

Historians and Anthropologists think that coffee might have been consumed long before this, with ecological evidence pointing to paleolithic Ethiopia, where a wild ancestor to today’s well-loved arabica and robusta beans can be found.

There are countless legends and folk stories about the discovery of coffee beans, including serendipitous tales about mystical monks, prophets, and even a mediocre goatherd, all of which point to humankind’s long love affair with the drink, predating the first written record of it.

But just what is coffee?

Like Raisins in the Sun

Coffee beans are, actually, not really beans but berries.

Coffee cherries, as they’re often called, first grow on Coffea trees and are harvested by hand at peak ripeness.

From here, they are either spread out under the sun to dry for several weeks or separated from the seeds, which are then washed, soaked, and washed again until there’s no more fruit left on the seed.

(“O Lavadouro” by Antonio Ferrigno)

Coffee beans grow best in tropical, but somewhat mild, environments. Because of this, they are commonly grown in Central and South America where they have become something of a mainstay of the economy of many nations since the 19th century.

We think Latin America’s greatest painter would appreciate this modern, dada-esque, portrait of herself, especially considering that Frida once said that everyone deserves someone who brings them hope, poetry, and coffee...swoon! This coffee canvas art depicts the infamous painter casually holding a cup of coffee, or maybe it’s an espresso, while poignantly staring directly at the viewer. Bursting with vibrant colors and exciting brushstrokes, this print captures the joy of sipping on this tasty beverage with a famed celebrity of the art world.

A Great American Pastime

Americans were slow to warm to the new beverage.

Tea was initially the non-alcoholic beverage of choice for many years, however, with the whispers of revolution steadily growing and with increased taxation on the price of tea…

(Well… ) (“Boston Tea Party” by W.D. Cooper)

Tea-based abstinence became an act of political resistance and coffee quickly stepped in as a cheaper, and tastier, alternative. Popularity grew throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and by the first World War, it was thought to have played a part in the Allied Powers’ victory.

Expresso yourself

As Americans familiarized themselves with coffee and its many preparations, many quickly found a favorite among the specialty drinks.

About 50% of the population reported drinking these specialty drinks, among them americano, latte, macchiatos, cappuccinos, and many, many more.

At the heart of many of these drinks is the iconic shot (or two) of espresso.

Made by expressing a small amount of nearly boiling water through finely milled coffee grounds, espresso is thicker, more robust, and more caffeinated than regular brewed coffee.

(Further proof that coffee is, in fact, liquid gold) (“Rajah” by Henri Privat-Livemont)

The catch is that, despite being more potent than its diluted counterpart, espresso is usually only served in ristretto, solo, and doppio-sized shots, or otherwise diluted with cream, milk, water, and sugar.

Depending on the ratio of milk, water, and cream to espresso, baristas and at-home enthusiasts alike can create an endless number of unique and delectable drinks!

Kapuziner? I hardly know her!

Cappuccinos originated in Vienna, Austria sometime in the 18th century as a drink referred to as “kapuziner”. The drink gained its name from the color of Capuchin monks’ vestments, which were of a similar shade to this creamy coffee drink.

(Untitled poster by Alphonse Mucha)

Cappuccinos are made by combining a double shot of espresso with hot milk and topping it off with steamed milk foam. The foam can be decorated with intricate rosettes, hearts, or even elaborately “etched” effigies of popular celebrities or characters.

To Coffee or Not to Coffee?

Over the years scientists, health professionals, and enthusiasts have debated the safety of regular coffee consumption fiercely.

Recent studies, however, show that coffee may actually be linked to increased health benefits, including decreased risk of Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and depression according to one source!

(Liquid gold, my friends. Liquid. Gold.)

Bear in mind: these studies assume you’re already physically pretty healthy, able to adequately metabolize caffeine, drink only filtered coffee, and skip on the cream and sugar.

Any deviation from these conditions could potentially impact coffee’s health benefits, but we, for one, don’t mind losing out on one or two of coffee’s many amazing antioxidant effects if it means we get to keep drinking this delicious beverage!

She seems to agree. (“Coffee drinker” by Ivana Kobilca)

Do you, reader, drink coffee? Maybe you’re drinking some right now. If so, what’s your favorite way to enjoy coffee in the morning? Let us know in the comments below. Who knows, you might even discover the recipe for your next favorite brew. ☕

Also, let us know what you think of our coffee wall art. Is there something you’d love to see that we don’t have? Are you looking to deck out your kitchen with coffee wall decor? Did you find what you’re looking for? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you while we sip on our morning cup of Joe while in the office. :)



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