Food Fetish: Coffee, Devil’s Own

CoffeeKafei, Kaffe, Kope or Kape; in whichever dialect it may be asked for, this beverage always lifts low spirits and adds that spunk one needs, to get through with their day. Where wine is considered to be quite an elitist’s beverage, this is your “everyday for everyone” sort of drink.

Get over a huge fight or a hangover from last nights partying, rekindle that lost love or get cozy with a friend over a cup of hot, creamy coffee. Quite interestingly, coffee has a history of once being considered a religious symbol and the devil’s drink at the same time. It gets its name ‘mocha’ from the fact that it helped a group of exiled Arabians survive in a desert. Hence, considering this a sign from God, they named the fruit after the nearest town, Mocha.

“This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.” Said the Pope after a sip of coffee.

The first signs of its discovery date back to 1000 A.D. It traveled to Ethiopia and then to Turkey, all the way to Germany and has now found its way into our pantry and kitchen shelves. Since then, coffee has been drunk in many forms. It has been blended with wines, mixed with creams and spices and ground to fine powder to suit the drinker’s palate. In case you weren’t aware of the fact that coffee comes from beans, coffee does come from beans.

There are primarily four types of coffee bean species. Arabica, the traditional coffee from Ethiopia has a delicate acidic flavour, a refined aroma and a caramel aftertaste. Robusta, has a stronger flavour than Arabica with a full body and a woody aftertaste and is used for processing instant coffee and commercial blends. The third is Liberica, which is characterized by its biggest berry, a very strong exuberant taste and a distinct aroma and Excelsa, being my favourite, has an earthy and smoky flavour, also used by commercial brands.

The advent of commercial coffee saw a world-wide increase in the consumption of this beverage, and what was more interesting was that people were now capable of grinding and brewing coffee in the comfort and confines of their own homes. However, manufacturing it is a very labour intensive technique which involves hand picking the berries, removing the seed from the pulp, processing it, ageing it to give it a distinctive taste , decaffeination (although this is optional) and then finally roasting the beans to gives us that oh- so-rich aroma. These roasted and ground beans are now concocted into any style and form, ready for complete indulgence.Take a pick from Latte’s, Cappuccino’s, Macchiato or Espresso; each with a distinctive style of preparation, leaves a heavenly aftertaste which lingers on till the next sip. If that’s not enough for you, spice up your drink with cinnamon, cardamom or even black pepper to leave you in a transient state of existing between heaven and hell. The end result is a well of deep, satisfying taste. But for the really naughty type of drinkers, spike up your drink with a little brandy, whisky or one of my all time favorites Bailey’s Irish Cream.

No matter how inseparable coffee is from the “nine to five” worker, it has its downfall too. It has known to cause mood swings, intolerant behavior and hyperactivity in a few cases. These were cases where copious amounts of coffee were taken to stay awake. But how does coffee keep us awake? It simply stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the stress hormones in the blood streams, thus making a person feel unnaturally alert. One might think that there was too much blood in their caffeine system. As was written on the walls of an estranged alley:

“It is caffeine alone that sets my mind in motion. It is through beans of java that thoughts acquire speed,

That hands acquire shakes, that shakes become a warning…I am…in control, of my addiction!!”

But whatever be the case, coffee is and will always be the best way to de-stress after a hectic schedule at work or college, to kick start your day and to forget friendship woes. Coffee does it all. So next time you walk into a café and order a double decaf with no sugar and extra cream, let all this help you make your order better!

Amanjit Singh Khanna