It is cold out. Seriously COLD lately. February seems to drag on, blowing snow in your face as you come to the harsh realization that you’re going to be chilly for the next few weeks. To deal, we have spent a bit of our free time in coffee shops (surprise right). With the help of our trusty Coffee Passport we have discovered many new cafes. Like the little gem of a coffee shop Cafe Novo on Bloor West, right across from High Park. From these mid-winter jaunts a question arose in my mind…
How well do we really know our coffee?
While I understand that that sounds like an odd question, it is one that should be posed. Seriously, how well do you know your cup of coffee? How attached to this black goodness are you? Really this can be thought of for most things in life, our clothing, our food, our cars, appliances, bedding and the list goes on and on . What do we know about what we consume, use and ingest?
If you follow our blogs you may have noticed many of our queries are centered around coffee and ethics, and of course clothing production ethics and the integral connection between Haiti and Canada, and well consumption in general. But back to the point of this blog. How did coffee come about? Have you ever thought to yourself: how did someone think ‘hmm I am going to pick this flower, reveal a bean that is inside, shell it, sort it, roast it, grind it and then pour water over these grinds so I may drink it to enhance my alertness‘. Seriously, whoever came to this realization is kind of like a god to me. Though one could argue possibly the alternative, as coffee has been a crop that has annihilated many a country’s agricultural sector, and therefore rather than god-like they could be viewed as foe. But for simplistic reasons, let us assume this person had this idea because he/she knew that coffee and the culture that surrounds it is a perfect way to unite people when done ethically.
So, where or rather how did the idea originate? Most research points to Ethiopia as the birthing place of coffee. As an interesting side note, a little research will lead you to find that Startbucks went through a dispute over intellectual property rights with Ethiopian coffee farmers, particularly over the Harar, Yigarcheffe and Sidamo coffee beans fbetween 2002-2007. The chairman of Starbucks and the prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles, came to an agreemement in 2006 and settled the dispute. Though many argue that Starbucks does not do enough to uphold labour and environmental standards to make up for the vast amount of environmental and human degradation it causes across the globe. This in itself could be the focus of an entirely different post..or book, we’ll work on that:)
Back to the point. One ‘COFFEE LEGEND‘ states claim that an Arabian shepherd, on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, named Kaldi found his goats joyous and exuberant near a green leafed shrub with bright red cherries. After trying the berries himself and experiencing their powerful effect, Kaldi determined that this euphoric state was caused by the flower themselves. The stimulating effects were then used by monks at a local monastary in order to stay awake during long prayer hours. The cherries were distributed to other monastaries around the world. Coffee was birthed.
However, despite the mystical appeal of this legend, recent evidence would suggest that coffee does indeed originate from Ethiopia. Coffee is said to have originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia and somehow made its way to Yemen where it has been cutltivated since the 6th century. With the first introduction of coffee houses in Cairo and Mecca coffee became a passion rather than just a stimulant. And thus coffee culture was born.
So there you have it. The birthing of coffee revealed. We can all rest easy now that this life altering question has been answered. But the real point of this post, aside from my curiosity, is to highlight the long life most things we consume have prior to coming into our physical possession. Coffee has played an integral role in cultures across the globe since the 6th Century. It is here to stay, as time has undoubtly shown. What is needed now most of all is to ensure it is grown, harvested, roasted and consumed in the most ethically sound way possible.
Looking for organic, fair trade, rain forest alliance, shade grown and bird friendly certifications are important and valid places to start. We definitely recommend talking to your barista. Beyond providing you with greater insight to the specific coffee origins of your cup and information on the cafe, you will build a lovely rapport and perhaps become regulars at cafes like Sway and I seem to have a knack for doing.