Coffee has become synonymous with the morning ritual and if you’re like us, one of the first things you do is reach for your daily brew. You’re not alone – more than a billion coffee lovers world wide turn to their morning cup to kick start their day.
The discovery of coffee is shrouded in myth and legend, one of which takes us as far back as 9th Century Ethiopia, with the story of Kaldi the goat herder. Having observed his goats presenting energised and lively behaviour after chewing the cherries of the plant, Kaldi tried the beans for himself and after experiencing similar effects, shared his discovery with monks in a nearby monastery. The monks, however, called their ‘magical’ effects dark magic and threw the beans into a fire, but were soon enticed by the aroma of the cooking coffee bean.
Another legend attributes the discovery of coffee’s superpowers to an exiled sheik in Yemen, named Omar. During his time in exile, it is said Omar chewed on the berries of a coffee plant to appease his hunger, and it was the bitterness of the plant that led him into experimentation. He first overcooked the beans in flame, then later boiled the cherries to soften them which produced a more palatable brown drink that sustained him for days.
Whatever the true origin of the first discovery of coffee, it has had, at times, a controversial history, being banned not only because of its intoxicating qualities but because it stimulated ‘radical thinking’. Coffee houses appeared in Europe some time in the 1500s and it was there that coffee became central to philosophical debate and political discussions. Coffee is said to have been integral to the Industrial Revolution as it replaced alcohol as the morning drink, creating a general surge in productivity.
Coffee first landed in Australia as seeds and seedlings picked up in Rio de Janeiro by the first fleet and by the late 1800s there were a number of coffee houses in our major cities. Who brought the first espresso machine to Australia is an ongoing debate between Sydney and Melbourne but the reality is, in the years following WWII, waves of people from southern Europe, in particular Italy and Greece, landed on our shores bringing with them their culture which included both a love of social spaces and coffee.
Coffee is both a deeply personal experience and a cultural movement. Fast forward to today and not only does this rich brew come in all sorts and sizes, but the rituals around how and why we enjoy coffee vary greatly from person to person. To bring us the coffee we love, its delicate flavours are deconstructed and scrutinised by many, including the palates of the professionals in the roasting, cupping and brewing process.
As a final product, coffee wears many hats. It’s the silent partner at business meetings, the co-star to conversations, the superhero for the sleep deprived parent, the facilitator that forges friendships and then of course there’s its notorious ability to get us, and keep us, going after long days and nights when life happens.
Australia has, until very recently, had a thriving cafe industry, but Covid-19 has had a major impact both on where staff are working as well as our ability to share our love of coffee and convening in cafes. This has set the scene for more people grabbing takeaway coffee to drink at home and more people purchasing our brew equipment and beans for home use.
Does the rise of the home barista mean our rituals around coffee have changed forever? Maybe, but with it comes a wave of experimentation and knowledge that we embrace as it provides us the opportunity to further share our love of coffee with our home-coffee drinking community. If history is any indication, however, one of the things we love most about the experience of drinking coffee is what is inherent in the cafe space – equipment that has the capacity to extract the best of the glorious flavours of the roasted bean at a level of expertise hard to match at home, and more so the connection and comfort we get from the ritual of sharing coffee as part of a greater community of coffee lovers.