Happy International Coffee Day (1 day belated...). I'm sure it's no surprise that coffee has its own day- after all, ranking amongst beer, tea and water as one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, the little bean has quite a bit to be proud of.
Coffee has an appeal, versatility and history that goes far beyond its caffeine content.
Throughout history, it has been a sacrament (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) shared by a diverse group of people. One of the seminal starting points of coffee culture, however, is now one of great social strife and upheaval- Yemen.
Yemen has been especially significant today, with the death of Anwar Al-Awlaki. This Yemeni cleric achieved notoriety in his alleged role in encouraging several failed terrorist attacks in recent years. He is perhaps most famous for being born in the US and speaking fluent English, which greatly widened his audience. Al-Qaeda has a strong presence in Yemen, which only complicates matters as Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh faces continuing protests over corruption and unemployment.
Yemen has had many governmental changes over the centuries, thanks to it's central location and proximity to both Africa and the Middle East. Yemen was the first area of coffee consumption outside of coffee's native Ethiopia. In its early days, coffee was actually used primarily in religious rituals by the Sufi Muslims of Yemen. As the beverage gained popularity, it became a widely traded item, and the Red Sea port of Mokha became the hub of this booming coffee trade.
Eventually, Europeans began to develop a taste for coffee. A Jesuit missionary first tasted Yemen's coffee in 1595. As European appreciation for coffee increased, some noted flavor resemblances of the Mokha coffee bean to chocolate, leading eventually to today's common chocolate-latte coffee shop beverage of the same name.
Here's a quick video (my first original flash movie made for DA!) of Yemen's coffee. You can see the coffee beans around the highland areas near the capital Sana'a, along with the location of the port city of Mokha.
Another great way to get in touch with the magic of coffee is to examine coffee roasting. Check back soon for part 2 of this post- a look at some simple coffee roasting of today's star coffee- Yemen Mokha!
What about you, readers? Is your local coffee shop a meeting place for people and ideas? And speaking of people and ideas, what'll become of countries like Yemen as protests continue? Leave a comment!