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ingredients spotlight: coffee, a history

if you asked anyone in the world, “what’s the one thing that gets you up in the morning?”, they likely tell you: a hot cup of coffee. over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day. It’s an energetic source of fuel, a social ritual, and a celebration of flavor.

the primary ingredient in levity brew is coffee, so to kick off our ingredients series, we’ll explore the history, production, and health effects of the beloved coffee bean.

as fran drescher says, “Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep.”

history of coffee

while coffee has its own creation story involving a goatherd named kaldi and some unusually high-spirited goats (we’ll let your imagination run wild there), the first credible accounts of coffee-drinking dates back to the 15th century in yemen. coffee was used in local religious ceremonies and adopted by sufi monasteries, and had spread throughout the middle east by the 16th century.

coffee’s global expansion began with the dutch east india company, who started producing coffee beans in java and ceylon and exporting them to the netherlands in 1711. as the demand for coffee grew, so did the need for land and labor - resulting in large-scale deforestation and the exploitation of indigenous people. the portuguese brought coffee to brazil, while the french planted it in the caribbean. many central american countries took up cultivation by the late 1800’s, including colombia, where levity brew’s organic and fair trade beans are sourced.

coffee was not initially well-received in the colonies, where early americans opted for booze instead. (when all of your friends are dying of smallpox, you probably need something a little stronger to take off the edge.) by the mid-1700’s, tea was still the hot beverage of choice, with coffee coming in a distant second - that is, until the sons of liberty threw 342 chests of tea into the harbor during the boston tea party. this had the dual effect of reducing the tea supply and strengthening the revolutionaries’ resolve against the british import, forever changing the course of american beverage preferences.

today, coffee is one of the world’s most valuable agricultural commodities. there are over 25 million people who rely on coffee for a living - and over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries.

so, what does it take to get coffee to a delicious and drinkable state?

next on the blog, we’ll explore coffee production, from growing to roasting and more.

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