It’s a rich dark liquid that flows across the world and greases the wheels of our economies. It’s one of the most traded commodities. And there are fears that, with a seemingly irrepressible demand, we may one day run dry.
No, I’m not talking about oil, but coffee. More than two billion “cups of joe” are drunk every day and for many, working life would feel impossible without it. As traditionally tea-drinking countries like China are seduced by coffee’s charms, it may soon become the world’s favourite drink.
What is driving this insatiable thirst, and how has the beverage come to conquer the world? Is it the abrasive but aromatic flavours, its psychoactive effects or its social currency? And how can its farmers overcome the challenges created by human-made climate change?
Coffee’s story starts in the lush highlands of Ethiopia, the natural homeland of the delicate Coffea arabica plant. Although they are called “coffee beans”, the plant is not a legume, and the fruits of the coffee tree look more like cherries when they are first picked. The seeds inside are extracted and dried before the process of roasting turns them into the hard, nutty nodules we feed into our grinders.
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