Monday, December 13, 2010

A Revised History of Coffee

Coffee is one of the most ancient drinks that is still consumed today. It's up there with mead, wine, beer, tea, and water. Kool-aid would be the 6th on that list since it was originally developed in Kazakstan a few thousand years ago (hence the Kool instead of Cool). Anyways, the story of coffee is much more interesting than Kool-Aid's story, so I shall proceed.

In 3000 B.C. there was a young shepherd boy named Jim. Jim lived in Nigeria and came from a long line of shepherds. It was common to take your sheep from one plot of land to the next so the sheep can have plenty of fresh grass. This was one of the most recent developments in shepherdry since it's advent. Previously, the shepherds just stayed in one very large plot of land permanently. The sheep ate all the grass and abused the land so much that eventually the land would get too worn out to ever produce grass again. The new method of migrating sheep was incredibly beneficial because it preserved the land so the sheep could rotate through several plots and always return to fresh, healthy grass.

Well, although he did not invent this new method of shepherding, Jim was constantly thinking of better ways to shepherd. His first idea was to invade private property for the sheep to eat the gourmet grass of the rich folk. This worked great until one of the rich men came out of his giant house carrying a shot-gun, er I mean his sword. He stomped right towards the closest sheep to him, gave a good swing of his sword, and off plopped the sheep's head. Without saying a word, he dragged the sheep back to his barn to continue to slaughter it.

This was devastating for Jim Shepherd, especially since his flock consisted of 3 sheep. He spent the next 6 months grieving his loss, but something happened that would change his life forever.

***Insert Commercial Break Here***

After Jim's devastating loss of a sheep, he started taking his sheep to a mountainous plot of land. He couldn't stand being around any other shepherds down in the hills because all they ever did was mock him for his 2 sheep flock. It wasn't long until the sheep started complaining. Climbing mountains was too much for them. Speaking in sheep language, which shepherds are fluent in, they continually asked, "Are we there yet?" or, "Mr. Jim, I'm sleepy. Can't we just stay in one place." Jim, being a great shepherd, continued to push them so he wouldn't wear out the land.

One day his sheep were taking a break, eating grass. It was a beautiful morning. He looked over at his sheep and noticed that they seemed slightly more energetic than normal. Oh my goodness, they were jumping! Jim hadn't seen a sheep jump since the Sheep jumping contests he had seen as a toddler. This used to be a common event among shepherds, but they eventually stopped because they realized that sheep needed fat to taste good. But by golly, they were jumping!

Jim walked over to the hill they were grazing on and saw the plant they were eating. It had little green beans on it. Jim had never seen such a plant in the hills where he used to roam, so he decided to taste it. It actually tasted pretty good. He kept eating them for another half-hour and noticed that he was shaking a little bit. Afraid that the plant was poisonous, he tried to gag himself, but just couldn't get it out of him. Laying down on the grass, contemplating the meaning of life, Jim was preparing for his death. After 15 minutes, he hadn't died yet and was actually starting to feel better. So he got up and started walking around. Then he started jogging in circles. Then he started sprinting in figure eights around his two sheep. It was quite a sight to see because the sheep were still jumping up and down while rotating in circles while their shepherd ran around like a mad man. No feeling had been so joyous as the feeling he now had. He felt like he could run for miles, in fact he felt like he needed to in order to get all the energy out of his system.

Coming back to his senses after an hour of acting like a mad man, Jim collected a few pounds of the beans and started moving forward. His sheep had a new energy and had no more complaints except the occasional request for more green bean. In sheep language, Green Bean sounds an awful lot like Coffee. So that's how coffee got its name.

Now that Jim had found coffee, he had a new passion for life. He actually started enjoying the scenery of the mountains and never had to worry about the contentment of his sheep as long as he had coffee. He spend many years in the mountains of Nigeria, always rotating back to the hill where he first found coffee to restock. It wasn't long until he realized that the coffee tasted better and lasted longer if he roasted it.

One day while they were crossing a small stream, Jim noticed a brown liquid. He traced it upstream and saw that it was sourced from one of his sheep. Sheep are quite messy eaters so they often had coffee crumbs stuck in their wool. The water was flowing through the wool and through the coffee, making this brown liquid. He quickly scooped some of it out of the stream and took a drink. This drink was so amazing that he immediately deemed it God's Second Favorite Drink (After orange juice, which everyone knows is the nectar of God).

Through many different methods, Jim finally got to the point of making coffee very similar to how we do it today. He realized that coffee beans dissolved better in hot water than cold water. He also realized that if he ground the coffee beans that made the coffee drink more strong. He did so many experiments on dissolving coffee that he had ground the coffee to make the most syruppy coffee imaginable. This coffee was ridiculously strong and always ended up having several particles of coffee at the bottom. One day he encountered a Turkish man, traveling through Nigeria and introduced him to this coffee drink. Jim didn't quite care for this ultra syruppy coffee, but the Turk loved it. He took the idea back to his country of Turkey and named the drink Turkish Coffee.

Jim tried other methods of making coffee. Inspired by the first coffee drink ever in that stream, he started making filters out of sheep wool. He piled a bunch of coffee into a wool piece of fabric and poured hot water through it. This coffee is now referred to as Drip Coffee or Cup O' Joe.

His sheep were getting quite old, but he never really cared much about them, so he decided he would kill one of them for food. He thoroughly enjoyed eating it, but was left with several bones afterward. He owned one tall cup that he only used on special occasions. A new method that he tried out was to fill the cup with hot water and pour a few table spoons of coffee into it. He'd mix it up and let it sit for a few minutes while it brewed. He then took his wool filter and pushed it through the coffee liquid using the dead sheep's leg bone. The high pressure used in this process made a new drink that he was quite fond of. Well, along came a French man who happened to be traveling through Nigeria. Jim showed him his new method of simultaneously pressing and filtering the coffee and the Frenchman was in love. After staying only one day with Jim, the French man took some coffee with him and introduced this new drink to his home land. Claiming that he developed the method on his own, he called the drink French Pressed Coffee.

Jim was completely oblivious to how much coffee had been spreading throughout the world, but he wouldn't care anyways. He was just enjoying his coffee and learning new ways to make it. The press n' filter method made amazing coffee, so Jim wanted to further develop the idea of pressurized coffee-making. When passing through a nearby town, he found a metal-smith. He convinced the metalsmith to build him an intricate system of brass pipes. The pipes connected a hand pump (with a very wide pipe diameter) to a small brewing chamber, which had a very small pipe diameter. The piping system was filled with water and had plungers at both ends for pumping pressure into the brewing chamber. Little did Jim realize, he had just invented modern piping and hydraulics simultaneously. The metalsmith stole this idea and started developing indoor plumbing in his tiny village. He also equipped his carriage with hydraulics so he could cruise around town, bumping up and down with his fancy hydraulic system.

Once again, Jim couldn't care less because he had just developed a new kind of coffee. The brewing chamber could brew the coffee at very high pressures and made a wonderful new drink. His sheep were so fond of this drink because it gave them so much energy without being sludgy like the coffee he introduced to the Turk. These sheep were so happy to drink it (especially mixed with milk), that whenever they got to drink it, they simply said, "Happy happy happy," which in sheep language sounds like, "Espresso espresso espresso." Along came an Italian man one day with his 4 children and wife. They had the most delightful evening with Jim, drinking espresso with milk that they immediately escaped that night, stealing all of Jim's coffee and his espresso machine. They took it all the way back to Italy and started serving Lattes, Cappuccinos, Macchiatos, and other drinks in their million dollar business in Rome.

Jim easily replaced his espresso machine, his last sheep died, and he went into retirement. He spent his days reading and drinking coffee in the mountains. Completely oblivious to how people had taken advantage of him and his development of coffee, he lived the most enjoyable life. He died a happy man at 92.

No one ever knew about him except for those who took advantage of him. This story was found in the diary of Zev Siegl, one of the founders of Starbucks, who is also the descendant of that Italian man who stole the idea from Jim to make espresso drinks. That Italian man happened to also travel through Turkey and France, finding the others who took all of Jim's ideas. That's how the entire story got into one journal.

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