Ever wonder where the term ‘cappuccino’ comes from? Ever hear of the most expensive coffee in the world, and more importantly, where it comes from? Have you often pondered why mocha refers to both an espresso drink and a type of coffee bean? Well, wonder no more! Compiled here is a list of many of the random facts about coffee that you’ve never known, and some you might wish you’d remained unknowing!
1. What does a cappuccino, a monkey, and a friar have in common? Well, the friar has the most to do with the other two – the Capuchin Friar, to be specific, is noted for his long, reddish brown robes with a hooded cap. Remember Ross’s little monkey buddy Marcel from Friends? He’s a capuchin monkey, named such because of their resemblance to those hooded friars. So where does the hood come into play with the cappuccino? The friar’s vestments were also noted for their reddish brown tint, and capuchin also became synonymous with the color. When espresso becomes mixed with the moderate amount of steamed, foamed milk required for a cappuccino, the visible espresso takes on that reddish brown color – hence, it, too, is capuchin!
2. So what is Mocha? Is it a coffee bean or is it a chocolate espresso drink? Why do they share a name? Simple. Mocha, Yemen has, for centuries, been a dominant port of exporting Ethiopian and Yemeni coffee beans, which you may know as Arabica beans. These beans are small and more pea-shaped than typical long coffee beans, similar to a peaberry, and were originally, though unfortunately, not so much lately, known for their chocolatey flavor. So when the Cafe Mocha was developed, a coffee beverage that combined steamed milk, espresso, and chocolate, it was named in honor of this particular port where their chocolatey coffee was famous. Confusing? Bet it doesn’t help much that coffee brewed with mocha beans is also called mocha, as is any regular brewed coffee with chocolate syrup!
3. Think that dark-roasted coffee gives you more of a caffeine kick? Think again! The roasting process of coffee beans actually diminishes the caffeine content in favor of creating the more popular roasted flavor preferred by coffee consumers. American specialty coffee roasters tend to stop roasting their coffee at the medium roast level, but this is often snubbed by the consumer living under the belief that a darker roast delivers more caffeine – as a result, American coffee is often thought of as too weak or light to get the job done. Although the difference is someone miniscule (.06% between light roast and dark roast), and can be affected by things like how the coffee is ground or brewed, if you’re really looking to get the most caffeine for your money, well, American-style coffee is actually the way to go!
4. Where does the world’s most expensive coffee come from? You may be happier not knowing the answer to this one. The world’s priciest bean originates in the Indonesian Archipelago, already famous for its coffee stars Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java, and is called Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee. Specifically the Asian palm civet, this small furry creature is native to Indonesia as well as several other parts of mainland Asia, but the Kopi Luwak is only found in Indonesia, where coffee is grown. Farmers of this coffee insist that it is superior based on the fact that the civet only selects the highest quality coffee cherries to be consumed, which doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except that the civet consumes the seed of the cherry along with the flesh, and where does it go from there? You guessed it! In one end, and out the other! The beans undergo chemical reactions in the civet’s digestive system before being promptly pooped out – and thereafter, harvested by coffee farmers to be roasted and sold, for up to a whopping $600 USD per pound.
But for all of Kopi Luwak’s notoriety, how is the taste? Not very good, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, where Kopi Luwak is one of the lowest ranking coffees in terms of taste – described as thin, stale, and watery. So, the hype exists primarily around the novelty, not the flavor, and it’s safe to say that the world’s most expensive coffee is figuratively AND literally – if you’ll excuse the bleep – shit.
If you want to put trying Kopi Luwak on your bucket list regardless of its notably poor taste, it’s advised you don’t – unfortunately, with the novelty of the coffee having become so widespread, artificial Kopi Luwak farming is on the rise. Civets are kept in small cages and poor conditions, and force-fed beans that are not of the same quality as the wild Luwak, which forces the civets to excrete the beans for mass production. Apart from the ethical concerns, this form of Kopi Luwak is not as high quality as the real thing, which has become increasingly difficult to find. The lesser quality Luwak is often sold for a premium, even though it isn’t the real thing, and distinguishing it from wild Luwak is almost impossible.