A Guide to Coffee

Coffee is a ubiquitous part of office culture. Popular representations of the office on both sides of the Atlantic, on TV, in film and in literature, are riddled with references to coffee drinking. As a stimulant coffee is associated with both industrious motivation and with taking time out of work. Some office workers claim not being able to “function” in the morning until they have had a cup of coffee.

We at Paperstone know that office workers are discerning in their choice of coffee and can be quite particular. We therefore stock a wide range of coffees, roast and ground and instant, from your favourite brands – including Nescafe, Kenco, Douwe Egberts and Cafe Express. Fairtrade coffee is also available.

What is coffee?

The tropical evergreen coffee plant is native to Africa. The beverage coffee is brewed from roasted and ground seeds of various varieties of coffee plants. Coffee is now consumed by about a third of the world's population.

Coffee – A very short history

Legend has it that coffee was discovered in c. AD 850 by an Arab or Ethiopian (depending on the source) goatherd called Kaldi. He is said to have noticed his charge of goats behaving oddly – dancing and such – after nibbling a plant. Kaldi tried the plant for himself and realising its effects announced his discovery of coffee ('qahwa' in Arabic, 'Kahve' in Turkish) to the world.

Despite early prohibition in some quarters of Islam (because it was an intoxicant) coffee drinking spread rapidly through the Arab world and successive Muslim empires. Coffee was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, gaining particular popularity in coffee-houses which were also hubs of cultural, political and – significantly – business influence and activity.

Up until the end of the seventeenth century the supply of coffee was limited to the region of Yemen in the Arab Peninsula but ever-increasing demand lad to its propagation in islands of the Indonesian archipelago, particularly Java. From the eighteenth century coffee cultivation spread to the Americas. By the twentieth century, most coffee production was in the Western Hemisphere, especially Brazil. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century industrial roasting and grinding processes were consolidated, along with vacuum sealing technologies. In the 1950s the preparation of instant coffee was perfected. (Instant coffee is made by dehydrating a liquid concentration of coffee.)

Did you know?

The first coffee-houses outside the Ottoman Empire appeared in the mid-sixteenth century, first in Venice, then Oxford and London. In England coffee-houses were open to men of pretty much all standing and as such were social levellers. For the same reason, coffee-houses were associated with equality and republicanism. Charles II tried to suppress these meeting places of the disaffected, as he saw them.

The ubiquity in culture of coffee-drinking establishments is as strong as ever, though at present coffee franchises are more emblematic of consumer capitalism than of intellectual resistance as exemplified by Starbucks, a word often enunciated derisively or disdainfully. Nevertheless, coffee-houses, even branded ones, are still seen as meeting places of the cognoscenti.