From the old tin pots that our
grandparents used —the ones into which, after the coffee
boiled for five minutes, you threw a little cold water to settle
the grounds —to today’s vanilla soy lattes and
double espressos, the idea of coffee, and the habitual ways
we drink it, have changed enormously.
The bean itself, from black instant ground we use in a hurry
at home to the iced mocha latte that we order at the corner coffee
shop, has changed little. What happened in the last 50 or so
years to make such a dramatic impact on the way coffee is prepared
Coffee actually has a long history, and so do the styles of its
preparation and consumption. It was first grown in Ethiopia,
then spread to the Middle East via ancient Muslim trade routes.
From the original black, water-based beverage grew whole technologies
for roasting the bean, grinding it, blending varieties, and then
Coffee technologies spread from Mediterranean Muslim countries
north into Europe where the beverage became so popular in the
17th century that coffee houses, much like today’s coffee
shops, were so ubiquitous, and coffee so heavily consumed, that
they were banned for causing “too much stimulation.”
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the cultivation of coffee
moved to Brazil and eventually to Asia. As the world’s
largest producer of coffee beans, Brazil holds the monopoly on
coffee with Vietnam in a close second place.
The modern espresso machine was invented in the 1940s. It quickly
became the most popular way to prepare coffee and spread from
Milan, Italy, to the rest of Europe and eventually the United
States, where espresso was highly sought for its crema, the reddish-brown
foam that floats atop the surface.
Per ounce (or shot), espresso has three times the amount of caffeine
found a normal eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee. But that’s
not enough for the French: their French Press coffee has almost
four times the amount of caffeine.
An American word, espresso literally means “pressed-out,” but
that term is not used in Italy. So when you order an espresso
in Italy you should ask for “coffee,” and when you
are in France, “cafe.” You will be served espresso.
Some of the most popular contemporary coffee drinks include:
The Americano, made with 12 ounces of hot water and two shots
of espresso. This drink is said to have been invented in World
War II by American soldiers who were in Italy. The Italian espresso
was too strong, so the baristas, or bartenders would add hot
water to dilute the intense coffee flavor the Americans had not
The Latte: an espresso drink made with steamed milk and a little
foam. The barista would prepare the espresso while steaming the
milk and add the hot milk to the espresso shots.
The Macchiato: prepared with espresso shots and a spoonful of
The Cappuccino: made in thirds, with espresso, steamed milk,
The Red Eye: regular coffee with a shot of espresso, sometimes
called “a shot in the dark,” an “Al Pacino” (from
the film, Sleepless), or an autobahn. The more extreme Black
Eye is made with two shots.
The Mocha: espresso with steamed chocolate milk, topped with
What makes coffee drinks unique is that they can be customized
for every individual with more hot water, less milk, iced, sugared,
foamed, or topped with whipped cream. Ethan Fitzpatrick, an HPU
alum and an employee of Honolulu Coffee Company, said his ideal
drink is the caramel latte.
I love to make my own lattes,” Fitzpatrick said. “I
get to experiment with all different kinds of flavors. I tried
a raspberry latte once. It was...interesting,” he recounted
For hundreds of years and as many ways to make and consume it,
coffee, has been an integral part of our social environment.
And it tastes pretty good too.
Sources: Ellis, Aytoun, A History of the Coffee-Houses. Illy,
Francesco & Riccardo. From Coffee to Espresso. Davids, Kenneth
(1991). Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying.