Dietribes: Coffee

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Ah, coffee. Consumed either hot or cold by about one-third of the world's population, it is occasionally worshiped by the tired, possibly hungover masses for its "invigorating" effect, produced, of course, by caffeine. Since there are overwhelming amounts of coffee-related facts out there, let's focus on some coffee firsts.

"¢ According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "One of many legends about the discovery of coffee is that of Kaldi, an Arab goat herder, who was puzzled by the strange antics of his flock. About AD 850, Kaldi supposedly sampled the berries of the evergreen bush on which the goats were feeding and, on experiencing a sense of exhilaration, proclaimed his discovery to the world."

The World Encyclopedia of Coffee tells us that the first coffee house came about in 1686, when an enterprising Italian waiter, Francisco Procopio dei Coltelli, opened Procope's (still in operation). Though a "lemonade shop" in name, "Procope's sumptuous décor and air of sophistication attracted a clientèle keen to distance itself from the more loutish elements of the day." Soon coffee began outselling the other beverages, and Procope's went on to become a literary salon boasting such visitors as Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire and later ... Napoleon! [Insert your own growth-stunting coffee joke here.]

"¢ The International Coffee Organization reports that while Brazil is the largest exporter of coffee, the United States is the number one importer. The first license to sell coffee in the US was in Boston to Dorothy Jones in 1770.

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"¢ Some people love the taste of coffee without wanting to deal with all that pesky caffeine. Fans of decaf can thank German coffee importer Ludwig Roselius, who in 1905 patented a steam process to make caffeine-free coffee without changing the flavor.

"¢ Infamously, coffee played a key role in the 1994 McDonald's lawsuit that resulted in a $2.9 million payout (later reduced in settlement) to an 81-year-old woman who spilled the piping hot beverage on herself. Of course, sometimes coffee on clothing can be a good thing. "When Marilyn Monroe married her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, the ceremony was held earlier than planned. When she realized she didn't have a veil to match her beige dress, Marilyn colored a white one by soaking it in a pan of coffee" (Source: Coffee Lover's Bible).

How do you take your coffee? Where's your favorite place to drink it? Got any other fun coffee facts?

[Previous Dietribes: Strawberries, Macaroni & Cheese, McIntosh Apples, Smoothies]

'Dietribes' appears every Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.