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Related to coffee: coffee bean


a tree, its seeds, and the beverage made from them. The coffee tree, a small evergreen of the genus Coffea, has smooth, ovate leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers that mature into deep red fruits about 1-2 in. (1.27 cm) long. The fruit usually contains two seeds, the coffee beans. C. arabica yields the highest-quality beans and provides the bulk of the world's coffee, including c.80% of the coffee imported into the United States. The species is thought to be native to Ethiopia, where it was known before A.D. 1000.

Coffee's earliest human use may have been as a food; a ball of the crushed fruit molded with fat was a day's ration for certain African nomads. Later, wine was made from the fermented husks and pulps. Coffee was known in 15th-century Arabia; from there it spread to Egypt and Turkey, overcoming religious and political opposition to become popular among Arabs. At first proscribed by Italian churchmen as a heathen's drink, it was approved by Pope Clement VIII, and by the mid-17th cent. coffee had reached most of Europe. Introduced in North America c.1668, coffee became a favorite American beverage after the Boston Tea PartyBoston Tea Party,
1773. In the contest between British Parliament and the American colonists before the Revolution, Parliament, when repealing the Townshend Acts, had retained the tea tax, partly as a symbol of its right to tax the colonies, partly to aid the financially
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 made tea unfashionable.

Coffee owes its popularity in part to the stimulative effect of its caffeinecaffeine
, odorless, slightly bitter alkaloid found in coffee, tea, kola nuts (see cola), ilex plants (the source of the Latin American drink maté), and, in small amounts, in cocoa (see cacao). It can also be prepared synthetically from uric acid.
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 constituent. Caffeine, a bitter alkaloid, can also contribute to irritability, depression, diarrhea, insomnia, and other disorders. Decaffeinated coffees, developed in the early 1900s, account for c.18% of the U.S. market. For those without the time or the inclination to brew their own, there are instant or soluble coffees, introduced in 1867, which account for c.17% of U.S. coffee sales.

Coffee Plant Cultivation

The coffee plant prefers the cool, moist, frost-free climate found at higher altitudes in the tropics and subtropics. Optimum growing conditions include: temperature of about 75°F; (24°C;); well-distributed annual rainfall of about 50 in. (127 cm) with a short dry season; and fertile, deep, well-drained soil, especially of volcanic origin. While coffee can be grown from sea level to c.6,000 ft (1,830 m), and C. robusta is produced at low elevations in West Africa, the better arabica grades are generally produced above 1,500 ft (460 m). Strong winds limit coffee production; coffee is often grown in the shelter of taller trees. A coffee tree yields its maximum sometime between its fifth and tenth year and may bear for about 30 years.

Preparation and Types of Coffee

After the outer pulp is removed, coffee seeds are prepared by roasting, which develops the aroma and flavor of their essential oils. Longer roasting produces darker, stronger coffee. The variety of recipes and prescriptions for roasting, brewing, and serving coffee reflects the diversity of consumer tastes and cultural preferences. All techniques begin with properly roasted, freshly ground coffee; freshly boiling water; and absolutely clean utensils. Turkish coffee, a strong, unfiltered brew of finely powdered coffee and sugar, is popular in Greece, Turkey, and Arabia. Italian-style espresso, or expresso, is brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely powdered, often darkly roasted coffee. Most other coffees are filtered. Café au lait, coffee mixed with scalded milk, is a traditional French breakfast drink, as is café con leche in countries where Spanish is spoken. Coffee flavored with chicorychicory
or succory
, Mediterannean herb (Cichorium intybus) of the family Asteraceae (aster family), naturalized in North America, where the tall stalks of usually blue flowers are common along waysides and are known as blue-sailors.
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 is a specialty of New Orleans. Connoisseurs pay dearly for Mocha from the Yemen region of Arabia, Blue Mountain from Jamaica, Kona from Hawaii, or other so-called specialty coffees from Africa, Indonesia, or Latin America—all premium arabica varieties.

Coffee in Commerce

Varieties of C. arabica are important export crops in many countries, especially in South America and East Africa. Brazil is the leading producer. The only other species of commercial importance is C. robusta, a West African native also widely grown in Central Africa and Asia. Fluctuations in supply and demand have historically played havoc with world coffee markets and with the economies of individual growers and exporting countries. Efforts to stabilize the markets began with a 1940 agreement, administered by the Inter-American Coffee Board, allocating U.S. coffee imports from Latin America. A global agreement under the International Coffee Organization, a body of 70 coffee-producing and -consuming countries, expired in 1989.

In many cultures throughout its history, coffee has been served in coffeehouses, cafés, and other places of public refreshment, often as an aid and accompaniment to political or artistic activity, gambling, or gossip, or to solo rumination. Coffee's popularity in the United States peaked in 1962, when three-quarters of people over 18 years of age drank at least a cup a day. In 1992 only about half did, but 20 years later roughly 60% did. Beginning about 1990 U.S. consumers became increasingly interested in premium coffees and stronger, richer brews.

Classification of the Coffee Plant

Coffee is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Rubiales, family Rubiaceae (maddermadder,
common name for the Rubiaceae, a family of chiefly tropical and subtropical trees, shrubs, and herbs, especially abundant in N South America. The family is important economically for several tropical crops, e.g., coffee, quinine, and ipecac, and for many ornamentals, e.g.
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See G. Dicum and N. Luttinger, The Coffee Book (1999); M. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds (1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a plant of the genus Coffea or its seeds (coffee beans), used to make a stimulating beverage of the same name and to obtain caffeine.

Coffee is an important commodity in international trade. The world output of coffee beans in 1971 reached 4.9 million tons, and more than 65 percent of it was produced in Latin America, primarily Brazil and Colombia but also Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. About 27 percent of the output was produced in Africa, especially the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Angola, and Uganda, and the rest was produced in Asia, mainly Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. The largest exporter of coffee is Brazil, accounting for more than one-third of world coffee exports. Colombia, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Angola, Guatemala, and Mexico also contribute significantly to the world market. The main coffee consumers are the United States, which accounts for one third-of the world coffee imports, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Coffee is sold as raw or roasted beans or as ground or instant coffee. Harvested beans are prepared for market by being cleaned of the pulp, fermented, and then dried at temperatures of 50°-60°C and polished. Caffeine is obtained from raw beans. The beverage coffee is prepared from beans roasted at 180°-200°C for 25–30 minutes and then ground. When the beans are roasted, their sugar is carmelized and substances are formed that give the beverage a brown color and pleasant taste and aroma.

There are many varieties of coffee, named after their place of origin or the port from which they are exported. Yemen, or mocha, coffee, produced in small quantities, is considered to be the best. Brazilian (Santos) and Colombian (Mams) coffees are also of high quality. The chemical composition of coffees may differ somewhat depending on the variety. On the average, coffee contains 13–14 percent nitrogen substances, 0.65–2.7 percent caffeine, 2–3 percent sugar, 12–15 percent fat, more than 20 percent cellulose, and 3–4 percent minerals.

Because of its significant caffeine content, coffee has a stimulating and tonic effect on the central nervous system. One teaspoon of ground coffee used to make a cup of the beverage contains a single therapeutic dose of caffeine (0.07–0.1 g). Coffee also stimulates stomach secretions. Natural coffee is not recommended for persons with a hyperactive nervous system or for those suffering from heart palpitations, ulcers, hypertension, or insomnia.

The term “coffee” is also applied to commercial coffee substitutes made from various vegetable sources such as roasted barley or acorns, which do not contain caffeine. Many coffee substitutes have natural coffee added in small quantities.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about coffee?

For regular coffee drinkers, this could simply be a reflection of one’s everyday life experience in one’s dreams. A social ritual; friendship. Alternatively, it might mean something we thirst for. A common idiom is to “wake up and smell the coffee,” meaning to give something more attention.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


Any of various shrubs or small trees of the genus Coffea (family Rubiaceae) cultivated for the seeds (coffee beans) of its fruit; most coffee beans are obtained from the Arabian species, C. arabica.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a. a medium to dark brown colour
b. (as adjective): a coffee carpet
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
The letter was right there at hand in the drawer of the little table upon which Edna had just placed her coffee cup.
Oh, you selfish young zany of a man, after all you have said to her, won't you make it up and let me return to my coffee? Not he.
"William," said I gaily, "coffee, cigarette, and cherry brandy."
"Coffee, please," says Tom, with his mouth full of muffin and kidney.
Tom has eaten kidney and pigeon-pie, and imbibed coffee, till his little skin is as tight as a drum; and then has the further pleasure of paying head waiter out of his own purse, in a dignified manner, and walks out before the inn-door to see the horses put to.
He said that after Lady Hastings went off in the car the general asked him to take coffee with him in the library and look up a point about local antiquities.
Then I examined the coffee cups, and I knew enough chemistry to find poison in the dregs of one of them.
James turned away and went down the passage to restore his nervous tissues with coffee.
"Besides, that water ain't like coffee. Gettin' cold won't spoil it none.
Her uncle resumed his breakfast, and was munching toast sopped in coffee, oblivious of his guest, when the third bell rang.
It was coffee then, for he threw it down on purpose.
There was no other person in the room but the old Jew, who was boiling some coffee in a saucepan for breakfast, and whistling softly to himself as he stirred it round and round, with an iron spoon.