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Rites and Customes

Since its discovery, coffee has been one of the sacred substances of humanity. In Uganda, for example, the Banyankole practised blood brotherhood (omukago) to extend social ties beyond biological relations. Incisions were made on the stomachs of two friends (neither biological nor clan brothers) who would then rub their blood on coffee berries. Thereafter, each one ate the coffee berry rubbed with the friend's blood and by this ritual the two became 'brothers'.

The customs and methods of preparing coffee have determined its successful global dispersal. At first glance, the coffee houses, stores and kiosks seem to explain the popularity of this beverage as an instrument of social interaction, that is tied to diverse political and historical events (see a Coffee and Politics  and History of Coffee for further information).

People from the Middle East originally cooked coffee with its pulp. Later, and since the XVII century roasted coffee has become exceedingly popular. Over time, every society developed its own ritual and methods for preparing this beverage in order to satisfy the diverse consumption demands. Typical western coffee drinkers, for example, will normally drink a cup of coffee as an important part of their morning ritual before leaving their homes as one of their main sources of energy. During the evening or at any other time, western consumers  could get into a coffee shop to enjoy a cup of coffee with colleagues.

During the last century, the consumption of coffee was increased and became popular in western societies when the coffee-break became an accepted custom. This phrase was born in a labor relations context, where workers could recover energy and strength. Its origin can be traced back to 1922 when in Buffalo, New York, the businesses of Larkin Company and Barcolo established rest halls so that their employees could enjoy a cup of coffee. Nonetheless, the coining of the phrase and its popularity occurred nearly thirty years later, through a campaign developed by the Pan-American Coffee Office in 1952, and encouraged by producer countries. In this way the institutionalization of the coffee break benefitted from the development and the acceptance of vending machines in the United States throughout the period from 1947 to 1955 (Pendergrast, 1999). At the same time this quotidian rest successfully became an important time for conversation within the social environment for many cultures.

In other cultures coffee also responded to diverse rituals. Within the Arab world it is common to see people drinking coffee in the evening while discussing over the comings and goings of the day. It is a place to meet with the rest of the community. In the case of Colombia, it is typical to offer a cup of coffee, which is locally referred to as a "tinto", to any visitor both at home and at the office. Many conversations are inspired by this cup of coffee, and the offering of the beverage constitutes a sign that the visitor is welcome to stay to talk.

In the XVIII century, during the context of the Industrial Revolution, and particularly during the XIX century, significant advances were made in the elaboration of the beverage in the eve of mechanical methods to roast, grind, and prepare coffee. During the beginning of the XX century methods to conserve and package coffee were also developed.  Amongst the numerous patented inventions of the era can be counted the development of soluble coffee and the vacuum package for coffee. These advances permitted the development of what can be referred to as the second wave of the expansion in coffee consumption, and the most important increase in terms of volume.

In the same way, the preparations of coffee vary according to the customs and methods of preparation employed. In Northern Europe, North America, Central and South America it is drunk in a more diluted fashion, compared to other regions where it tends to be more concentrated. The quality of the coffee beans, being conscious of the importance of their origin,  is crucial to obtain an optimal beverage. Also, there is some particular qualities that adapt themselves better for the different methods of preparation (See Consuming Colombian Coffee for more information).

Throughout the entire world coffee becomes better positioned every day as an indispensible product at any proper meal, whether as a simple cup of coffee or as part of more elaborate recipe. Within the most prestigious gastronomic disciplines, the importance of coffee is now part of the common conscience, not only because of its recognized virtues and qualities as an important cooking ingredient. If you are interested in further information regarding products that use coffee as an ingredient, please visit our section dedicated to coffee recipes in the Colombian Coffee section of this site.


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