- - A
A for "abbrustulaturo" (toaster”). A cylinder 30 to 60 centimetres long with a handle at one end and a pivot at the other end to rest it on a metal box, that has a grid for embers at its base. This was the tool used by many families to roast their own coffee, since it cost less to buy the beans raw. Eduardo De Filippo recounts that in the little streets of Naples, during the roasting, a penetrating, delicious, irresistible aroma of coffee drifted down from the balconies.
- - B
B for Brazil. Still today this country is the leading producer in the world. The story started in 1727 (some say 1735), when Francisco de Mello Palheta managed to obtain some seeds from the French Governor of Cayenne. Other sources, more detailed, maintain that he had received them from the wife of the Governor, as premium for his amatory qualities.
- - C
C for "ciofeca" (“slop”). An immortal definition given by Totò in the film "I due marescialli" (The Two Marshals) (1962) to a disgusting coffee: "This is slop: it’s not a coffee, it’s slop. So say that it’s slop ! And don’t write “Sports Coffee bar”, write “Sports Slop bar”.
- - D
D for "De Plantis Aegypti". Opera dated 1592 by Prospero Alpini, botanist and doctor from Padua who, having stayed for some time in Egypt under the consol of Venice, dealt with the subject of coffee and brought some bags back to the country. However, it was only used therapeutically and only sold in pharmacies.
- - E
E for espresso. The typical Italian coffee, famous throughout the world for its unmistakeable taste. The machine that we are used to seeing in the coffee-bars was invented by Achille Gaggia in 1946. It would seem that the espresso coffee was contrived by a Neapolitan who considered the time required for preparation in his household coffee-pot was too long and he had a personal machine built by a Milanese engineer. The espresso machine prototype was presented in 1855 at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
- - F
F for Finnish. The “population of the reindeer lands” is the biggest coffee consumer in the world, with 11.6 kg. per capita per year. That is to say, almost a kilo per month per person. But it is to be considered that all the northern countries drink almost exclusively filter coffee, long and weak, that is consumed as a thirst-quencher during all the day, including mealtimes.
- - G
G for Gabriel de Clieu, an officer of the French Navy, who, in 1720 sailed for the Caribbean with two small coffee plants, of which only one survived to arrive at the French Colony of Martinique. It is said that during the voyage he rationed the water for the crew and himself so as to copiously water the precious plants. From this, during the following decades, the plants quickly spread in all of Central America: Haiti, Guadalupe, Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
- - H
H for Honoré de Balzac. "Nobody dares to say adieu to their habits. More than one suicide has halted on the threshold of death thinking of the coffee-bar where he went every evening to play dominoes".
- - I
I for ibrik. A metal vessel with a wide base and narrow neck used by the Turks to prepare coffee. In this, water and very finely ground coffee are brought to the boil on a slow heat. When the liquid becomes frothy and rises, it is removed from the heat. The operation is repeated two or three times, then the coffee settles in the vessel for a few minutes before being served boiling hot and without filtering, in cups without a handle.
- - J
J for Johann Sebastian Bach. The great German composer and musician (1685-1750) dedicated one of his compositions to coffee - the Kafè-Kantante. The Zimmermann coffee shop in Leipzig was one of the privileged places for orchestral music. The Concerts were held in the late afternoon during the summer, in the open, in winter between 8 and 10 o’clock in the evening. Bach directed the orchestra of about forty University students between 1729 and 1737, and between 1739 and 1744.
- - K
K for Kaffa. Region of south Ethiopia where the coffee plant originated, and where it still grows wild today. It was probably part of a wide number of officinal plants that were used for traditional medicine. According to some sources it was the same Abyssinians who took it to Yemen, when toward the end of the VI century A.D. they occupied those territories.
- - L
L for Louis XV. The passion of the King of France for coffee was such that, after ordering the cultivation in the greenhouses of Versailles, he enjoyed personally taking care of the plants, gathering the fruits, drying them and toasting them. Madame Du Barry, his favourite, had her portrait painted in her dressing gown, in the intimacy of her alcove, with a valet near her, intent in serving her a dark cup of coffee. The print of this scene is preserved in the National Library of Paris.
- - M
M for macchia (stain). What can be done to remove a dreadful, insidious coffee stain? Here are some useful hints: on cotton, wool, silk, wet immediately with cold water and wash in tepid water. On velvet, dab with mineral water. On carpets, remove stain with ammonia, rub with a solution of hot water and a few drops of ammonia.
- - N
N for Naironi, Antonio Fausto. Maronite friar who wrote a paper in 1671 on the history of coffee, the De saluberrima potione. This contains the following story: near a monastery in Yemen, a shepherd tending the goats belonging to the monastery saw them become agitated and start moving frenetically after grazing on some berries from a bush. He decided to pick some and take them to the monks, but they didn’t believe him, and sent him away. The berries were taken and thrown in the fire, but when they were roasted they emitted a pleasant, intense aroma; the monks then tried to recover them, putting them, still hot, into water. The water became a delicate brown colour, and the aroma was so tempting that one of the monks tasted it and discovered that this unknown beverage, besides being good, renewed “the body and the spirit”.
- - O
O for "oro verde" (green gold). The value of the coffee market covers one of the first places in world trade of raw materials, after oil and together with steel and grain. It is a sector that has a stable demand and with an overall constant profit. Each year approximately six million metric tonnes are harvested; global production over the last decade has settled around one hundred million sacks. Coffee is measured in sacks; one sack measure-unit weighs 60 Kg.
- - P
P for painters. Many great artists have immortalised on canvas scenes linked to coffee consumption and cafes. These include E. Degas (Glass of Absinthe), V. Van Gogh (Outdoor Café), H. Toulose Lautrec (Monsieur Boileau at the Café), P. Cezanne (Woman with a Coffeepot), C. Monet (Luncheon on the Grass), H. Matisse (Luxury, Calm and Pleasure), E. Hopper (Nighthawks), J. Gris (Breakfast), P. Picasso (Cup, Glass, and Coffee Pot), F. Botero (Still Life with Coffee Pot).
- - Q
Q for qahwa. This is the name for coffee in Arabic. It was the Arabs who, toward the end of 1300, started to toast the beans, grind them and add water to the powder, thus obtaining a thirst-quenching and invigorating beverage.
- - R
R for rivista (magazine). "Il Caffè" is the title of the first Italian magazine, founded in Milan in 1764 by a Lombardy group of renowned followers of the Enlightenment: Pietro and Alessandro Verri, Cesare Beccaria and other members of the "Accademia dei Pugni". Pretending that it all originated from discussions around tables in a coffee-shop, the weekly magazine in its pages dealt with many topics, from science to art, from philosophy to social life.
- - S
S for "suspended". A tradition that well symbolises the congenial attitude of Neapolitans toward those in difficulty is that of the “suspended coffee”. It consists in leaving a coffee already paid at the coffee-bar – that is to say, suspended – that can be consumed free of charge by a person less well-to-do upon request.
- - T
T for Taktacalah. A district of Constantinople that, in 1554 of the Christian era, under the reign of Solyman II the Great, two merchants each founded on their own account a Coffee House called Kahveh-Kanes. These were the first coffee-houses to be known. Along the walls of the rooms, wonderfully decorated, there were platforms covered with soft cushions and brightly coloured soft silk. A large coffee-pot rested on a hotplate in a corner of the room, and the beverage was always available. On a platform a group of musicians offered a joyful atmosphere with the sound of their flutes and tambourines. Sensuous dancers with bare bellies and snake charmers amused the public, which continued to increase in numbers.
- - U
U for "Un viaggio nei paesi d’Oriente" (“A journey in Oriental countries”). Published in Frankfurt in 1582, in this book Leonhardt Rauwolf, a doctor of Augsburg, recounts his adventurous journey made from 1573 to 1578. He recounts, among other anecdotes: "...they consumed a beverage black as ink that they enjoyed very much and called chaubé. It is made from a plant that they call bunnu..."
- - V
V for Voltaire. The great philosophers are remembered as enthusiastic coffee drinkers, first among them being Voltaire, who, it is said, drank around thirty cups a day.
- - W
W for Witten, Nikolaus. An astute and resourceful Dutch trader, who organised the first audacious theft of some coffee plants, that he secretively stole sailing from Mocha, in Yemen, in 1690, and that he transplanted in Batavia (now Jakarta, island of Java). At that time the export of plants was strictly prohibited, as for silk worms from China. It was necessary to buy at the price of the Arabs who boiled or lightly toasted the seeds before selling them, to avoid the possibility of growing them.
- - Y
Y for Yemen. According to recent research, the coffee plant (Coffea Arabica) originates from Yemen. Documents prove the existence in that territory already in the VII century A.D. The Yemenites jealously defended the precious coffee plant, but as their country was continually crossed by thousands of pilgrims going to the Mecca, the monopoly was destined to fall, sooner or later, into foreign hands.
- - Z
Z for zar (czar). Peter the Great, czar of all the Russias, was most curious concerning that which he heard tell about the coffee plant. He went specifically to the botanical garden of Leipzig to admire it. This plant was the kind gift of the Dutch burgomaster of Amsterdam, and was the offspring from the plant that governor Van Horn had personally brought with him from Java, to successfully plant in the botanic garden of the Dutch capital.