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Coffee is a tropical evergreen shrub, whose seeds or beans, when roasted and brewed produce a beverage loved and consumed by at least a third of the world's population. How did it get its name? Probably from Kaffa, a province in Ethiopia where it is suspected coffee originated. It seems that from Kaffa, it made its way to Arabia at around A.D. 850. where, according to the legend, a goatherd noticed his flock become livelier than usual after consuming the green berries of this particular bush.

Intrigued, he decided to try the berries and was delighted with the effects. From then on coffee became immensely popular in Arabia.

During the 16th and 17th centuries coffee was introduced to Europe, where it was either approved or prohibited. It became really popular in London where the first coffee houses were established. Soon this popularity spread to Continental Europe and later to North America.

Until the 17th century all world coffee came from south Arabia. Today most of the world's coffee is grown in Central and South America.

With such world-wide demand, some coffee growers, in their eagerness to produce gigantic yields have "over-technified" cultivation methods much to the detriment of the environment and of course coffee itself. How? By clearing forests and growing coffee in full sun, (it grows faster and produces much more this way), the plant becomes stressed and weakened, and as is to be expected, is attacked by every bug and virus you can think of (no more bug-eating little birds or wildlife from neighboring shade-giving trees, alas!) so generous applications of pesticides are called for.

Fortunately organic coffee growing methods are still used and becoming more widespread thanks organizations who are very active in helping the poorer coffee growers realize that it's to their advantage to cultivate coffee organically. This means growing indigenous trees close by to provide shade and a home for local wildlife, it means terracing to prevent erosion, using available manures and composting the waste plant material instead of burning it. It also means the yields won't be as high on a yearly basis, but the quality and flavor of the grains will be infinitely superior.

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