Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy National Coffee Day!

Celebrated: All over the United States, including right here on Water Street

Today is also National Museum Day. Free admission to lots of museums all over the country, so check it out. However, it's unlikely that I'll get to a museum today, and I am about to have a (rare) l second iced latte, so it's pretty clear where my priorities lie.

I have no idea who proposed the idea of National Coffee Day, when, or why, but does it really matter? More to the point, why isn't every day national coffee day? Here are some lists of places to get free or discounted coffee today.

Whoever thought up coffee was a creative genius. The legend says that an Ethopian goatherd noticed his goats were more active after eating the beans of a coffee tree, but who looked at green beans on a tree and thought, "I will roast those, grind them up and run water through them"? Trade in coffee was active through the Arabian peninsula in the 16th century, and by 1600 had made it to Venice, where the local clergy condemned it. Pope Clement VIII himself was asked to intervene, and famously said, "Why, this Satan's drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it." (And yet the man has never been canonized. Go figure.)

Coffee has been banned and campaigned against at several points over the past five hundred years, not only because of its stimulating effects but also because people who drink it tend to hang out in the places that brew it. Coffeehouses have always been places to share news and opinions, to host performers, and to give writers the illusion of doing something productive with their day.

It took a couple of centuries for coffee to get to North America. The Dutch brought coffee beans to New Amsterdam in the 17th century, but coffee was a rare luxury until the 1720s, when Gabriel de Clieu, the French governor of Guadaloupe, brought a coffee seedlings to Martinique. (Dutch settlers had already brought a plant to Surinam, and an earlier French colonist may have brought a plant to Saint Domingue.) The Martinique seedling took hold, producing millions of descendants and making coffee available to American colonists who met in coffeehouses to talk of revolution.

Today coffee is grown in more than 50 countries, but only in a narrow climate band — high altitudes in the tropics, between 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South. Sun and rain make a big difference to coffee, so climate change skeptics should pay attention: if you don't care about the polar ice caps, you'll care about a global coffee shortage. Or at least I'll care about a global coffee shortage, and you're going to want to stay out of my way.

I've posted this video before, but I love it and it's appropriate, so I leave you with an invitation to join me as a Coffee Achiever.

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