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This is a research paper i did for my English class on the agricultural, social and cultural aspects of coffee. Enjoy the paper and any constructive criticism is welcome.

This is a research paper i did for my English class on the agricultural, social and cultural aspects of coffee. Enjoy the paper and any constructive criticism is welcome.

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  • 1. Scott Block
    February 8, 2010
    Professor Vengadasalam
    Eng 135
    Coffee: The Complex Bean That Unites
    America offers people an abundance of resources that can be used and transformed into products that are bought and sold in the marketplace. Some of these items are necessities while some of these items are luxuries that fit into a society’s value system. One such product that falls in between a luxury and a necessity is coffee. Millions of cups of coffee are consumed daily for various reasons and one may say that America runs on coffee. Coffee has become a major part of American society because it doesn’t divide; on the contrary, coffee often unites across social, cultural, professional, and educational barriers.
    Before a person drinks a cup of coffee, the coffee itself has undergone a rigorous process from the ground to the cup. To start off with, coffee plants have to have a proper environment to grow in, otherwise they will never produce a usable bean. The optimal environment a coffee plant needs is either “subtropical or equatorial regions which will produce one coffee season for subtropical regions and two coffee seasons for equatorial regions” CITATION Placeholder1 l 1033 (Harvesting Coffee Beans). Once an optimal climate has been established the soil will need to be supplied with the proper nutrients. After a full coffee plant is grown it will start to produce cherries. “These cherries are harvested every dry season when the cherries are bright red, glossy and firm. To pick the cherries you can pick them by hand selectively only picking the ripe cherries or a machine can be used which will strip all of the cherries off the plant whether they are ripe, unripe or overripe” CITATION Placeholder1 l 1033 (Harvesting Coffee Beans).
    Once the coffee cherries have been stripped off of their plants they have to be processed so the unripe and overripe cherries can be separated from the ripe cherries. The way this is done is in water. The ripe cherries are dense and will sink as a result, while the unripe and overripe cherries will float to the top. This makes separating the good from the bad an exact science with little manpower needed.
    Additionally a machine is used with a specific water pressure and current to push the cherries up against a screen only large enough for the bean or seed inside to fit through. This process uses the water pressure to remove the inner bean or seed from the outer cherry. The only cherries that will pop and release their inner bean are the ripe cherries. The unripe and overripe cherries will stay intact to be discarded CITATION Cof06 l 1033 (Coffee Processing). Following the screening the beans are dried by one of many processes. The beans can either be dried by mechanical or natural processes that prepare them for sorting and sifting according to a number of grading specifications.
    At this stage the process is far from complete. The dried graded coffee beans are called green coffee and are now ready to be packaged and transported. “Green coffee is shipped in either jute or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers, or it is bulk shipped in plastic-lined containers. Approximately 7 million tons of green coffee is produced worldwide each year” CITATION 10S10 l 1033 (10 Steps to Coffee). The modes of transportation that deliver coffee are determined by the country or region where the coffee is harvested. Some of the biggest coffee exporters in the world are Mexico, Jamaica the S. Paulo and Minas Gerais regions of Brazil and Zimbabwe in subtropical regions and Kenya, Columbia and Ethiopia in equatorial regions CITATION The06 l 1033 (The Optimal Coffee Environment). The packaged coffee beans are normally transported using air cargo, overseas shipping or trucks.
    When the coffee arrives at its destination it is then sent to the open market where it is bought and sold by large companies. At this point the coffee is still a raw bean or seed. Companies will take these raw beans and put their stamp on the beans by roasting them in many different methodical ways to give the final bean a lighter or darker signature roast and sometimes an infused flavor. “Most roasting machines hold a temperature of 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning until they reach an internal temperature of about 400 degrees” CITATION 10S10 l 1033 (10 Steps to Coffee). At this point the coffee bean is complete but it still has not yet transformed into the finished product, a steaming cup of hot java. When the roasting is done the coffee beans are left to cool and immediately packaged in retail packaging to be sent on its way to supermarkets and local franchise coffee giants to buy by the pound or brew onsite.
    Marketing is a major component of corporations that use advertising to promote their particular brand and balance the supply and demand of the coffee trade. Through the use of clever advertising each company tries to push their brand of coffee as the best coffee in town. The famous Folgers jingle “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up is Folgers in Your Cup” is one of those trademark coffee slogans that American’s have come to know so well. This jingle along with other gimmicks is one of countless marketing ideas coffee companies use to sell tons of coffee every year. Although there may be a better tasting coffee out there or a coffee that has gone through a more thorough process with a higher grade, it may never become a hit because the marketing is not there to back the product up.
    Now that the seeds are ready to be ground and the company has put their logo on a certain batch, choosing the right cup is in the consumer’s hands. The final thing left to do is brew the coffee. There are many methods to brew this beautifully glossy, aromatic bean. Many coffee distributors argue that certain methods of brewing coffee are superior to others. The beauty of truly unique cups of coffee is that there is an abundance of ways to arrive at that final cup. Some of the methods used to brew coffee are a percolator, auto-drip, French press, vacuum and espresso just to name a few. The brewing process is relatively quick, usually taking between four and half to five minutes without including the time to heat the water to a proper 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. When the transformation from coffee plant to cup is complete one is left with a hot cup of black coffee that millions of people enjoy on a daily basis.
    One single, hot cup of coffee is just the tip of the coffee iceberg. Franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have taken this beverage and created a thousand different combinations and variations that people drink every day. One can go to a Starbucks to get a Grande Chilled Caramel Macchiato with Whipped Cream. And the same person can run across the street to a Dunkin’ Donuts for a medium iced chiller with pralines and chocolate. The possibilities for coffee are endless.
    While it may seem that coffee’s journey ends once a cup is poured, the truth is that the experience is only beginning because coffee is what brings people together in many different atmospheres. There is no specific time or place that coffee is enjoyed unlike some other beverages. It is a beverage that can both start and end the day. It can be enjoyed by itself in the middle of a day as a quick pick me up or it can be the glue that bonds people together over an in depth conversation at a family gathering. Coffee has become a key part of American society and the contagious effects will keep on growing. It’s refreshing to see that there exists a product as simple as a cup of coffee that can bring two complete strangers together.
    From complementing a family discussion to calming the unsteady nerves of a job seeker or focusing the mind of an anxious test taker, coffee has a soothing effect on people. It’s actually quite amazing what can be accomplished with a cup of coffee. The beverage itself is delicious but the effects coffee has are amazing. The reason why coffee has these results is because the stimulating effect of the coffee bean actually has physiological and chemical influences on the human mind and body
    “Let’s put on a pot of coffee” are the words often heard at any family gathering. Coffee is usually something that comes up at some point of the gathering and can spark up some new conversation. Whether it’s a retirement party, a birthday party, a wedding, or a simple Sunday gathering, one can expect coffee to be served at some point. One of the overlooked joys of this coffee ritual is the fact that it brings people together to discuss family issues, people’s social lives, and a number of other issues that can affect the family.
    On the other hand, coffee can also be enjoyed on an individual level. Coffee drinking enthusiasts all around America love to sip on a quality cup of Joe. They are the people who wait in long lines at a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts or any café that claims to serve the best coffee. These enthusiasts often have a way of finding one another and that cup of coffee is often the icebreaker used to develop a friendly or intimate relationship. Certainly more than one couple has met while waiting in line and again the effects of coffee can be seen as glue that binds people.
    Yet another possibility for coffee enthusiasts is that it creates a neutral meeting ground for a first date. With the introduction of internet dating and its popularity on the dating scene in general, any local neighborhood café creates a warm environment for two people to sit down for a few hours to get to know one another. Naturally people are skeptical and hesitant to meet strangers from the internet so the café is a public space where these people can meet under the watchful eyes of strangers. Ultimately, it’s the coffee itself that built the shop where two strangers build a connection with one another.
    In addition to a neutral meeting ground for personal relationships, a café is often the random locale hot spot for a business meeting. While most might agree that business person’s often say “let’s do lunch”, the truth is that even lunch will inevitably end with coffee. One thing about cafés and coffeehouses around America is that they create an unrushed environment that is virtually free of interruptions from waiters and other food-service-industry employees who might otherwise disrupt negotiations in a restaurant.
    Moreover, even at a business meeting in a corporate office, coffee is served as refreshment. It’s a commonplace and often unnoticed custom of business practices in America to serve coffee at a business meeting. The caffeine certainly does wonders to keep people awake and alert during these sometimes long and tedious functions. It also functions as a refreshment that can be served hot or cold depending on a person’s preference. Perhaps in the same way that coffee is an ice breaker for random social gatherings, it also serves as an ice breaker in business meetings. It’s certainly not a beverage that is exclusive to Americans and as the world of business fully integrates into globalization, coffee is served as the neutral refreshment to visitors from all parts of the world.
    Besides its functions in the personal and business world, coffee also has its place amongst students and faculty in the educational realm as well. Is there a better place for a student-group study session than a local café? Unlike the library, students can toss around all sorts of ideas in a coffeehouse without worrying about being too loud or interrupting other people studying. Or, they can take their coffee to go and hangout all night in the student lounge where they can have a cram session for an upcoming exam. Studies have shown that the moderate amounts of caffeine in a single cup or 2 increase short-term memories CITATION Inf05 l 1033 (Koppelstaetter). Though it’s definitely not what a professor wants to hear, many students have all night study sessions that would otherwise be impossible without the unbelievable effects of caffeine.
    Despite all the togetherness coffee offers, there are a number of concerns that individuals must be aware of before they begin drinking too much. There exists a possibility for one to become addicted to caffeine. Overdoing the good ole’ cup o’ Joe can cause one to feel the same effects experienced by those who use narcotics. It can also lead one to feel heightened anxiety and a heightened sense of insomnia. Those are just some of the negative side effects when one chooses to drink too much caffeine. On the flip side, contrary to popular belief, a 20-year study conducted by Harvard University has shown that less than 24 ounces of coffee per day shows no signs of harmful effects on the cardiovascular system CITATION Lop l 1033 (Lopez-Garcia). If psychologists, psychiatrists, and everyone in the mental health community did an extended study on coffee and its effect on social bonds, they’d be amazed to find what most of America knows to be obvious: Coffee brings people together and makes people happy.
    Why coffee has a major role in people’s lives is a question worth investigating.
    This is because there is a cultural aspect of coffee that has gone unnoticed but it has a lot of culture behind it. Coffee has become a ritualistic aspect of culture for American’s. Before commuting to work in the morning the average business person starts their day with a cup of their preferred variety. The National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc. found “Daily consumption of coffee beverages among consumers remained consistent in 2009 with 54% of the overall adult population partaking” CITATION Nat l 1033 (National Coffee Drinking Trends 2009). Coffee drinking has become a ritual that is etched into every business person’s daily routine and has formed a culture in the business world that will continue to grow.
    Yet another way coffee helps business people is in the form of a Café. Poole Buzz interviewed a coffee shop local who said “He was going to let the lease run out on his studio space because it was cheaper and more productive to come to the café” CITATION Poo02 l 1033 (Poole). This example illustrates perfectly how the café has become the preferred meeting place amongst professionals. One can sit down in a local Café and find a stock broker trading stocks a writer in the middle of writing a novel and a professor grading papers to return to students later on in the day. Not surprisingly, professionals from all walks of life can tailor their craft at a café.
    Besides coffee entering into the business world, coffee has left its cultural footprint in the educational world. A test revealed that in children of age eight to twelve who received 250mg of caffeine, consistently answered more questions correct then the control group without the caffeine CITATION HOP00 l 1033 (Graven). Graven’s test further proves how in years to come more students will be adding coffee to their daily routine to help them achieve academic success.
    Additionally, coffee has become a part of personal culture. A café is a place where everyone is welcome Regardless of what their plans might be or what they plan to do there. Most cafés have wireless internet and plenty of comfortable seating so one can bring a laptop, buy a cup of coffee and get some work done or just browse the internet in an environment that’s not as stuffy as a library, office or Living room filled with crazy family. The laid back atmosphere of a coffee shop allows one to escape any hectic, disruptive environment.
    The kitchen table is also a place that is becoming a laid back sitting area to sip on a cup of coffee and discuss just about anything. The National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc. uncovered that “83% of past-day coffee drinkers reporting that they made coffee at home the day before, and 80% of past week coffee drinkers doing so during the previous week” CITATION Nat l 1033 (National Coffee Drinking Trends 2009). It is no secret that people are routinely drinking coffee at home and use it as an easy invitation to get together and chat in their own environment.
    There is also a small percentage of Americans that consider themselves coffee connoisseurs. This small group of coffee fanatics enthusiastically savors every drop of coffee. These coffee gurus have developed sophisticated palates and can even taste the subtle nuances between coffee brands making coffee tasting a hobby of its own. One can go to the local coffee shop to buy an assortment of coffee grades in very much the same way a wine enthusiast can go to a winery to make their ideal selection. Just like there are $10 and $10,000 bottles of wine, there are equally as many low and high quality grades of coffee.
    The possibilities of coffee are endless and America has welcomed coffee into its culture with open arms. There is no dispute that the majority of America has some type of routine that involves this delicious drink and the routines will continue to grow over the years to come. Coffee has become a significant part of American culture and has made us a united nation of coffee drinkers and Cafés. Thus, it’s no surprise that this tiny little bean from the earth can be transformed into an amazingly delicious beverage that has a social, cultural, professional and educational impact on American society. Socially and culturally it binds people together like glue and professionally and educationally it has become part of the American routine. Although coffee may not be the best source of nourishment, it very well may be the ultimate source of satisfaction.
    Works Cited BIBLIOGRAPHY 10 Steps to Coffee. 21 January 2010 .Coffee Processing. 2006. 21 January 2010 .Graven, Hope L. Caffeine Consumption and Its Relationship With Students Study Habits. 5 December 2000. 04 February 2010 .Harvesting Coffee Beans. 2006. 20 January 2010 .Koppelstaetter, Florian. Neuroradiology/Head and Neck (Functional MR) Influence of Caffeine Excess on Activation Patterns in Verbal Working Memory. 1 December 2005. 28 January 2010 .Lopez-Garcia, Esther, Rob M. Van Dam, Eric B. Rimm, Walter C. Willett, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampher, Kathryn M. Rexrode, and Frank B. Hu. Coffee Consumption and Coronary Heart Disease in Men and Woman. 24 February 2006. 28 January 2010 .National Coffee Drinking Trends 2009. 01 June 2009. 02 February 2010 .NCA Study Finds Americans’ Coffee Consumption Holding Stable. April 2009. 04 February 2010 .Poole, Buzz. " Cafe Culture." Whole Earth (2002): 10.The Optimal Coffee Environment. 2006. 21 January 2010 .