Wanna Grab A Coffee? … Our Global Goodwill Ambassador

It used to be that Americans said “Would you like some coffee?” “More coffee, sir?” “Put on the coffee, it’s gonna be a late one tonight.”

Coffee then was a commodity, like music in the background of a movie- it was part of a whole impression.

But that’s so last century… The global notion of having “a” coffee- as opposed to “some” coffee- was planted and, like the coffee tree itself, coffee as a custom has blossomed into a mature idea.

Coffee: A Language Spoken  Around The World

Coffee: A Language Spoken Around The World

Peter Baskerville, noted coffee authority and founder/owner of more than 15 coffee shops says, “…coffee is a destination rather than an impulse purchase..”

Robert L. Powell, commented on Quora, “It bears mentioning that New Zealand boasts one of the most well-developed coffee cultures in the world.”

So coffee is no longer just a commodity, no longer is it a whim purchase, but now it is a destination with its own culture.

We have, in this era of social media and information sharing, developed infographics like the one above and this one- Coffee Story – to illuminate for consumers the nuances of how special is the drink they hold in their hands, designed to be consumed in the pleasure temples purpose-built for evangelizing the masses, offering all the comforts of home (and, none of the clean-up).

The Washington Post newspaper last week published a lifestyle study on coffee, how to make the best drink; what method produces the optimum taste and texture for the tongue; time and temperature; whether to douse or steam the ground beans; indeed, what type of bean to use at all.  Just when you think there is nothing left to know, the holy grail of knowledge reveals a new threshold of attainment to be conquered.

“Since about 2004, the rare Geisha beans have fetched increasingly higher prices at auction, reaching $170 a pound in 2010, according to this New York Times report.”

This factoid was reportedly the cause for Starbucks in Seattle announcing a limited-time-only $7 taste of Geisha heaven, admittedly an acquired taste and not one to be wasted on the uninitiated.

Has Coffee Become Our Goodwill Ambassador?

It seems coffee has become a universal language over which friendships are made and common ground is shared. It has its own language, customs and culture. We bond as we learn the secret handshake of being able to order a custom coffee combination or drink like locals do when we travel.

Now, some of you know that I am not actually a coffee drinker… (gasp, horrors, revive those who have fainted!) but I am an observer of culture. And truthfully, I find the whole coffee following fascinating.

So much so in fact, that one of the blogs I like to read, The Culture Monk, is all about coffee-house relationships (well, it’s more than that, but what we read is the result of observations blogger Kenneth Justice makes while sharing with friends and strangers over coffee).

When Kenneth announced on New Year’s Day that he was going to undertake a “Drinking In the Culture: 100 Coffee House Tour,” in part to make real connections with those who follow his writing, as well as to experience first hand coffee culture around the US and (thus far in the planning) the UK, there was immediate and resounding support. It’s the blogosphere on caffeine straight up.

As I mentioned in my Heroes post, notes from around the world, places as far away as Australia, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and more, clamored to be on the list, if not this year then surely next. If that doesn’t make you think of coffee as a Goodwill Ambassador, I don’t know what would.

Such has been the outpouring of support, of people wanting to meet up,  offering to put Kenneth up while he’s on the trail, and still others touting their favorite coffee hangouts, that this thing has now taken on a life of its own. There may well be a book in the making here… and (wink) who knows, Matthew McConaughey could end up playing Kenneth’s part in the movie. Alright, alright, alright! (Can I get an Amen?)

This is the part I like. The camaraderie of coffee aficionados and neophytes alike. It’s a warm family… (unless, of course, you are one of the “uninitiated” who happens into a busy Starbuck’s at the morning rush without a clue what the language and customs are… then you’re just dead!)

Reading Kenneth’s latest posts from down in Costa Rica, he says coffee culture is alive and well even in remote villages. What is it about a cup of hot brown water that can make people stop, relax, and chat with strangers? (I feel like I’m being drawn in… I want some of this!)

Being the curious type, and wholly unable to resist, I did a little research (ok, I was intrigued and ended up doing a lot of reading!) about how this whole coffee thing came about.

The long and the short

According to our expert, Peter Baskerville, in his (literally) thousands of answers on Quora (hyperlinked below):

Coffee became a popular global beverage due to a series of unique historic events. These events built one upon the other to eventually create what we have today where coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world, beaten only by oil.

Coffee today… is regarded as one of the world’s most popular beverages with more than 450 billion cups being consumed each year, but it may never have happened if any of the key historical links (here) had not each played their part in bringing it about. (Just a note to put that 450 billion cups in perspective… the entire world population, every man, woman, and child? 7.2 billion. That works out to about 60 cups per year per person, even babies! Looks like somebody’s been doubling up…)



With the advent of modern-day packaging, dehydrating and preserving, even places so remote as to be off the grid often know the word “Nescafe” or have an old packet of Sanka around.

(Ok, Coffee people, you can pretend I did not just write that… shame on me!)

Coffee Consumption and Contributions

Italy at 6 kg per person still rates high globally in the per capita stakes although it is behind the consumption of states like Finland 12 kg, Norway 10 kg, Iceland 9 kg and Denmark at 8.7 kg.” [PB]

Scandinavian countries may have a lock on per capita consumption, but for culture cultivation, Italy rules. With its long history and papal connections, it’s no wonder Italy has contributed to the art form of the coffee culture via:

Experienced Baristas: Not only did the Italians give us the concept of a ‘Barista’ they also have the most experienced baristas in the world. Of the estimated 270,364 people who work as baristas in Italy, over 57.5% of them have 10 or more years of experience, so the vast majority of baristas are of an older age. 

Universal coffee terms: Italians gave the world terms that have become the universal language of coffee ordering like americano, breve, cappuccino, con panna, doppio, espresso, grande, latte, macchiato, misto, mocha, ristretto, caffè, corretto, and caffè latte.” 

Roasted coffee bean suppliers: Roasted coffee bean suppliers are traditionally locally sourced in each country but three Italian suppliers have managed to establish a world-wide market for their special blends and their brand. They are Illy, Lavazza and Segafredo Zanetti. Over the decades, Italian roasters have also perfected the concept of blending premium Robusta variety in with the highly prized Arabica variety to create an exquisite taste experience.”

Robert L Powell further noted on Quora, “The island nation (NZ) is quite thoroughly obsessed with high quality espresso, latte art, and comfortable, funky spaces to consume your beverages in. For quality and consistency I would rank them above even Italy.

A Language all its own…

The word “cappuccino” comes from the 16th century Capuchin order of friars, whose hoods were called cappuccinos. A cappuccino is a coffee topped with steamed milk.

Further to the comment above, a Barista is an expert in the preparation of espresso-based coffee drinks.

Top Baristas compete annually in the World Barista Championship.

The small cup in which an espresso (sometimes referred to as expresso) is served is called a demitasse.

The word “tip” is also related to coffee. It comes from old London coffeehouses where the waiters’ brass boxes were etched with the inscription, “To Insure Promptness.”

In fact, it was in one such coffeehouse which belonged to a Mr. Lloyd that a few cargo insurers got together to start the Lloyd’s insurance company. Thus, even Lloyd’s of London owes its existence to … coffee.

That’s a lot of Goodwill!

NOTE:  In case you’re feeling a little left out, maybe you’re not a coffee drinker, or maybe you drink tea, here’s something fun from Chelsea Fagan- a lighthearted look at the difference between coffee folks and tea tippers. Enjoy!
 —–  http://thoughtcatalog.com/chelsea-fagan/2013/02/tea-people-vs-coffee-people/


Thank you to Peter Baskerville, noted coffee authority, for his contributions via Quora -http://www.quora.com/Caf%C3%A9s/Whats-the-secret-to-a-successful-coffee-shop
BizBrain.org (Coffee Story Infographic)

7 thoughts on “Wanna Grab A Coffee? … Our Global Goodwill Ambassador

  1. I’m a coffee drinker (Only a little only in the mornings now that I’m “older”.) But I’m too frugal to go out and spend ten bucks to have coffees with my husband. We make it at home. I picked up the habit of chicory coffee in New Orleans. It makes the coffee VERY BLACK and rich. I found ground chicory in the south of France!

    But what am I doing in France with Italy right next door? At a French rest stop they had coffee vending machines that made tiny plastic cups of ((GASP)) instant coffee for a euro and a half (about 2 bucks). In Italy at a rest stop a woman made me the best little cup of fresh coffee I’ve had in my life for 1,20 euro. And it was in a genuine ceramic cup.

    Keep writing. I’m loving it.


  2. Ah, you are integrating! I see you have even got the comma in your euro amount, like a real european…

    It’s nice to be sharing perspectives with you – I enjoy seeing the things you are discovering and surviving.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Gosh, that’s a whole lot of research you did there, Jonelle! Thanks for taking the trouble. I don’t think I’ll confess to being an instant-decaf aficionado; it would be too embarrassing. I wonder if you’ve ever tasted Turkish coffee. I’m guessing you have, and will smile at my reminiscence of being introduced to it many,many years ago when a travelling companion and I backpacked through Turkey. I didn’t realise one was supposed to sip it carefully, in order to steer clear of the grounds that occupied the bottom two-thirds of the tiny cup. So I took a mouthful of the said grounds, and didn’t know what to do but to chew manfully away. Thereafter I stuck to tea.


    • Oh, Gordon… I feel for you with that Turkish coffee story! And yes I have been there, many times and had to “drink” the cup full of “mud”. I learned in one of my visits to Istanbul to always keep a Hershey’s chocolate (like the kisses) in my pocket. I would discreetly unwrap it with my hand in my pocket and then drop it in the cup. It settled on top of the grounds and added a little sweetness to the strong coffee. (The tricks we learn to survive!) I’m not sure I could have swallowed the grounds like you had to… As the line goes, “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din!”

      Thanks for sharing that interesting memory (and I won’t tell your secret to a living soul… ).

      I look forward to sharing with you often!


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