About coffee

Coffea is an evergreen plant that belongs to the rubiaceous family. There are around 40 varieties that grow in the tropical climate countries. The most marketed varieties of Coffea are the Arabica and the Canephora (also known as Robusta). Coffea plants blossom in average twice a year, and grow berries containing 2 beans. Beans are then separated from the pulp, either sun drying berries (dry processed coffee) or soaking them in water (wet processed coffee). 3/4 of the world production is Arabica beans, and they are more valuable. Arabica beans are a greyish-green tending to blue, have an oval shape and homogeneous size. Their caffeine content is around 1,4%. Robusta beans are greyish-green tending to yellow and have a smaller and rounder shape than the Arabica ones. Their caffeine content is around 2,7%. Zicaffè import the best varieties of Arabica and Robusta directly from coffee growing countries

Coffee is a plant that originally came from Africa, even if it’s not sure when it was discovered. It was initially used in Ethiopia, later in Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it was used as a drug and a daily tonic. From the 15th century on coffee spread in the Arab culture. The ottomans refined the serving techniques, developing the “grinder” ante litteram. The ground coffee infusion was undoubtedly more concentrated. The first coffee houses opened in Constantinople and Cairo.

Coffee culture in Europe and Italy

The coffee culture was introduced in Europe in the 17th century. Travellers, doctors, traders and scholars helped to spread this culture. Among them Prospero Albini detto Albus, Leonhard Rauwolf, Antoine de Galland and Jean Thévenot. The coffee culture was also introduced in Italy around 1615 by Venetians merchants and it soon became a popular ritual. The first coffee house opened in Venice in 1640. The first booklet about the therapeutical properties of coffee was printed in 1716. By the end of the 17th century Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a chef from Sicily, opened the first coffee house in Paris. The place soon became a trendy meeting place for scholars and intellectuals. Coffee houses opened afterwards alla round Europe (Caffè Florian in Venice, Caffè Greco in Rome, Caffè Pedrocchi in Padova and Caffè San Carlo in Turin). By then, coffee was acknowledged as a drink for intellectuals.

Legend tells of a shepherd in Yemen named Kaldi, who noticed that his ships were curiously lively and sleepless after having eaten some red berries. He informed the abbot of a nearby convent, who set the bush on fire after cursing it. The smell coming from the burning bush suggested the abbot to prepare an infusion with the roasted coffee berries, and serve it to monks in order to keep them awake during prayers.

Another legends tells of a vast bushfire in Abyssinia that burnt some wild coffee bushes. The smell that came out spread for miles and miles, thus drawing attention of local tribes, who started appreciating the properties of coffee.

Another legend tells of a nomad in Abyssinia that lost his way around. After wandering for miles and miles he was exhausted when he he spotted a bush with some red berries. He had some of those berries and he managed to ease hunger bites. He fell into a deep sleep, and when he woke up his strength was restored. He joyfully continued, with a bag full of those magic berries, and eventually found his way back.

The origin of the word coffee is not clear. It might derive from the Arabic word Qahwa (or Kàwek, which means stimulating) or from the Turkish word Kahve or from the word Kaffa, which is a region of Ethiopia where coffee spontaneously grows.

In the Arab world coffee was initially brewed by fermenting both the pulp and the seed of the coffee berries. The drink was called “Gahwa”, which means wine.

In Arab countries this drink became popular probably because the Koran prohibits drinking alcohol, therefore coffee was an excellent substitute.

Legend has it that the Turks as they retreated defeated from Vienna after a lengthy assault campaign left some sacks of coffee in their camps. After some time these coffee beans sprouted and this is how coffee was discovered in the west.

It is said that pope Clement VIII drank coffee in an attempt to reassure some influential priests who thought that coffee was a drink of the devil. He found it to be delicious and became an enthusiastic coffee drinker. He revoked the prohibition of coffee declaring it a “Christian” beverage.

As coffee became increasingly popular it also caused the diffusion of its cultivation in many colonies. It reached India, Java and in Central and South America (especially Brazil). In 1690 an expedition of Dutch sailors landed on the coasts of Moka (modern Yemen) and they took some coffee plants with them to Java and Sumatra (modern day Indonesia).
This was how the first coffee plantations came about in Indonesia.

In France coffee shops and coffee bars became popular during Louis XIV’s reign, it was considered elegant to drink coffee in court as the Sun King favoured this practice.

It is said that the famous Arab doctor Avicenna already around 1000 A.D. prescribed coffee to his patients as a tonic.

In the 1800’s many doctors touted the benefits of coffee, prescribing it as a medicine in many cases.

An espresso cup of coffee contains almost the same amount of caffeine as a similar sized cup of hot chocolate or tea.

It was the Arabs who first made a beverage by boiling green coffee beans in water. The Turks instead in the 1500’s modified the preparation method by roasting the beans and then grinding them;

Legend has it that Abyssinians soldiers ate bread that had ground up, roasted coffee beans in it to stay awake during battles.

Among the Yemenis a drink that is popular to this day is called “qishr” which is made of whole green coffee beans and their dried skins steeped in hot water, the Bedouins on the other hand prefer a drink that is obtained by boiling ground up green coffee beans.

Leonhard Rauwolf a doctor from Ausburg who travelled to the east (asia) between 1573 and 1578 wrote one of the first books about coffee.

It was customary young Venetians who were courting young women to give their intended gift baskets full of chocolate and coffee.

In the 1800’s cafés became the meeting places of politicians and intellectuals and many celebrated authors have described the atmosphere of these old cafès, many of which are still operating as coffee bars to this day.

The great French author Proust was a coffee devotee and made himself coffee twice a day in a detailed and obsessively fussy manner.

In the play “Questi Fantastmi” (These ghosts) by Edoardo De Filippo, the main character gives a lengthy and realistic speech on coffee and the proper way of preparing it.

If coffee is drunk in moderation and in the absence of serious illnesses, coffee and its main ingredient (caffeine, chlorogenic acid, trigonelline ,nitrogenous compounds etc..) can have many beneficial effects in the human body.

Coffee has the following documented benefits :
• It’s full of antioxidants (molecules that slow down and prevent damage caused by free radicals).
• In moderate quantities, it protects gastric mucous producing cells of the intestines and colon.
• For people who suffer from blood related illnesses, it reduces the risk of cirrhosis, hepatitis and liver cancer.
• It acts as a mild laxative as it stimulates peristalsis in the intestinal tissue.
• It stimulates gastric, saliva and biliary liquids thereby facilitating digestion.
• It helps with weight loss for its “fat burning” action.
• The moderate and regular consumption of coffee is thought to reduce the risk of developing dementia like illnesses (Alzheimer’s for example) by up to 65%.
• It reduces the risk of colon cancer.
• It helps with preventing cancer of the uterus wall.
• It reduces the risk of developing type II diabetes and other metabolism related illnesses.
• It reduces by 10% the risk of developing breast cancer.
• It facilitates bronchial expansion and pulmonary ventilation and thereby can make breathing easier.
• It assists with protecting against cavities in teeth by inhibiting the growth of cavity causing bacteria (streptococcus mutans) due to the tannins present in coffee.

Caffeine in particular has been shown to:
• have an energizing effect on muscles by reducing the perception of muscle fatigue;
• increase blood flow to the kidneys and act as a diuretic and thus facilitating urination;
• stimulate the release of chemical substances in the brain associated with well-being (serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline);
• help with staying awake and it aids with concentration;
• inhibits the action of pain receptors and so diminishes the perception of pain;
• cause vasodilation and increase blood flow to the brain which has been shown to decrease the severity of migraines;
• protect the brain from the negative effects of excessive amounts of bad cholesterol;
• have a tonic and stimulating effect on the cardiovascular and nervous system;
• be effective as a cosmetic treatment with the reduction of cellulite as it is thought to burn fat;
• have a softening effect on the skin and so can alleviate problems related to too much sun exposure.

Caffeine quantities found in an espresso cup (average data*)

espresso cup of coffee made with a moka machine at home (35-50 ml): 60-120 mg
espresso cup made with a commercial espresso machine –bar equipment (20-25 ml): 50-100 mg
regular American cup of coffee (100 ml): 95-125 mg


*The amount of caffeine absorbed does not only depend by the quantity of coffee that is consumed, but it also depends by how the coffee is made and by the type of coffee beans that are used. Zicaffè uses for the most part Arabica beans, which contain less caffeine.

The ability to recognize coffee aromas, appreciate the differences in taste between different varieties of coffee beans, and coffee blends is an art and it takes time to learn acquire.
The art of coffee tasting involves different senses and takes place in several phases: sight, smell and taste.

In the initial visual phase we evaluate the colour of the beverage (from hazel to dark brown with reddish highlights and plumes of hazel or lighter brown in the foam). The texture and volume of the foam has to be uniform and no bubbles should be visible.
In the secondary olfactory phase (smell) we see if we can denote the particular aroma of the blend: during the inhalation process we evaluate the intensity of the aroma (we take note if this is pleasant or otherwise) the intensity of the roasting (typical scent caused by the roasting of the coffee grains) and how delicate it is (whether there is an elegance and distinct character to the scent).
In the final tasting or gustatory phase we should perceive the following sensations: a“full-bodied” taste,
a thickness or viscosity to the drink, a rich or full mouth feel quality. There should also be an “acidity” a slight bite that holds the richness in check and thus gives a fresh taste best perceived on the lateral areas of the tongue, this is a brief sensation and it disappears rather quickly on the tongue. There is also a lightly bitter taste which is tasted at the back of the tongue, this flavor component should be present but slight, it is caused in part by the “astringent” qualities of coffee
( a negative aspect) which in turn is caused by a decrease in saliva production of the mouth (a dry cotton mouth sensation – negative if present in excessive manner). During the tasting phase we also evaluate a softness to the drink, which is thought of as pleasant and therefore positive.

There is also a secondary post olfactory phase known as “post taste finish” where we evaluate the general positive or negative sensations espresso is able to offer us (the negative sensations are in general due to poor quality coffee beans, grains or issues related to the production and treatment of the beans). For every phase we give an evaluation using a scale from 0 to 9 and in the end we take every factor into consideration come up with a final and comprehensive evaluation . An excellent espresso coffee from this analysis should be rich in aroma, taste and appearance and free from defects.

To the end of making this art of coffee tasting more accessible, professionals of this industry (coffee bar owners, coffee connoisseurs and aficionados) I.I.A.C (International Association of Coffee Tasters) and I.N.E.I (The National Institute of Italian Espresso) along with Zicaffè regularly hold coffee tasting training courses and issue a coffee taster’s certificate.
The training sessions teach about the coffee plant, different coffee bean types and blends (with explanations relating to the geographic origins, botanical differences and treatments), growth and harvesting techniques, how the beans are ground and roasted, all of this is taught in addition to the training of how to taste and evaluate coffee properly.
All of this allows a deeper knowledge, greater appreciation and in the end the consumer is guaranteed a constant and uniform quality of consistently excellent espresso coffee.

Making a good cup of coffee is an ancient and precious art form that Zicaffè knows well.

Below are a few tips to follow at home to have great results. For the coffee obviously Zicaffè takes care of providing you with the best blends, ground to perfection for both the moka and Neapolitan coffee maker.

1) 1) Store coffee in the refrigerator in a glass container that is hermetically sealed;

2) Wash the espresso machine and it’s filter thoroughly using only water, no detergents;

3) Ensure that the valve from which the coffee is slowly released has no obstruction;

4) Replace the rubber sealant periodically (every 90 days) ;

5) Put enough water in the lower chamber of the espresso machine so that it’s parallel to the filter (no overflow);

6) Use chlorine free water, preferably mineral water;

7) Fill the filter with coffee grains up to the rim without pressing the coffee (for a lighter coffee) or press it down slightly and add more coffee (for a stronger, creamier coffee)

8) Be careful when measuring the coffee as too much coffee can result in the coffee not brewing and possibly burning;

9) As it begins to brew, lift the lid of the espresso machine;

10) As soon as it’s ready turn the burner off immediately, do not let the coffee boil.

A coffee bean contains different substances and mineral (potassium, magnesium, silica) but the main or more famous compound is caffeine

Caffeine is an alkaloid that was discovered in 1820, in the microscope it’s appearance is pointy white crystals. Its chemical formula is C8 H10 O2 N4

Each coffee cup contains on average from 50 to 120mg of caffeine, depending on the blend and the method of preparation.

Is coffee good for you?

No. An espresso cup of coffee has only 2 calories.

People who have cardiovascular diseases, have intestinal ulcers or suffer from conditions of extreme stress should avoid coffee. It is always best to consult a medical doctor if there are any doubts.

Quantities vary from person to person and the beneficial effects are all tied to a moderate consumption of coffee. The maximum dose of caffeine that we shouldn’t exceed is 600mg per day or 6 espresso cups of coffee. This rule should be strictly adhered to by expectant mothers and anxious persons.

The difference between the various qualities of coffee is determined by the different grinding techniques and coffee grain sizes in addition to the degree of roasting. This combination gives the coffee its aroma and taste. For example in blends that are composed by mainly Arabica variety beans we obtain coffee that is sweeter and more aromatic, while coffee which is composed of predominately Robusta variety coffee beans we get a stronger and more full bodied coffee.

Because Italians have created a beverage that is unique in its character, aroma, flavor and texture by taking full advantage of this product and improving the production techniques it throughout the years.

More than 400 billion coffee cups are consumed every year, making coffee the most common drink in the world after water. The country that consumes the most coffee per capita is Finland with 13kg of coffee per year. In Italy 4,5 kg of coffee are consumed per person annually.