Coffee is said to be the world's second most traded commodity, behind petroleum, having become a staple of the contemporary diet. Coffee, which is thought to have originated in Ethiopia, was first used to enhance concentration in the Middle East in the sixteenth century. But in the 17th century, it also caused a social revolutionary movement in Britain.
On a quest to discover the best instant coffee available, it becomes interesting to learn the history behind this aromatic drink of poets, lovers, and intellectuals alike.
Kaldi, a goat herder in Ethiopia in the ninth century, is said to have discovered the energizing and revitalizing benefits of coffee after seeing his goats get excited after eating berries from a tree. Kaldi informed the local monastery's abbot of the situation, and the abbot devised a plan to dry and boil the berries to produce a beverage. He is said to have put the berries into the fire, releasing the distinct coffee aroma into the night air. The roasted beans were collected off the embers, crushed up, and dissolved in hot water, and thus the world's first cup of coffee was born.
Other sources claim it was discovered by a sheik named Omar who lived in a desert cave in exile from Mocha. Omar, who was hungry, chewed some berries one day only to discover them bitter. He tried roasting them, but that only made them hard; ultimately, he tried boiling them, which produced an aromatic brown liquid that gave him strange and amazing vitality and enabled him to evade sleep for days. His “miracle discovery” was greeted with such astonishment that he was permitted to return to Mocha and exalted to sainthood.
Many coffee lovers worldwide would relish the thought of their favorite beverage having been developed by a saint.
Coffee in Culture
It was consumed in the infamous public coffee houses that cropped up in villages, towns, and cities throughout the Middle East and East Africa. These coffee shops quickly became fashionable and the place to be seen socializing. Makes you think of the Starbucks on the corner or even Central Perk made famous by the NBC comedy series Friends.
Coffee consumption and conversation were accompanied by a variety of forms of entertainment, including musical performances, dancing, chess games, and, most importantly, gossiping, debating, and discussing the day's breaking news. These coffee shops became renowned as 'schools of the wise', where people went to learn about what was happening in the world. Coffee and enlightenment seem to go hand in hand. Coffee, it seems, is culture!
Coffee is Culture
Coffee's popularity quickly extended from the Middle East to the Balkans, Italy, and the rest of Europe, then eastward to Indonesia and westward to the Americas, partly thanks to the Dutch. England's first coffee house was opened in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish gentleman named Jacob.
Coffee has a lengthy history of prohibition, which has engendered fear and suspicion, as well as religious unrest and hypocrisy. There would be very few coffee shops open today if the extremists (of all religions) had had their way. It even became known as the devil’s cup.
Social media cups, or rather feeds, are filled to the brim with hashtags, memes, filters, and links about coffee. A few popular ones include:
- Instant Human: Just Add Coffee
- Obsessive Coffee Disorder
- Hey, remember when you didn’t need coffee to function and your back didn’t hurt?
- Today’s forecast calls for 100% chance of coffee
- Definition of coffee: a warm, delicious alternative to hating everyone forever
- On Sunday, coffee is recreational as opposed to weekdays when it’s medicinal
- Caffeine is my second blood group
- Coffee: because adulting is hard
Cup of Convenience and Consistency
Coffee connoisseurs will shy away from instant coffee, but there are times when you are not able to access a coffee maker and convenience is key. Taste is subjective and personal preferences are never wrong so don’t allow coffee snobs to tell you that instant coffee is not coffee!
Instant coffee has a bad reputation for a reason: it usually tastes awful. But, as more specialty coffee roasters begin to sell instant coffee, it's not as horrible as it used to be. Once you find a brand and roast that you like, you are pretty much guaranteed a likeable cup every time you boil the kettle. Whether you are looking for high-quality instant coffee or the best budget instant coffee, there is something for all tastes and pockets.
Where Instant Coffee Started
It may be beneficial to look at the initial timeline of instant coffee as we know it.
In Britain, the first "instant coffee" was manufactured in 1771. The British government gave it a patent, referring to it as a "coffee compound."
The first instant coffee product in the United States was established in 1853. Soldiers were handed experimental "cakes" of instant coffee during the Civil War.
In Chicago, Illinois, in 1901, a Japanese scientist called Dr Sartori Kato produced the first practical method of producing a sustainable beverage powder or instant coffee – simply add water! Kato created the method for making instant tea first, then adapted it to coffee. This procedure was patented in 1903.
Instant coffee began to be mass-produced for the first time in 1909. This occurred in the United States, and it was carried out by an American inventor who was an immigrant from Belgium. And there started instant coffee for the masses.
How Instant Coffee is Achieved
Today, there are two basic ways of production: freeze-drying, in which coffee extract is frozen and then broken into pieces, and spray-drying, in which coffee extract is blasted into a chamber of heated air. The second option is a faster and less expensive procedure which uses lower-quality coffee beans, resulting in a less appealing cup of coffee.
Freeze-dried coffee has a more authentic coffee flavor and has a granular shape, while spray-dried coffee has a powdered consistency.
Where Instant Coffee is Heading
To keep their caffeine-hungry customers happy, all the big coffee firms have been striving to make the best-tasting, most cost-effective goods – and some remarkable instant coffees have resulted. Smaller, independent brands are also emerging on the instant coffee landscape, bringing strong, unexpected flavors and entirely new ways to savor your freshly brewed cup of joe.
With prices ranging from low-cost, low-quality alternatives to high-end, organic, and specialty coffees, there really is something for everyone on the market.
Opinion polls have revealed that the best instant coffee as voted in the UK include well-known brands like Beanies, Nescafe, Illy, and Kenco.
Starbucks' robust, unique coffee is either legendary or despised, depending on your taste buds. But it's Starbucks Via Instant Italian Roast's distinctive strength and flavor that makes it so popular. This currently is one of the most reviewed and consumed instant coffees on the market. Starbucks Via Italian Roast’s caffeine content is extremely high in comparison to some other brands. Starbucks Via Ready Brew has 135.00 mg of caffeine every 8.00 fl. oz cup. It's also worth noting that Starbucks Via Ready Brew has a sugar content of 0.00 grams. So, depending on preferences, you will definitely get your caffeine fix while sipping on a Starbucks instant coffee. Even though Starbucks' in-store costs are high, their instant coffee is surprisingly inexpensive.
The best Starbucks Via Instant Coffee is, again, a matter of taste. Their range is extensive and proving extremely popular with coffee drinkers across the globe.
Seeking Strong Coffee
Some coffee drinkers say they miss the caffeine hit as well as the aroma produced when brewing a “real” cup of joe. There are so many options available now that it is best to take some time to determine what does it for you.
Maximum Charge is said to be the UK's strongest instant coffee. It's prepared with Rwandan single-origin Robusta coffee beans, which are highly caffeinated. It has a higher concentration of antioxidant-rich polyphenols than other coffees which are beneficial in reducing your risk of a variety of ailments.
Is Instant Coffee Unhealthy?
Instant coffee is not harmful to your health in the same way that traditional coffee is. It offers many of the same health benefits (nutrients, antioxidants, etc.) as regular brewed coffee, which makes sense because, as previously stated, it is simply a dry concentrated form of regular brewed coffee.
The caffeine content may be the difference. Instant coffee is said to have less caffeine than brewed coffee. So, what is the healthiest instant coffee? It comes down to the choices you make.
Arabica vs Robusta
Speaking of coffee beans, there are two key players:
Arabica: this is perhaps the most popular (representing 60% of global output) because most coffee drinkers enjoy the sweet flavor notes of chocolate, almonds, fruit, and caramel.
Robusta follows in second with earthy/bitter flavor characteristics of smoke, pepper, and what some perceive as being rubbery. It accounts for 40% of global production.
So, if you are looking for a healthier option, it would be best to consider instant coffee made from dark roasted, 100 percent Arabica beans because they naturally contain less caffeine than light roasted or Robusta beans.
With that in mind, it's usually a good idea to read the ingredients list thoroughly. If you see a lot of extra components, this will play a factor in determining whether your chosen instant coffee is harmful to your health. The more you understand what's in it, the better, so look for the purest product possible.
The overwhelming majority of coffee drinkers feel that Arabica beans are superior to Robusta beans in terms of flavor. Because low-quality Robusta beans are cheaper, instant coffee was commonly prepared from or contained them in the past. Robusta has the drawback of producing a strong, bitter-tasting coffee. And this is one of the causes behind instant coffee's poor reputation.
Whether you're looking for a more opulent coffee, a tried-and-true classic, or an imaginative new brew, the range of instant coffees available is extensive. So, get tasting and find what suits you best.