A cup of coffee brings to mind tattooed baristas and fancy espresso machines, and cute little flower designs made out of milk.

But there's so much more to coffee.


To actually get that dose of liquid heaven into your hands takes hundreds of hours of work and thousands of miles traveled. Every cup of coffee tells a story, many of them involving small family farms to some of the most remote regions of the world. Journey with Darrin Daniel, director of sourcing for Allegro Coffee, to Peru, and experience the adventure behind finding the perfect bean. When you see what goes into getting your coffee from the source, you'll appreciate your daily jolt that much more.


Photo Gallery

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850 (approx.)

An Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi sees some of his goats chewing the berries of a tree he'd never seen before, running around and dancing. Venti, they bleat to him. Veeeeeeenti!

And so it begins.


1495 (approx.)

Arab pilgrims, who learned of coffee's magical powers from Yemeni monks, introduce coffee throughout the Muslim world. The Muslim world is grateful.

1511

The governor of Mecca claims that coffee is outlawed in the Koran. His citizens consider rewriting the Koran.


1536

The Ottoman Turks occupy Yemen, which is bad for Yemen but good for everyone else, as they start trading coffee with French and Venetian merchants.

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1616

The Dutch transport a coffee tree from the Middle East to Holland. The tree grows poorly in Holland, as coffee doesn't tend to thrive in icy marshes.

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1650

A Muslim pilgrim named Baba Budan smuggles coffee seeds out of Arabia and plants them in Mysore, India, where they thrive. Coffee cannot be denied.



1675

The King of England bans coffeehouses, claiming they are places where people are conspiring to overthrow him. He was probably right. About the conspiring, not the ban.

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1686

The first coffeehouse, Café Procope, opens in Paris, rendering the French instantly pretentious. It is still open and is now both pretentious and touristy.


1699

The Dutch finally get around to growing coffee in Indonesia, unwittingly creating the "Java" nickname.

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1710

The French perfect the infusion method of brewing coffee, declaring all other forms of brewing (and all other types of people) deeply inferior.

1714

In a wacky scheme, a French naval officer steals a coffee cutting from the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and smuggles it to Martinique, thus bringing coffee to the New World.

1727

Coffee growing begins in Brazil, which doesn't have any impact on the Amazon rain forest whatsoever.



1732

J. S. Bach composes the Coffee Cantata, which starts out slowly, builds with enthusiasm, and then gets really jittery before completely crashing at the end.

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1773

The nascent American Coffee Growers' Association encourages colonists to enact the Boston Tea Party, thereby making coffee consumption an American duty.

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1817

Coffee growing begins in Hawaii, often next to sugarcane plantations, making it the best-smelling place in the world.

1864

Jabez Burns invents the first stand-alone coffee roaster. A year later, someone invents the first coffee percolator, paving the way for mass production and a complete loss of flavor for 100 years.





1901

An Italian hipster invents the first espresso machine, counteracting all the crappy coffee now pouring out of the United States.

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1906

The invention of instant coffee happens instantly.

1948

First recording of Black Coffee, which goes, "I'm feelin' mighty lonesome, haven't slept a wink / I walk the floor and watch the door, and in between I drink." That pretty much sums it up.


1960

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The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation debuts its Juan Valdez character, which people mistake for an actual person for more than 40 years.

1971

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Alfred Peet of Berkeley, California, teaches three young bearded baristas how to hand roast coffee. They move to Seattle and open Starbucks, a small fresh-roasting business destined to forever operate in complete obscurity.


1972

Mr. Coffee, the first automatic drip coffeemaker, debuts in Cleveland, Ohio, revolutionizing home coffee making and providing a sad third act for Joe DiMaggio.

1987

Howard Schultz, a former Starbucks employee, purchases the company for $3.8 million, leans back in his office chair, and laughs.


PRESENT DAY

Coffee culture thrives and grows. Specialty coffee is a multibillion-dollar industry.


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By Neal Pollack

Tracing its roots back to the late 19th century, when the coffee business began to become fully industrialized, cupping is one of the food world's great arts.

Professional coffee tasters, cuppers are trained to perceive coffee's more than 1,500 individual aromatic and flavor compounds. By comparison, wine only has 200, and a professional cupper will let you know that in no uncertain terms.

Coffee tasting is a sophisticated and complex process. Cuppers are able to perceive the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of any varietal. Any one coffee gets cupped at least 15 times by professional cuppers, who are trying to ensure that the coffee isn't bitter, harsh, sour or, in certain extreme cases, that it doesn't taste like a used Band-Aid. A skilled cupper is trained to detect any defect.

Here, with the help of Darrin Daniel, Allegro Coffee's director of sourcing, we've identified nine positive flavor characteristics and nine, well, not-so-positive ones. These flavor profiles will make your coffee-drinking experience that much more elevated, and help you avoid types of coffee that might prove hazardous to your palate. Wouldn't you like to be a cupper, too?

THE COFFEE TASTER'S FLAVOR WHEELS

Source: The Specialty Coffee Association of America

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CEDAR

Created by dry distillation of bean fibers during roasting. Some cuppers compare this aroma to that of pencil shavings but, more appealingly, to the smell of cured cedar in clothing storage.

Try Organic Colombia El Roble


CHOCOLATE

A function of sweetness, all different kinds of chocolate flavors show up in coffee, often dependent on how the coffee was roasted. Some are sugary and milky, while others have a dry, bittersweet note.

Try Organic Mexico Zaragoza
& Organic Café La Dueña


HERBAL

A seasoned cupper can discern the aroma of green peas, or freshly cut grass, or green foliage or, yes, herbs.

Try Sulawesi Toraja & Sumatra Lintong

HONEY

Other, honeylike flavors come out as well, such as simple syrup or beeswax, even gingerbread. There are worse things than saying, "My coffee smells like nectar."

Try Costa Rica Dota & El Salvador Shangri La


LEMONGRASS

The prized gesha coffee variety, discovered in Ethiopia but now grown in Panama, is redolent of lemongrass. It tastes pleasant, warm, almost medicinal, and somewhat resembles Bergamot.

Try Panama Esmeralda Gesha 1500 (coming soon!)


PEPPER

Pungent, warm and spicy, more often associated with white pepper than black. Can be intense and occasionally metallic.

Try Papua New Guinea Baroida
& Extra Dark French


SMOKY

Mostly found in dark roasts and generally associated with the last phase of coffee roasted. The next step beyond smoky is tarlike, which you don't want.

Try Organic Whole Foods Blend
& Organic French Roast


SPICY

A broad category by definition but generally associated with sweeter spice sensations like cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Also nutmeg.

Try Mocha Java & Organic Espresso Sierra


TOBACCO

Dry and vegetal. Think pipe tobacco, not cigarette butts.

Try Blue Nile Blend

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ACRID

Harsh or smoky, often made that way during the roasting process.


CHARRED

Coffees that taste burnt from over-roasting. Sometimes done intentionally to mask greater defects.


DUSTY

Coffees that aren't harvested in time start to take on papery and dry flavors, and lose sweetness.


FATTY

Some Indonesian and Brazilian coffees can have a high oil content that creates a greasy film on the palate.


HORSEY

Associated with coffees that have been improperly dried. They have a barnyardy, wet feel.


PHENOLIC

Dreaded by cuppers. When overripe coffees are picked and fermented with ripe coffees, this produces phenolic compounds, giving coffees a chlorine flavor or a Band-Aid medicinal flavor.


SALT

Certain coffees grow in soil high in potassium. Or they get processed improperly. Regardless, you don't want a big hit of salt in your coffee!


SKUNKY

Somewhere between a positive and negative, depending on your perspective. Sumatran and Indonesian coffees can have a skunky note, similar to what you might find in hops.


WET POTATO

Specific to East Africa, this comes from a bug that lays eggs inside the coffee bean. The larvae aren't noticeable until you taste. And after that, nothing can get the taste of wet potato out of your mouth. Except for maybe good coffee.



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Neal Pollack is the award-winning author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including the bestselling memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, and the "yoga mysteries" Downward-Facing Death and Open Your Heart. He's contributed to The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ, Yoga Journal, Men's Journal, Slate, and Salon, and is a 3-time Jeopardy! champion.

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We wanted some of our favorite Allegro baristas to showcase their signature drinks. The results were even more creative and delicious than we could have imagined. Ask an Allegro barista to make one the next time you hit your local Whole Foods Market!


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Makes 1 (5-ounce) drink

Conceived by:
Karen Gray, Allegro Team Leader, WFM South Lake Union (Seattle, WA)
Jeffery Baker, Allegro Team Leader, WFM Roosevelt Square (Seattle, WA)

Made with fresh, local heavy cream and raw honey to enhance the deep, rich and nutty flavors of espresso, this layered shot of cold, hot and sweet is guaranteed to blow your mind!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 2 (1-ounce) shots brewed espresso
  • 1 ounce cold heavy cream or half-and-half

METHOD

Spoon honey into the bottom of a small heatproof glass. Pour espresso over the back of a spoon and into the glass. Finish by spooning cream over the top.

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Makes 1 (5-ounce) drink

Conceived by:
Ian Wiese, Allegro Team Leader, WFM Montrose (Houston, TX)

This espresso was inspired by the traditional Central American ricemilk drink horchata. We add vanilla and cinnamon to perfectly brewed espresso, stir in texturized milk, and serve it in a small glass. It celebrates many coffee-producing countries, and you get a nice coffee kick!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 2 (1-ounce) shots brewed espresso
  • 2 ounces steamed whole milk or almondmilk

METHOD

Stir together vanilla and cinnamon in a small heatproof glass. Add espresso and finish with steamed milk.

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Makes 1 (12-ounce) drink

Conceived by:
Sheli Maciel, Global Education & Training Specialist, Allegro Coffee

With real dark chocolate, steamed milk, hazelnut and caramel, this mocha sinfully riffs on the idea of classic chocolate turtle candy but adds an espresso jolt.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ pump chocolate syrup
  • ½ pump caramel syrup
  • 1 pump hazelnut syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 (1-ounce) shots brewed espresso
  • 8 ounces whole milk, steamed

METHOD

Pump chocolate, caramel and hazelnut syrups directly into a large heatproof cup or mug. Add cocoa powder. Add espresso shots to the cup and whisk vigorously to combine with syrup mixture. Top off with steamed milk and enjoy!

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Makes 1 (16-ounce) drink

Conceived by:
Jeremy Bakker, Allegro Global Coffee Cart Team Leader, Austin, TX

Inspired by living in the Southwest where just about anything can be spicy, this iced mocha with cayenne gives the sweet drink a nice burn at the end, and whole milk cools it off.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ pumps chocolate syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • Pinch cayenne powder
  • 3 (1-ounce) shots brewed espresso
  • 12 ounces cold whole milk

METHOD

In the bottom of a large glass, stir together chocolate syrup, cocoa powder and cayenne. Pour brewed espresso over chocolate mixture. Stir until blended completely. Pour milk over the top until about 2/3 full and then add ice.

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Makes 1 (16-ounce) drink

Conceived by:
Jeremy Bakker, Allegro Global Coffee Cart Team Leader, Austin, TX

Fall is here, and this drink is full of the flavors of the season. Made with rich pumpkin butter and caramel syrup, this is a coffee that you'll remember long past Thanksgiving.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin butter*
  • 4 pumps caramel syrup
  • 3 (1-ounce) shots brewed espresso
  • 12 ounces whole milk, steamed
  • Caramel sauce for drizzling on top

* If your barista doesn't have pumpkin butter, substitute with 4 pumps of pumpkin syrup.

METHOD

In the bottom of a large heatproof cup or mug, stir together pumpkin butter and caramel syrup. Add espresso and stir until blended completely. Add steamed milk and drizzle caramel sauce over the top.

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