(From kofuah, mixing together). Called also jasminum Arabicum,choava, coffee tree or bush. It is the coffea Arabica Lin. Sp. Pi. 245: natural order rubiaceae, called also bon. When fit to drink it is then named caova.
The tree is of the jessamine kind, with leaves like those of the bay tree: from Arabia Felix it was intro-cuced into the West Indies; but is said to be a native of the higher AEthiopia, from whence it was carried to Persia before it was known in Arabia. The fruit is a juicy berry, including two of the seeds, joined by flat sides, and covered each with a thin shell. The seeds are of a pale colour and an oval shape, convex on one side, flat on the other, with a remarkable furrow.
Coffee was but little known in Europe before the seventeenth century. The first coffee house in London was erected in the Tilt Yard, in the year 1652. Paris it was scarcely known until 1669: though at Marseilles it was used in 1644. Rauwolfius, a German-and Prosper Alpinus, an Italian, were the first Europeans who wrote on the use of it.
The Arabian is called the Levant coffee, and is th«-smallest; the Java, the East Indian coffee; it is larger and of a whitish livid colour: the American, English or Surinam coffee; the berries are large, and of a greenish colour; but the best are small, close and somewhat transparent. This last seems to be an indigenous variety of this part of America, and it is doubtful whether the plant is not also a native of Arabia. The Arabic word cahoua signifies any kind of liquor, consequently the liquor made with coffee. Hence the Turks derive their cahveh; whence again the European word cafe. In Arabia, persons of rank only use the seminal capsules, and the pellicles immediately covering the berries; these produce a grateful liquor, but for this purpose the capsules must be fresh. The French call this cafe a la sultane.
The coffee berries have a farinaceous, somewhat unctuous, bitterish taste, and little or no smell. They art-roasted to destroy the watery part of the mucilage, and, of course, that flatulence that they have in common with all farinaceous substances. Many seeds by roasting acquire the flavour for which coffee is admired. Dillenius hath enumerated in the Ephemerides Naturae Curiosorum the substances which in smell and taste resemble coffee; and finds that roasted rye, with a few roasted almonds to furnish the necessary proportion of oil, comes the nearest to it.
Coffee contains a large portion of acid, a gummy, resinous, and astringent extract, a large proportion of oil, and some salts. The oil in roasting becomes empy-rcumatic, and gives the desired flavour.
From sixteen ounces of roasted coffee, Neumann obtained seven ounces, two drachms, and two scruples of watery extract; and afterwards five drachms and one scruple of spirituous extract. On reversing the opera-lion, he obtained four ounces and four scruples of spirituous extract, and four ounces of watery: the residuum, in both cases, was nearly the same; viz. about one half of the whole.
The roasted seeds ground into powder soon lose their flavour in the air, impart it to water and to spirit by light coction or digestion, and give over a great part of it with water in distillation. The roasted berries keep very well; and, to recover their brisk flavour, lay them before the fire a few minutes, and, when warm, they may be ground for use; they are then as agreeable as when first roasted.
Coffee should be boiled eight or twelve hours before it is drunk; and if the liquor is mixed with an equal quantity of milk it is excellent.
It is the most approved method to prepare the coffee by infusion only. An ounce and quarter of coffee is allowed to a pint of water, which must be added in a boiling state, and continue simmering, closely covered, for two hours. In this time it must be frequently shaken, or agitated with a chocolate mill: in the common vessel, styled the coffee biggin, it is prepared very completely. The inferiority of the West Indian to the Levant coffee, is said to arise from plucking the berries too soon. They arc then larger, but have not attained their true flavour.
If coffee is drunk warm within an hour after dinner, it is of singular use to those who have head achs from a weakness in the stomach, contracted by too great attention, or from irregularity. The phlegmatic and corpulent are much benefited by its use. In some delicate habits it produces nervous symptoms; but, in general, gives cheerfulness and serenity of mind. It soon carries off the disagreeahle effects of opium; and has been said, by sir John Pringle, to relieve obstinate spasmodic asthmas. It certainly prevents sleep in many constitutions; and we have known it prove a quick, easy, laxative. Prosper Alpinus is immoderate in his praises of coffee; and the Persians say it was revealed by the angel Gabriel, to relieve Mahomet after his fatigues. It is slightly astringent and antiseptic, moderates alimentary fermentation, and is powerfully sedative. Drunk too soon after port wine, it often produces a disagreeable acidity in the stomach; and indeed an acidity is obvious, at once, to the taste, on mixing coffee and port wine. See Lewis's Mat. Med.; Neumann's Chem. Works; Per-civaps Ess. Med. and Exp. vol. ii.; Lettsom's edit. of Fothergill's Works, vol. ii.