The drink is prepared from the dried, roasted and milled seeds ('coffee beans') of plants of the coffea genus. Coffee comes in three main flavour groups derived from the three main areas of cultivation - Africa, South America and South East Asia - although the flavour can be modified by the roasting, blending and brewing processes, all other things being equal the flavour zones can be told apart by someone who knows what they are looking for.
The main methods of brewing are Middle Eastern (aka. Turkish or Arabic) - thick, very strong and served in tiny portions - and probably the oldest method; filter brewing - more modern, less concentrated and served in larger cups and espresso - somewhere between the two, favouring the Turkish tradition.
Espresso is the basis for most of the 'coffee drinks' in circulation, including cappucino, lattes and americano (the espresso-diluted-with-hot-water that far too many people try to use as a substitute for filter coffee).
In the second half of the twentieth century freeze drying techniques allowed the production of "instant" coffee - granules from which something close to real coffee can be reconstituted by adding hot water. The freeze-drying process removes a lot of the caffeine and quite a bit of the flavour, but coffee companies are continually revising their processes to reduce the flavour loss.
Some instant coffees are also further treated to remove the remaining caffeine - a process that removes much of the remaining flavour and almost all of the point of the drink. There are a variety of analogies for decaffinated coffee, few of them complimentary.
The US Navy has a reputation for taking it's coffee seriously, wheras HM forces, despite garrisoning large coffee producing areas for a long term, remain more attached to tea … after a fashion.
Game and Story Use
- What if those "hallucinations" actually let the coffee drinker experience things from other dimensions? Perhaps coffee allows everyone to experience shamanic trances…
- An obsession with good quality coffee - or an intolerance of bad coffee - can be good, if slightly cliched characterisation traits. Likewise a tolerance, habituation or, indeed, a liking for bad coffee can also be noteworthy quirks.
- Coffee amongst many Middle Eastern cultures can have the same sort of ritual signficance as an oriental tea ceremony - an important social situation in which gaffes should be avoided. The coffee service in a middle eastern household may very well be made of precious metal and an important treasure and heirloom - or a prestigious gift or reward. When the last Ottoman Sultan was smuggled out of the Topkapi Palace, he went with an ancestral coffee service clutched to his chest.