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All about Coffee

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People drink coffee all around the world, and do so in vast quantities. Take the United States and Europe for instance, where one third of all tap water goes to brew coffee. And as for caffeine consumption, it accounts for 71% of Americans' total intake, followed by soft drinks and tea.

Although knowledge of the plant must surely be far older, the first documented record of coffee comes from the ninth century. The beans were eaten rather than ground and brewed into a drink, though, and the practice was generally unknown outside of Ethiopia. Not until Arab trade began to spread through Africa and the Middle East did coffee then fan outwards, carried on the backs of camels. But religious leaders didn't meet the beverage with fanfare as it spread through the Arab world, and it was briefly outlawed as an immoral drug. The populace largely ignored the ban, and coffee eventually spread northwards in the Arab world, to Mecca and Medina. As other metropolises began to grow, brew, and drink coffee, too, it then spread into Europe via Venice. The word first entered the English language at the end of the sixteenth century from the Italian, cafe. The first coffeehouse opened in London at roughly the same time.

Historians know with some degree of certainty when and where the plant was first cultivated, but no one really knows the origins of coffee as a drink. Some scholars believe Ethiopians first brewed it, while others attribute the process to a traveling mystic. As the story goes, the mystic accidentally stumbled across the plant when he observed a herd of goats with an unusual amount of energy. The animals had fed on the plant's berries. There exists yet another, similar story that relates how Ethiopian goat herders first developed the berry into a beverage.

Early imbibers believed that coffee cured a variety of illnesses, most likely because of the caffeine content. It soothed the stomach and cleared the head, for example. Recent research suggests that coffee does have some beneficial properties. Coffee may lower the risk of diabetes and liver damage, as well as even combat certain types of cancer. What's more, people who regularly drink coffee demonstrate improved ability on cognitive tests, with their short-term memory and IQ both receiving a boost.

Coffee has almost always been considered a social drink, with people going to coffeehouses to discuss business and exchange news. In the past, people of all levels of society flocked there, and so the establishments were considered bastions of equality. Lloyd's of London, the world-famous insurance house, began as a coffeehouse where sailors and merchants met to discuss risk and the necessary insurance for overseas ventures. And the London Stock Exchange began humbly as Jonathan's Coffee House, where they listed stock and commodity prices. Even today, coffeehouses serve as a meeting point among friends of all classes and races, and business yet gets regularly conducted over a cup as well. And with the recent proliferation of coffee chains around the globe, it appears as though coffee will have a long and prosperous future.


Step 1: You will listen to an article about coffee, specifically its history and health benefits. The article is a little more than 4 minutes long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Read and understand the questions, then listen again. As you are listening, try to answer the questions in your head. Don't write the answers yet. Next, listen again and write the answers this time. Check your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Read the article. Check in your dictionary any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 4: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!

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