For the common man, the beverage known as coffee is like liquid gold. Sheik Abd-al-Kadir once wrote that coffee is "the common man's gold, and like gold, it brings to every man the feeling of luxury and nobility" That was written around four centuries ago, and those words ring as true today as they did back then. People would really be surprised by the number of varieties of coffee that are available today, the different varieties are almost like fine wines, each variety of coffee has its own unique prized characteristics. It is a little known fact that the coffee bean is actually a seed of small fruit that grows on trees in a very narrow tropical band around the equator. The coffee tree tends to thrive in this warm area near the equator at high altitudes, and it seems to only do really well in this perfect environment. In fact recent hotter than normal weather in this area near the equator, known at the "coffee belt", along with drought, has caused a serious decline in coffee bean production. This warmer than normal weather and drought may be caused by global warming. This decline in coffee production has caused a serious increase in the cost of coffee, one that is likely to continue into the coming year. Despite the recent increase in the cost of coffee, coffee continues to remain one of life's relatively affordable little luxuries.Mainly there are two popular varieties of coffee, the arabica bean, and the robusta bean. Arabica bean is much more popular in the west, it is prized because its flavor is much less bitter than that of the robusta bean. The robusta bean tends to be somewhat more popular in Asia. The roasting process is also very important in determining the flavor of coffee. The coffee bean is cultivated green, and anyone who has seen a coffee bean before it has been ground knows that that is generally not how it is sold to the consumer. The green coffee bean is roasted, which of course turns it the darker color that you see when you buy coffee beans from the supermarket. The darker roasts have a somewhat more bitter flavor, and unfortunately longer roasting also destroys some of the more beneficial natural compounds contained in coffee. Lighter roasts have a milder flavor, and also are healthier as the beneficial natural compounds are not destroyed.Coffee is one of life's great little pleasures, enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. We can only hope that weather will cooperate in the coffee belt where coffee is grown so that we can continue to enjoy this wonderful beverage.

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