How many people does it take to make a cup of coffee? For many of us, all it takes is a short walk and a quick pour. But this simple staple is the result of a globe-spanning process whose cost and complexity are far greater than you might imagine. AJ Jacobs traces the journey of this caffeinated elixir from seed to cup.





Before you watch

Complete the video extract with PASSIVE form of the verbs in bold below.

pick                spread            cultivated                   fill                   collect            domesticate

It begins in a place like the remote Colombian town of Pitalito. Here, family farms have clear cut local forests to make room for neat rows of Coffea trees. These shrub-like plants 1. ……. first …….. in Ethiopia and 2. ……  now ………….. throughout equatorial regions. Each shrub 3. …….. with small berries called “coffee cherries.” Since fruits on the same branch can ripen at different times, they 4.  …… best …… by hand, but each farm has its own method for processing the fruit. In Pitalito, harvesters toil from dawn to dusk at high altitudes, often picking over 25 kilograms per shift for very low wages.

The workers deliver their picked cherries to the wet mill. This machine separates the seeds from the fruit, and then sorts them by density. The heaviest, most flavorful seeds sink to the bottom of the mill, where they 5. …..  and taken  to ferment in a tub of water for one or two days. Then, workers wash off the remaining fruit and put the seeds out to dry. Some farms use machines for this process, but in Pitalito, seeds 6. ………. onto large mesh racks. Over the next three weeks, workers rake the seeds regularly to ensure they dry evenly. Once the coffee beans are dry, a truck takes them to a nearby mill with several specialized machines. An air blower re-sorts the seeds by density, an assortment of sieves filter them by size, and an optical scanner sorts by color.


Now watch and check your answers:


Key: 1. were (first) domesticated; 2. are (now) cultivated; 3. is filled; 4. ‘re/are (best) picked; 5. collected; 6. are spread



  • shrub – a plant which is smaller than a tree, with several major branches arising from near the base of the main stem
  • to ripen – to become ripe; to bring or come to maturity, the proper condition
  • to toil – to work hard
  • sieve – a kitchen tool that has many small holes and that is used to separate smaller particles from larger ones or solids from liquids
  • the final stretch – the last part of an activity, trip, or process
  • to marvel – to feel or express great surprise or admiration at something, especially someone’s behaviour



Practice Makes Perfect

Read the article: The Health Benefits of Coffee https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-health-benefits-of-coffee and decide if the sentences below are

true or false?


  1. Coffee is mostly drunk at midday.
  2. The widespread availability of coffee in the future is at stake.
  3. Coffee beans are quite tasteless.
  4. Coffee gains its scent when roasted.
  5. The author of the article wouldn’t drink coffee at a petrol station as it’s served with cow’s milk.


Key: 1F; 2T; 3T; 4T; 5F





  • Do you consider yourself a ‘coffeeholic’?
  • What role does coffee (or tea) play in your life?
  • Do you need coffee to wake you up in the morning?
  • Are there any health benefits to drinking coffee?
  • Have you heard of Kopi luwak? Would you like to try it?


Explore it more to create your own teaching-learning experience!


Meet the Coffee-Shop People



Preview in new tab