The origin of…Coffee

“I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.” Ronald Reagan

Post 73 Coffee

According to a legend, Kaldi, an Ethiopian shepherd that lived in the 9th century, found his goats dancing around a dark green leafed shrub and eating the cherry-red berries. He then tried the berries himself and felt their powerful effect. A monk witnessed the scene and plucked some berries to stay awake during the long hours of evening prayer. The monk shared his discovery with the other monks and the knowledge of the energizing effects of the berries began to spread and moved east to the Arabian Peninsula.
The Arabs were the first to cultivate and trade coffee. The first credible evidence of the consumption of coffee dates back to the 15th century, to Sufi Muslim monasteries around Mocha in Yemen. By the 16th century it had reached Egypt, Syria, Persia and Turkey.
Coffee was consumed both at home and in coffee houses (qahveh khaneh) and these public houses became increasingly popular for all kinds of social activities, like chatting and keeping up with news, watching performers, listening to music, playing chess etc.

By the 17th century European travellers had introduced coffee in Europe and also here it became a popular drink. But there was also controversy. Opponents called it the bitter invention of Satan and the local clergy of Venice condemned it in 1615. Pope Clement VIII had to intervene but he liked the drink so much that he gave it Papal approval.
The production of coffee however was limited to the Arabian Peninsula, as the Arabs imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans. Nonetheless, in 1616 the Dutch found a way to get live coffee plants from Mocha, Yemen, and brought them back to the Netherlands to be grown in greenhouses. In the later half of the 17th century, the Dutch brought the coffee plants to Indonesia where the plants thrived on the island of Java and the Dutch soon had a productive coffee trade. The first export of coffee from Java to the Netherlands took place in 1711 and the Dutch expanded the cultivation of coffee to Sumatra and Celebes. Within a few years the Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. This was when the two other globally significant hot beverages also started to appear in Europe. Hot chocolate was brought by the Spanish from the Americas to Spain in 1528, and tea, which was first sold in Europe in 1610.

Coffee reached North America in the late 17th century in what is now New York and coffee houses were founded in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other towns.
Around 1720 a French officer, Gabriel de Clieu, obtained a coffee plant and managed to bring it to Martinique, where he planted it. The plant grew and multiplied and by 1726 the first harvest took place. By 1777 there were between 18 and 19 million coffee trees on the island, enabling the spread to Haiti and other islands in the Caribbean.
The Dutch brought coffee to South America, where it arrived in 1718 in Surinam. Plantations followed in French Guyana and Brazil that became the world’s largest coffee producer by the 1830´s (and it still holds this position). To be able to grow such large amounts, massive amounts of rainforest were cleared. Cultivation was also introduced in Central America in the latter half of the 19th century, where in almost all cases it involved large-scale displacement and exploitation of indigenous people.

1. a dark brown drink made from ground coffee beans and boiled water
2. coffee beans (source: Merriam Webster).

The English coffee, Dutch koffie, Spanish café and Italian caffé come from Turkish kahveh, from Arabic قهوة (qahwah), coffee, believed to originally have meant wine, deriving from either قها (qahā), to lack hunger, or quwwa, power/energy.

Coffee in other languages:
Dutch: de koffie
Spanish: el café
Italian: il caffé


1 reply »

  1. Reblogged this on aromaticcoffees and commented:
    It is remarkable how coffee has become such a staple of our diet – right around the world. A simple bean, evolving into a product that is processed, sold and cobsumed by just about every nation, and people of all faiths, rich and poor alike.

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