History of coffee
The history of coffee dates back over 1500 years and is as captivating as the drink itself. There are many legends about who first discovered coffee, but the most popular one is about a boy and his goats.
Arabica coffee is indigenous to a region in Northwest Ethiopia, and it was here where a young boy may have made a discovery that changed the world. Legend has it, a boy named Kaldi discovered that his goats became more energetic after chewing on the beans from the coffee plant. During the 6th and 7th century, the Oromo people started harvesting the beans and mixed it with animal fat to create little balls that they would chew on when they went on long journeys to increase energy and alertness.
The Oromo people were traders and soon the coffee beans landed in Yemen. History also suggests that the beans were already growing there. Sufi monks in Yemen began using the beans to make a drink that would keep them awake during nightlong meditations. The drink was dubbed Qahwa. At first, it was a fermented alcoholic beverage, but the name remained even after it became a non-alcoholic drink.
Records show that coffee cultivation was developed by the 15th century. Yemen was the perfect place to cultivate high-quality coffee thanks to its unique climate and soon its popularity took off. By the16th century, coffee became an integral part of social life in the Middle East, where people gathered in their homes and in coffee houses to enjoy a cup of coffee.
From the 13th century to the 16th century, coffee and coffee houses spread like wildfire in the Middle East. Coffeehouses were popular socializing spots where patrons enjoyed coffee, played chess and backgammon, recited poetry and debated current affairs.
Europe got its first taste of coffee when it was introduced to the island of Malta. Turkish prisoners earned money by preparing coffee during their incarceration and that led to coffee houses popping up everywhere.
Initially, coffee was not received that well by the Vatican. In the 17th century, Pope Clement VIII called coffee the devil’s drink because of its popularity amongst Muslim people at the time. He banned it but once he got the taste for it, he changed his mind.
Coffee soon found its way into the new world. In 1607, coffee was brought to North America by John Smith. After the controversial Boston tea party, tea began dropping in popularity and made room for the new caffeine drink in town. The irony is that the Boston Tea Party was mainly planned in a coffee-house called the Green Dragon!
At the same time, coffee arrived in Amsterdam from Yemen. This was during the prime of Dutch exploration and colonization, and coffee followed them wherever they went. In 1658, the Dutch started cultivating coffee on the island of Java in Indonesia and that was where the nickname ‘Java’ was born.
The first coffee houses in Venice appeared in Venice in 1645, followed by England in 1652, Paris in 1672, Vienna in 1683 and Berlin in 1721.