History Of Coffee
What is Coffee?
Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage after water, with over 400 billion cups consumed annually. The coffee bean comes from an evergreen tree cultivated in a narrow subtropical belt around the equator between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. The limits of production are situated at 25° north and 30° south. Coffee grows well up to an altitude of 2000 meters (about 6600 feet) above sea level, but it will not flower if the temperature is below 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit.) Coffee traces its biological heritage to a genus of plants known as Coffea. Coffea is a member of the Rubiaceae family, which includes more than 500 genera and 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs.
Wild coffee tree zones
It is believed that the birthplace of the “Coffea arabica” shrub is situated in the Kaffa region of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). It also grows wild in Arabia, in the region of Mocha. It is not known how coffee reached Yemen from Ethiopia, but the Yemenites were almost certainly the first coffee growers. Wild Robusta coffee trees on the plains of the lower intertropical regions of Africa. Wild Robusta coffee trees on the plain were not discovered until the end of the 19th century. However, they turned out to be of great economic importance.
The first transplantations: the spread of coffee throughout the world.
It was probably around the 15th century that the drink spread to Yemen and all over Arabia with Moslem pilgrims making their way to Mecca. Up until the 17th century only Arabia produced coffee. Around 1690, Dutch sailors introduced the first coffee tree seedlings, from Mocha, into Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, and from there to all the Dutch colonies in Asia. They then brought coffee trees from Java to Europe, especially to the green houses of the botanical garden in Amsterdam where the coffee tree was to be cultivated. Seedlings were subsequently offered to Louis XIV who entrusted them to the botanists of the King’s Garden (now the “Jardin des plantes”). From there, coffee trees were introduced into the Caribbean colonies which supplied large quantities to France. The cultivation of coffee then spread through the whole of Latin America, especially in Brazil, which is the world’s biggest producer today.
The development of consumption
In the middle of the 16th century, coffee was already drunk in Egypt, Syria, Persia and Turkey, and coffee shops were to be found in the cities of Medina, Cairo, Bagdad, Alexandria, Damas and Istanbul (which was named Constantinople by the Christian world). We know that, in 1555, two Syrians called Shems and Heleem opened the first coffee shop in the Talchtacalah area of Istanbul. A few years later, there were hundreds of them in the city. Around the same time, Soliman the Magnificent’s Turkish warriors introduced the drink to the inhabitants of the Balkans, Central Europe, Spain and North Africa.
The spread of coffee in Europe
In the middle of the 16th century, coffee set out from Turkey to conquer Europe, landing for the first time in Venice. However, up until the 17th century, coffee remained a curiosity reserved for a few travellers who brought some back from their travels, or for apothecaries who used it for medicinal purposes. In the first half of the 17th century, the drink was known in Venice and Marseille, although there was no trade in coffee beans there. During the latter half of the 17th century, consumption spread to Italy, France, England and Germany. In 1644 a ship from Alxandria unloaded its cargo at Marseille where the first public café was to open ten years later. Around 1669, thanks to Soliman Aga, the ambassador of the Ottoman empire in Paris, the drink became known in Parisian high society.
A Colorful History
Ninth Century-First record of coffee drinking by the Mufti people of Aden (Legend has it that the ubiquitous bean made its way to Yemen from Ethiopia by traveling merchants through trade routes across the Gulf of Aden)
15th Century-Extensive planting of coffee in Yemen
Late 16th Century-Priests petition Pope Clement VIII to ban the evil drinking of coffee (he refuses-probably a closet coffee lover)
17th Century-First coffee house opened in London (Trivia-coffeehouses became known as “penny universities” because a person could buy a cup of “Joe” for 1 cent and learn more at the coffee house than in class! London Stock Exchange grew from a coffeehouse)
1656-Coffee drinking prohibited & coffeehouses closed in Turkey by the Grand Vizir of the Ottoman Empire (penalty for drinking coffee: a dunk in the Bosphorus in a leather satchel!)
1669-Coffee becomes popular in Europe after Turkish ambassador to France introduces Louis XIV to the magic brew
1674-Women’s Petition Against Coffee established in London
1686-First cafe serving coffee is opened in Paris (Le Procope-it’s still in business!)
1690-Coffee introduced in Java (pardon the pun!)
18th Century-More coffeehouses in London than there are today
1714-Coffee takes root in the Americas (seedlings shipped to Martinique in the West Indies)
1822-First espresso machine made in France
1908-Melitta Bentz, a housewife from Dresden, invents the first coffee filter
1909-Instant coffee first marketed
1940-Coffee production quotas established by an Inter-American Coffee Board
1962-Coffee export quotas established worldwide by the UN
A Story of Coffee’s Travels
African Origins (Circa A.D. 800)
The story of how coffee growing and drinking spread around the world is one of the greatest and most romantic in history. It starts in the Horn of Africa, in Ethiopia, where the coffee tree probably originated in the province of Kaffa. Goats will eat anything. Just ask Kaldi the legendary Ethiopian goatherd. Kaldi, the story goes, noticed his herd dancing from one coffee shrub to another, grazing on the cherry-red berries containing the beans. He copped a few for himself and was soon frolicking with his flock. The story goes on that after witnessing Kaldi’s goatly gambol, a monk plucked berries for his brothers. That night they were uncannily alert to divine inspiration. What we know with more certainty is that the succulent outer cherry flesh was eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia, through the great port of its day, Mocha, now synonymous with coffee. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century and probably much earlier than that. History tells us other Africans of the same era fueled up on protein-rich coffee-and-animal-fat balls-primitive Power-Bars-and unwound with wine made from coffee-berry pulp. Coffee later crossed the Red Sea to Arabia, where things really got cooking…
Escape from Arabia (Circa 1000 to 1600)
Coffee as we know it kicked off in Arabia, where roasted beans were first brewed around A.D. 1000. By the 13th century Muslims were drinking coffee religiously. The “bean broth” drove dervishes into orbit, kept worshippers awake, and splashed over into secular life. And wherever Islam went, coffee went too: North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and India. Arabia made export beans infertile by parching or boiling, and it is said that no coffee seed sprouted outside Africa or Arabia until the 1600s-until Baba Budan. As tradition has it, this Indian pilgrim-cum-smuggler left Mecca with fertile seeds strapped to his belly. Baba’s beans bore fruit and initiated an agricultural expansion that would soon reach Europe’s colonies…
Europe Catches the Buzz (1615 to 1700)
“The Turks have a drink of black color…. I will bring some with me…to the Italians”. Thus a merchant of Venice introduced Europe to coffee in 1615. But the end product didn’t amount to a hill of beans to many traders-they wanted the means of production. The race was on. The Dutch cleared the initial hurdle in 1616, spiriting a coffee plant into Europe for the first time. Then in 1696 they founded the first European-owned coffee estate, on colonial Java, now part of Indonesia. Business boomed and the Dutch sprinted ahead to adjacent islands. Confident beyond caution, Amsterdam began bestowing coffee trees on aristocrats around Europe…
Steeling a King’s Treasure (Circa 1714 to 1720)
Louis XIV received his Dutch treat around 1714-a coffee tree for Paris’s Royal Botanical Garden, the Jardin des Plantes. Several years later a young naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, was in Paris on leave from Martinique, a French colony in the Caribbean. Imagining Martinique as a French Java, he requested clippings from his king’s tree. Permission denied. Resolute, de Clieu led a moonlight raid of the Jardin des Plantes-over the wall, into the hothouse, out with a sprout. Mission accomplished, de Clieu sailed for Martinique. He might have thought the hard part was over. He would have been wrong…
Coffee Goes to the New World (Circa 1720 to 1770)
On the return passage to Martinique, wrote de Clieu, a “basely jealous” passenger, “being unable to get this coffee plant away from me, tore off a branch.” Then came the pirates who nearly captured the ship; then came a storm which nearly sank it. Finally, skies grew clear. Too clear. Water grew scarce and was rationed. De Clieu gave half of his allotment to his stricken seedling. Under armed guard, the sprout grew strong in Martinique, yielding an extended family of approximately 18 million trees in 50 years or so. Its progeny would supply Latin America, where a dangerous liaison would help bring coffee to the masses…
The “James Bond” of Beans (Circa 1727 to 1800)
1727: Brazil’s emperor wants a cut of the coffee market; but first, he needed an agent to smuggle seeds from a coffee country. Enter Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta, the “James Bond” of Beans. Colonel Palheta is dispatched to French Guinea, ostensibly to mediate a border dispute. Eschewing the fortress-like coffee farms, suave Palheta chooses a path of less resistance-the governor’s wife. The plan pays off. At a state farewell dinner she presents him a sly token of affection: a bouquet spiked with seedlings. From these scant shoots sprout the world’s greatest coffee empire. By 1800 Brazil’s monster harvests would turn coffee from an elite indulgence to an everyday elixir, a drink for the people.
The World’s Bean Belt
From humble origins in Africa, coffee Cultivation wandered east and west, eventually forming a belt roughly bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Growing regions typically offer moderate sunshine and rain, steady temperatures around 70ºF (20ºC), and rich, porous soil. In return the delicate tree yields beans that are an economic mainstay for dozens of countries and about 25 million people-and, among natural commodities, have a monetary value surpassed only by oil. Of the two main coffee trees, Arabicas beget the better beans-and about 70 percent of the harvest. The harsher beans of the hardier Robusta tree account for about 30 percent.