Like all good stories, the history of coffee begins with legends. In other words, the earliest origins of coffee remain shrouded in mystery. But it seems that the dark bitter beverage originated in what is today Ethiopia and spread through the Middle East before being adopted by the Europeans.
Today coffee varies significantly by region with many countries having a very different idea of what a standard coffee drink should look like. There are many different coffee beans in the world today, but many consider these beans to be the best in the world.
Emergence And Spread of Coffee
For an Old World food, coffee emerged only relatively recently. According to legend, the Oromo people of the Jimma region of Ethiopia were the first to use it and recognize the coffee plant’s energizing effects. There are a number of stories of how the Ethiopians came to know coffee.
- Origin: Likely Modern Day Ethiopia
There is no direct evidence of the coffee plant’s use before the 15th century – or even where it was first cultivated. Some of the early evidence of coffee drinking comes from the early 16th century from the Sufi monasteries in Yemen. It then spread to Mecca and from there rapidly spread around the world.
- First Evidence: The Earliest Evidence of Coffee Is From Yemen In the Early 16th Century
- Origin Of The Word “Coffee”: From The Dutch “Koffie” Borrowed from Turkish “Kahve” In Turn Borrowed From Arabic “Qahwah”
Coffee has long been important in the Islamic world. It was also used with religious practices like helping people fast in the day and also to stay awake at night during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Coffee Houses: Coffee Houses In The Islamic World Became Referred To as “Schools of the Wise”
Spread To Europe
Some Europeans called the new beverage coming to their shores “the bitter invention of Satan”. So great was the controversy that Pope Clement VIII himself personally intervened. Upon tasting the beverage he gave it papal approval.
- Local European Clergy: Condemned Coffee When It arrived In Venice in 1615
The word “coffee” first entered English in 1582 and. fun fact, before England was a tea drinker, it was a coffee drinker.
- The Switch: Coffee Replaced The European Breakfast Drinks of The time – Beer and Wine
The popularity of the beverage continued to boom all over the world and so soon coffee plantations emerged all around the world challenging the traditional source of the bean in Arabia. In the 17th century, the Dutch finally managed to get their hands on some seedlings and they proceeded to plant them in India – it failed. But not to be dissuaded they were successful to plant them on the island of Java in what is today Indonesia.
Arrival And Spread In The New World
Coffee was brought to the New World by the Dutch in the mid-1600s to New Amsterdam (that the English quickly took over and renamed New York). Soon coffee houses started to spring up – although tea continued to be the favored drink in the colonies. Or that was until 1773 when the colonists revolted against hefty taxes placed on tea by the British.
- The Dutch: Introduced Coffee To The New World
- Tea: Was The Favored American Drink Before The Revolution
The untold story of the Boston Tea Party was that it helped shift the American drinking preference over to coffee. According to the National Coffee Association USA, Thomas Jefferson would remark:
“Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”
The story of how the coffee plant got to Martinique is particularly bizarre. In 1714 the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. He had it planted in his Royal Botanical Garden in Paris and then in 1723 a young naval officer managed to get a seedling from the King’s royal coffee plant.
- Royal Gifts: Coffee Was Given As Royal Gifts In Europe
- Caribean & Latin American Coffee: Descend From a Single Pirate-Surviving Plant
He then braved a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling, horrendous weather, and (naturally) a pirate attack and managed to transport it safely to Martinique. A measure of how the plant thrived can be seen in that it is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the Caribbean island over the course of the next 50 years.
Adding to that impressive progeny, the seedling is thought of as the parent of all coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South, and Central America.
Today there are coffee shops on every corner and coffee tours the world over – like this private coffee plantation tour in Brazil.
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