A Coffee History
There are many tales telling of when coffee was first discovered. Tales that the Angel Gabriel, an Arabian priest and a shephard’s goats all were the first to discover coffee still circulate the globe. We do however, know that Arabica coffee (native to Ethiopia) and “Robusta” coffee (native to Western Africa), were first cultivated more than 1,000 years ago. From Africa, coffee spread east to Yemen (Arabia), where it was cultivated in monastery gardens. The Arabians initially used coffee as a food and a medicine, then used ground and brewed coffee as a substitute for wine. In fact, the word “coffee” may be derived from “qahwah,” the Arabic word for wine. By the early 1500s, coffee had become popular in Turkey, Egypt, and Syria. Much of this migration is credited to Moslem pilgrims, who smuggled coffee back to their homelands after visits to Mecca.
Once coffee caught the attention of the Europeans in the 1600s, it became the focus of many agricultural efforts such as: The Dutch were the first to successfully transport coffee plants, moving them to the warm climates of Ceylon and of Java in the East Indies. The plants flourished, giving rise to coffee’s nickname of “java.” Coffee reached the New World in 1723, via France. The credit goes to Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, a French naval officer who took a coffee seedling from Louis XIV’s botanical garden in Paris and planted it on his Caribbean estate in Martinique. Virtually all Caribbean coffee is descended from his planting. Major de Melo Palheta of Brazil received several coffee seedlings; they were surreptitiously passed to him by his paramour – the wife of French Guiana’s governor. Once planted in Brazil, these seedlings thrived and formed the basis for a vast industry: Today Brazil produces and exports more coffee than any other country. When disease destroyed much of the coffee crop in Ceylon and India, the British began cultivating coffee in their East African colonies of Kenya and Uganda – not far from where coffee was first discovered growing in the wild.
Neat Little Tidbits:
Coffeehouses got their start in Constantinople and Damascus, as places where patrons lingered over coffee, backgammon and chess. it’s also speculated that the game of bridge originated in a Constantinople coffeehouse. In the late 1500s, Pope Clement VIII gave his blessing to coffee as a “delicious drink” fit for Christians as well as Moslems, thus opening the way for establishment of European coffeehouses. Coffeehouses flourished in England, earning the nickname “penny universities” beacuse patrons paid one penny to enter and hear the resident scholars debate academic topics. The word “tip” owes its origin to the coffeehouse atmosphere, where patrons gave coins to coffee servers “To Insure Promptness.” Because political debates that could undermine his reign took place in coffeehouses, Charles II of England tried to ban the popular gathering places. Public, outcry forced him to revoke the proclamation after only 11 days. Frederick of Prussia and Gustav III of Sweden tried similar proclamations, but in each country the public demand for beans quickly overwhelmed the bans. Johann Sebastian Bach lauded coffee as “the most precious of blisses” in his 1732 musical composition entitled “Coffee Cantata.” Two English coffeehouses eventually evolved into famous businesses: Lloyd’s of London insurance and the London Stock Exchange.
Coffee in America:
No evidence exists that the Mayflower carried coffee as well as pilgrims to America, but word of it had probably arrived earlier via Captain John Smith, who had sampled the brew in Turkey before settling as Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. By 1698, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia all boasted coffeehouses. During the American Revolution, these multipurpose establishments – which served as courtrooms, legislative chambers, meeting halls, and auction blocks – becamse gathering places for colonists disgruntled by King George !!!’s tyranny. In 1773, Samuel Adams and his costumed compatriots staged the Boston tea Party, a protest against King George III’s onerous tax on tea. Their dumping of 343 chests of tea into Boston’s harbor launched coffee as America’s most patriotic beverage. In fact, when the fledgling United States of America inaugurated its first president in 1789, Merchants Coffeehouse in New York City hosted the reception. In the 1800s coffee began traveling westward with the pioneers, who relied on the beverage to make the rugged journey more bearable. And coffee has always accompanied American soldiers, from the ration of roasted beans given Union soldiers during the Civil War to the instant coffee supplied to World War II servicemen in Europe. Today coffee plays a significant role in the economy of the United States, which as a country is the world’s largest coffee consumer. Each day, bags of coffee arrive in Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf ports for shipping to coffee roasting companies around the country. The coffee’s ultimate destination is your cup – one that has truly been centuries in the making.