History of coffee

Where did coffee come from?
Quill pen and inkwell on old book
04
Sep

History of coffee

Here we tell the tale of Coffee: what better place to start than the place of origin. The first use of coffee has been in Africa in the at that time called Abyssinia (Nowadays called Ethiopia) (Consequences, 1992; Crawford, 2019; U.S.A, 2019).  Some tell about a legend in which a goat herder named Kaldi discovers the working of coffee (Consequences, 1992; U.S.A, 2019). More likely is that the aborigines of Africa found out the positive side-effects of coffee as they made use of various parts from the coffee plant. Several dates of “discovery” are mentioned throughout the literature, however careful reading can separate the timespans into two distinct dates. As mentioned before, parts of the coffee plant have been eaten for a long time already but the first prove of coffee being sold dates from 523 A.D in which coffee has been sold in the form of a coffee-bar (Crawford, 2019). Then people started drinking coffee only since the middle of the fifteenth century (Consequences, 1992; U.S.A, 2019).

Although the origin of coffee is Ethiopia, the trade and cultivation of coffee started in Arabian Peninsula. At the very beginning coffee was cultivated in Yemen in the middle of the fifteenth century and within a century the cultivation spread rapidly to Egypt, Persia, Turkey and Syria (Crawford, 2019; U.S.A, 2019). Here they called it khaneh which can be translated to wine. Although the initial spread of coffee went rapidly, it slowed down considerably and in the following two centuries the use of coffee spread further to the Mahomedan nations of West-Asia (Crawford, 2019). Eventually, European travelers introduced coffee in Europe during the 17th century and here it became quickly popular as well (U.S.A, 2019). Although, coffee might have been introduced as early as 1560 in Venice already. After which coffee was introduced in the Netherlands (1616), Italy (1625), France (1644/1671), England (1650), Germany (1679), Vienna (1683), North America (1688), Russia (1700) and Sweden & Denmark (1756) (Crawford, 2019).

Figure 1 – Map of the world showing the initial spreading of coffee from known countries. Note: this is not a complete map.

Figure 1 – Map of the world showing the initial spreading of coffee from known countries. Note: this is not a complete map.

Although coffee is widespread, there were some bumps on the road to fame. So did the Arabian name cause some trouble in the Islamic countries because it referred to wine and was coffee named the “bitter invention of Satan” in Venice. Here it was only accepted after the pope gave its consent. Moreover, coffee might not be as widespread in America if not for the introduced Tea Taxes in 1773 (U.S.A, 2019). One factor that might have added to the popularity of coffee are the coffee houses.  In Arabia, the public coffee houses were called qahveh khaneh and in England they were called “penny universities”. Likewise Austria, Germany and the Netherlands gave rise to many coffee houses that became centers of social activity (Consequences, 1992; Crawford, 2019; U.S.A, 2019).

The widespread popularity of coffee was good business for the Arabic countries, which wisely protected their plants well and coffee was exported on a large scale to Europe. The struggle to get seedlings from the famous coffee plants was fierce. Not only did the Arabic countries protect their market well, attempts to grow the coffee plant in Europe failed due to frost and even in India, which has better suited climate, the first attempts of the Dutch failed. Nonetheless, in second half of the 17th century they succeeded in planting coffee plants in the now called Indonesia. The Dutch people on their turn gave a coffee plant as a gift to France. Who again made the coffee cultivation in the Americas possible by donating a plant to them (U.S.A, 2019).

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