A (very short in time but long in text!) History of Coffee
Much like its taste, coffee has a deep and rich history that follows its journey and cultivation around the world. From its humble beginnings, to being one of the world’s most consumed beverages, coffee has come a long way since its origins.
The coffee plant which has blossoms that resemble jasmine in scent and form, and carry fruits known as ‘cherries’, was discovered in Ethiopia. One of the most popular origin myths for this was that of Kaldi and his goats. Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, stumbled upon dancing goats one night. After discovering the cause was from the red ‘berries’ they were eating, he shared his findings with a monk who was delighted to find there was a way he could stay awake all night to pray. From then, coffee plants were first seen as a “magical fruit” thought to possess medicinal properties that could cure illnesses such as, kidney stones, smallpox, measles, and the cough. Aside from this, the beans were also used in religious ceremonies and chewed raw for their stimulating effect. It wasn't until the 11th century that people begun to popularize roasting, brewing and drinking coffee.
It’s unclear how, but sometime between its discovery and AD 850 the coffee plant had reached Arabia. A popular theory is that the seeds of the coffee plants were taken over by African tribes-people migrating towards the Arabian peninsular from Kenya and Ethiopia. However, they were eventually driven back by Persians, leaving behind growing coffee trees. In the 15th century, coffee made its way to Yemen, docking in a port called ‘Mocha’. Sound familiar? Mocha and coffee eventually became one and the same as it's popularity grew and the port became a hub for coffee lovers.
Unsurprisingly, the popularity of coffee only soared over the years as indulging in the drink became the norm throughout many countries around the world. The coffee habit became an integral part of Arabia as citizens began regularly drinking it at home. It didn’t take long for the obsession to take a hold of surrounding Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Syria.
Despite the coffee mania reaching its neighbouring country Syria, coffee drinking was a relatively slow spread to Turkey. However, once the appeal did begin to circulate among citizens, there was no form of social interaction complete without coffee. From formal banquets, to serving coffee before haircuts, chance meetings, and even by merchants before bargaining. To see a gathering of people without a brew of coffee was a rare sight.
Towards the 16th century, Europe began to hear about the new plant and drink from the middle east travelers. Realising the potential, Europeans were quick to exploit the prospect and began to seek more trade with the middle east. At the time, Yemen was still the center of supply for Europe, and it wasn’t until around the end of the 17th century that the Dutch began to properly analyse the situation and take momentum. After stealing a coffee plant and having many good ships, the Dutch became Europe’s biggest traders. By the middle of the next century, many more cultivations and establishments of plantations had been set up as the drink made a stir in the world.
In Europe, merchants began looking for a substitute for ale houses, and what better alternative than a coffee house? Coffee houses became very common and fashionable somewhere between the 17th and 19th century. Owners would even hire entertainment such as musicians, dancers, and jugglers, to keep their customers happy. This became the norm and coffee houses were seen as a place of enjoyment for people to engage in social interaction all while enjoying a cup of coffee.
The extensive history behind coffee has influenced and paved the way for what we know and love today. Now, coffee houses are known as ‘cafe’s’, just with less entertainment. The health benefits of coffee made by scientists are likely inspired by the medicinal use in the early 15th century. And the discovery and trade of coffee beans made it possible for you to be taking that mouth-watering sip of your coffee right now.