History Of Coffee

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History of coffee

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The history of coffee has been recorded as far back as the ninth century.[1] At first, coffee remained largely confined to Ethiopia, where its native beans were first cultivated by Ethiopian highlanders. However, the Arab world began expanding its trade horizons, and the beans moved into Yemen, where until ca 1700 the major emporium was Mocha, and thence to North Africa and were mass-cultivated. From there, the beans entered the Indian and European markets, and the popularity of the beverage spread.

Palestinian women grinding coffee the old fashioned way. 1905.





The word "coffee" entered English in 1598 via Dutch koffie.[2] This word was created via Turkish kahve, the Turkish pronunciation Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun or wine of the bean. One possible origin of the name is the Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant originated; its name there is bunn or bunna.

 First uses

Legendary accounts. There are several legendary accounts of the origin of the drink itself. One account involves the Yemenite Sufi mystic Shaikh ash-Shadhili. When traveling in Ethiopia, the legend goes, he observed goats of unusual vitality, and, upon trying the berries that the goats had been eating, experienced the same vitality. A similar "Legend of Dancing Goats" attributes the discovery of coffee to an Ethiopian goatherder named Kaldi. The story of Kaldi did not appear in writing until 1671, and these stories are considered to be apocryphal.[3]

It is supposed that the Ethiopians, the ancestors of today's Oromo tribe, were the first to have recognized the energizing effect of the native coffee plant.[3] Studies of genetic diversity have been performed on Coffea arabica varieties, found to be of low diversity but which retained some residual heterozygosity from ancestral materials, and closely-related diploid species Coffea canephora and C. liberica;[4] however, no direct evidence has ever been found revealing exactly where in Africa coffee grew or who among the natives might have used it as a stimulant or even known about it there earlier than the seventeenth century.[3] The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.[3] It was in Yemen that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed as they are today. From Mocha, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa,[5] and by the 14th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Turkey. From the Muslim world, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.[6]

 The Muslim world

Syrian Bedouin from a beehive village in Aleppo, Syria, sipping the traditional murra (bitter) coffee, 1930.

The earliest mention of coffee noted by the literary coffee merchant Philippe Sylvestre Dufour[7] is a reference to bunchum in the works of the 10th century CE Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known as Rhazes in the West,[8] but more definite information on the preparation of a beverage from the roasted coffee berries dates from several centuries later.

The most important of the early writers on coffee was io-de-caprio, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa.[9] He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani, mufti of Aden, was the first to adopt the use of coffee (circa 1454). Coffee's usefulness in driving away sleep made it popular among Sufis. A translation[10] traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (the present day Yemen) northward to Mecca and Medina, and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Istanbul.

Coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders brought coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the bean.[11] The first coffeehouse opened in Istanbul in 1554.[12] Coffee was at first not well received. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca[citation needed]. However, the popularity of the drink led these bans to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I, with Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi issuing a celebrated fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee.[13] In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked.[14]

Similarly, coffee was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some time before the 12th century.[15] However, in the second half of the 19th century, Ethiopian attitudes softened towards coffee drinking, and its consumption spread rapidly between 1880 and 1886; according to Richard Pankhurst, "this was largely due to [Emperor] Menilek, who himself drank it, and to Abuna Matewos who did much to dispel the belief of the clergy that it was a Muslim drink."[16]


Dutch engraving of Mocha in 1692

Coffee was noted in Ottoman Aleppo by the German physician botanist Leonhard Rauwolf, the first European to mention it, as chaube, in 1573; Rauwolf was closely followed by descriptions from other European travellers.[17] Coffee was first imported to Italy from the Ottoman Empire. The vibrant trade between Venice and the Muslims in North Africa, Egypt, and the East brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to this leading European port. Venetian merchants introduced coffee-drinking to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage. In this way, coffee was introduced to Europe. Coffee became more widely accepted after controversy over whether it was acceptable during Lent was settled in its favor by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the drink. The first European coffee house (apart from those in the Ottoman Empire, mentioned above) was opened in Venice in 1645.[6]


Largely through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, coffee became available in England no later than the 16th century according to Leonhard Rauwolf's 1583 account. The first coffeehouse in England was opened in St. Michael's Alley in Cornhill. The proprietor was Pasqua Rosée, the servant of Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods. Edwards imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment. Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses throughout England.[18] Popularity of coffeehouses spread rapidly in Europe, and later, America.

The banning of women from coffeehouses was not universal, but does appear to have been common in Europe. In Germany women frequented them, but in England they were banned[19]. Many believed coffee to have several medicinal properties in this period. For example, a 1661 tract entitled "A character of coffee and coffee-houses", written by one "M.P.", lists some of these perceived virtues:

'Tis extolled for drying up the Crudities of the Stomack, and for expelling Fumes out of the Head. Excellent Berry! which can cleanse the English-man's Stomak of Flegm, and expel Giddinesse out of his Head.

Not everyone was in favour of this new commodity, however. For example, the anonymous 1674 "Women's Petition Against Coffee" declared:

…the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE […] has […] Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.[2]


Antoine Galland (1646-1715) in his aforementioned translation described the Muslim association with coffee, tea and chocolate: "We are indebted to these great [Arab] physicians for introducing coffee to the modern world through their writings, as well as sugar, tea, and chocolate." Galland reported that he was informed by Mr. de la Croix, the interpreter of King Louis XIV of France, that coffee was brought to Paris by a certain Mr. Thevenot, who had travelled through the East. On his return to that city in 1657, Thevenot gave some of the beans to his friends, one of whom was de la Croix. However, the major spread of the popularity of this beverage in Paris was soon to come. In 1669, Soleiman Agha, Ambassador from Sultan Mehmed IV, arrived in Paris with his entourage bringing with him a large quantity of coffee beans. Not only did they provide their French and European guests with coffee to drink, but they also donated some beans to the royal court. Between July 1669 and May 1670, the Ambassador managed to firmly establish the custom of drinking coffee among Parisians.

Melange in Vienna


The first coffeehouse in Austria opened in Vienna in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, by using supplies from the spoils obtained after defeating the Turks. The officer who received the coffee beans, Polish military officer of Ukrainian origin Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, opened the coffee house and helped popularize the custom of adding sugar and milk to the coffee. Until recently, this was celebrated in Viennese coffeehouses by hanging a picture of Kulczycki in the window. Melange is the typical Viennese coffee, which comes mixed with hot foamed milk and a glass of water.


The race among Europeans to make off with some live coffee trees or beans was eventually won by the Dutch in the late 17th century, when they allied with the natives of Kerala against the Portuguese and brought some live plants back from Malabar to Holland, where they were grown in greenhouses. The Dutch began growing coffee at their forts in Malabar, India, and in 1699 took some to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia.

Within a few years the Dutch colonies (Java in Asia, Surinam in Americas) had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe


Jean-Jacques Dessalines Empereur d'Haiti

Gabriel de Clieu brought coffee seedlings to Martinique in the Caribbean circa 1720.[20] Those sprouts flourished and 50 years later there were 18,680 coffee trees in Martinique enabling the spread of coffee cultivation to Haiti, Mexico and other islands of the Caribbean.

Coffee also found its way to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean known as the Isle of Bourbon. The plant produced smaller beans and was deemed a different variety of Arabica known as var. Bourbon. The Santos coffee of Brazil and the Oaxaca coffee of Mexico are the progeny of that Bourbon tree. Circa 1727, the Emperor of Brazil sent Francisco de Mello Palheta to French Guinea to obtain coffee seeds to become a part of the coffee market. Francisco initially had difficulty obtaining these seeds yet he captivated the French Governor's wife and she in turn, sent him enough seeds and shoots which would commence the coffee industry of Brazil. In 1893, the coffee from Brazil was introduced into Kenya and Tanzania (Tanganyika), not far from its place of origin in Ethiopia, 600 years prior, ending its transcontinental journey.[21]

The French colonial plantations relied heavily on African slave laborers.


The first step in Europeans' wresting the means of production was effected by Nicolaes Witsen, the enterprising burgomaster of Amsterdam and member of the governing board of the Dutch East India Company who urged Joan van Hoorn, the Dutch governor at Batavia that some coffee plants be obtained at the export port of Mocha in Yemen, the source of Europe's supply, and established in the Dutch East Indies;[22] the project of raising many plants from the seeds of the first shipment met with such success that the Dutch East India Company was able to supply Europe's demand with "Java coffee" by 1719.[23] Encouraged by their success, they soon had coffee plantations in Ceylon Sumatra and other Sunda islands.[24] Coffee trees were soon grown under glass at the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, whence slips were generously extended to other botanical gardens. Dutch representatives at the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Utrecht presented their French counterparts with a coffee plant, which was grown on at the Jardin du Roi, predecessor of the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris.

The introduction of coffee to the Americas was effected by Captain Gabriel des Clieux, who obtained cuttings from the reluctant botanist Antoine de Jussieu, who was loath to disfigure the king's coffee tree.[25] Clieux, when water rations dwindled during a difficult voyage, shared his portion with his precious plants and protected them from a Dutchman, perhaps an agent of the Provinces jealous of the Batavian trade.[26] Clieux nurtured the plants on his arrival in the West Indies, and established them in Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue in addition to Martinique, wjhere a blight had struck the cacao plantations, which were replaced by coffee plantations in a space of three years.is attributed to France through its colonization of many parts of the continent starting with the Martinique and the colonies of the West Indies where the first French coffee plantations were founded.

The first coffee plantation in Brazil occurred in 1727 when Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta smuggled seeds, still essentially from the germ plasm originally taken from Yemen to Batavia,[27] from French Guiana. By the 1800s, Brazil's harvests would turn coffee from an elite indulgence to a drink for the masses. Brazil, which like most other countries cultivates coffee as a commercial commodity, relied heavily on slave labor from Africa for the viability of the plantations until the abolition of slavery in 1888. The success of coffee in 17th-century Europe was paralleled with the spread of the habit of tobacco smoking all over the continent during the course of the Thirty Years' War (161848).

For many decades in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Brazil was the biggest producer of coffee and a virtual monopolist in the trade. However, a policy of maintaining high prices soon opened opportunities to other nations, such as Colombia,[28] Guatemala, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Vietnam, now second only to Brazil as the major coffee producer in the world. Large-scale production in Vietnam began following normalization of trade relations with the US in 1995.[29] Nearly all of the coffee grown there is Robusta.[30]

Despite the origins of coffee cultivation in Ethiopia, that country produced only a small amount for export until the Twentieth Century, and much of that not from the south of the country but from the environs of Harar in the northeast. The Kingdom of Kaffa, home of the plant, was estimated to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 kilograms of coffee beans in the 1880s. Commercial production effectively began in 1907 with the founding of the inland port of Gambela, and greatly increased afterwards: 100,000 kilograms of coffee was exported from Gambela in 1908, while in 1927-8 over 4 million kilograms passed through that port.[31] Coffee plantations were also developed in Arsi Province at the same time, and were eventually exported by means of the Addis Ababa - Djibouti Railway. While only 245,000 kilograms were freighted by the Railway, this amount jumped to 2,240,000 kilograms by 1922, surpassed exports of "Harari" coffee by 1925, and reached 9,260,000 kilograms in 1936.[32]

Australia is a minor coffee producer, with little product for export, but its coffee history goes back to 1880 when the first of 500 acres (2.0 km2) began to be developed in an area between northern New South Wales and Cooktown. Today there are several producers of Arabica coffee in Australia that use a mechanical harvesting system invented in 1981. [3]


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