20 Jan History of Coffee
The story of how coffee was first discovered and then spread to all of the major countries on Earth is a fascinating tale that includes romance, politics, religion, intrigue, heroics, deceit, greed, and innovation.
Coffee was smuggled across the ocean, presented to kings, carried along the ancient spice routes on the land and sea, banned by governments and clergies, and then blessed by them!
The origins of the coffee plant, and the first human consumption of the plant’s berries including the coffee beans, remains somewhat of a mystery. Most historians agree that human coffee consumption first took place in the mountainous areas of Ethiopia, then known as Abyssinia. However, there is no direct evidence of anyone growing or using coffee before the 1600s.
The commonly held story passed down through time, involves the goat herder named Kaldi who lived in the countryside of the Kaffa region of southwestern Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.
When Kaldi discovered his goats were suddenly energized after eating some red berries, he then tried the coffee berries himself and found them to have a very stimulating effect.
Soon some local monks were also trying the coffee berries and appreciated the ability to pray and meditate longer after consuming the berries. The use of the coffee berries soon spread among other monasteries and began its trek across the globe.
Significant amounts of coffee are grown in the region today, and many people consider the coffee plants of this area to be the only truly native (indigenous) coffee trees in the world, with the rest being derived from these. Coffee is now grown throughout the world’s tropical regions.
It is said that the coffee plants from Ethiopia were first taken and cultivated in Yemen in about 575 AD. However Ethiopian coffee beans were also spread by conquerors, travellers and merchants to the middle east, most notably the Arabian Peninsula in about 1100 AD where they were roasted to improve the drinks quality and flavour. By about 1300 AD, Yemeni coffee was the major source for coffee beans in North Africa, the middle east, Egypt, Turkey and Persia.
In 1453 AD the Ottoman Turks bring coffee to the thriving power centre of Constantinople where the roasted coffee is finely ground and often prepared with spices including cardamom, clove, anise and cinnamon.
The world’s first coffee shop is said to have opened in Constantinople in 1475 AD, where coffee becomes firmly embedded in the culture of the people.
Simultaneously the coffee trade spread to Mecca, Medina and through the ports of Smyrna and Alexandria to other parts.
It was not until the 1600s that coffee is seen to arrive in Italy. Italian traders bring coffee to Italy and Europe from North Africa via the port of Venice, with growing prices it becomes the favourite of the elite.
In Italy, Pope Clement VIII was asked by his advisers to ban coffee as it was a favorite beverage of the Ottoman Empire, part of that infidel threat, and the “drink of the devil” condemned by the Roman clergy. The pope tasted the coffee beverage and found it to be delicious. Instead of banning coffee the Pope gave it Papal approval and declared that not only those who misbelieve should be allowed to enjoy coffee! After this event coffee became widely accepted as a suitable beverage and coffee consumption increased quickly, spreading to the new world.
Today coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world (after oil), with more than 400 billion cups of coffee consumed each day all over the world! About seventy countries – all between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer – now grow coffee commercially.
Dante’s Coffee Roasters use only premium and specialty grade coffees from the countries of: