Who Discovered Coffee?

by dan on October 10, 2009

Popular Beverage Originated in Ethiopia

One day in the 8th century A.D. a man named Kaldi who was herding goats in the mountainous Kaffa region of Ethiopia (Abyssinia). when he saw that some of the goats were acting very energetic after they ate some wild berries off a bush.

Kaldi then tried some of these wild berries himself, and sure enough he felt more energy also.  It wasn’t long before the properties of these red berries were discovered by others.

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Some monks at a nearby monastery took a liking to the berries because they helped the monks to pray and meditate longer.

The coffee berries soon spread to other monasteries and coffee had begun its rise in popularity that would eventually spread around the world.

Some claim that coffee actually had its origins in Yemen near the town of Mocha where an Arabian mystic named Omar discovered the bean’s unique properties. This happened when Omar was exiled into the desert and survived by making a broth from the berries.

By the 10th century the coffee berries had become quite popular and were used by soaking them in cold water much as sun tea is made today.

Another method, which was employed by Ethiopian tribesman, was to wrap the ripe red coffee berries in animal fat formed into round balls. These were taken along on journeys to provide energy and sustenance.

By the year 1100 coffee trees were being grown on the Arabian peninsula and the Arabs were crushing the coffee beans and boiling them in water.

By the year 1500 roasting coffee beans becomes common, and coffee houses begin to open in Arabia. In the 1600s coffee is brought to America by Dutch traders from New Amsterdam, which is later renamed New York.

Europe is first introduced to coffee when a shipment from Mocha arrives in Venice. The beverage quickly becomes popular and is known as the “wine of Arabia.” The Roman clergy condemned coffee as the devil’s drink when it was first made aware that Italian merchants were selling it, but when Pope Clement VIII tasted the beverage he gave it Papal approval.

Coffee houses begin opening in Europe in the 1600s in Italy and England as the beverage becomes increasingly popular. In 1657 coffee is introduced to France and the first coffee house there opens in 1672.

When Edward Lloyd opened a coffee house in England in 1688 he had many merchants and maritime agents as his customers. Lloyd’s business eventually grew into the renowned Lloyds of London insurance company.

After a series of intriguing events in which coffee is smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha and then extensively cultivated in the East Indies in the 1600s, Amsterdam soon becomes the center of Europe’s coffee trade.

When French King Louis XIV gets a hold of a Java coffee plant from Yemen, it begins the mass cultivation that eventually produces huge supplies of coffee for the Western world. By 1763 there are more than 2,00o coffee houses in Venice.

When King George of England places a large tax on tea he upsets the citizens of Boston, Massachusetts who stage a large protest in Boston Harbor where they dump a ship’s cargo of tea into the ocean.

This Boston Tea Party began the rise of coffee as a patriotic beverage in America, making a statement that the tea tax would not be tolerated. Previous to this time it was the upper classes who were the main coffee consumers, but now it wasn’t just the wealthy but also the commoners who drank coffee.

Let’s jump ahead now to 1822 - the first espresso machine is developed in France, and then in 1865 the coffee percolator is invented. By 1900 Hills Brothers is sealing coffee in vacuum tins, and one year later instant coffee (just add water) is invented by chemist Satori Kato in Chicago.

In the early 1900s Brazil was producing 90% of all of the coffee in the world, and Italy makes the first commercial espresso machine in 1905. In the United States coffee sales surge in 1920 due to Prohibition.

Brazil is confronted with coffee surpluses in 1938 and as a result the Nestlé Company invents freeze-dried coffee and names it Nescafé. At this time the United States is consuming 70% of the world’s coffee crop.

The espresso machine is perfected in 1946 by Italian Achilles Gaggia who uses a spring-powered lever system and a piston to generate the high pressure needed to extract espresso. The concentrated beverage brings out the coffee’s best aromatic properties and intense flavors.

Let’s jump ahead to 1971 when Starbucks opens its first store in Seattle at Pike Place Market. This begins a renewed love of whole bean coffee. By 2001 Starbucks has more than 8,000 stores.

By 2008 there are 25,000 coffee shops in the United States - about half are chain stores and half are independent. In 2009 20% of all U.S. adults drink coffee daily.

In 2009 nearly 20% of all adults in the United States who are ages 25 to 29 drink coffee every day, while two-thirds of all adults drink coffee at least once each week. According to the National Coffee Association, 83% of all coffee drinkers make the hearty beverage at home, and the sales of specialty coffees (such as Kona coffee) at grocery stores has been steadily increasing.

That was a quick history of coffee, from the time centuries ago when a goat herder discovered the unique properties of the bean, to the present day when most of the world savors the delicious brew daily.  Enjoy!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

MaryAnn Duffy March 8, 2010 at 8:44 am

Who knew that, once again, another first in Shakespeare’s time. . . . .coffee makes it to Europe, and of course through Venice, the cosmopolitan melting pot of Western Europe. Everyone looked to Venice for their cultural cues. . . . . I wonder if Shakespeare had a cup of coffee before he died. . ..

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