History of Coffee in Brief (Coffee: a Condensed History)
The volatile history of coffee goes back hundreds of years, impacting economies and cultures worldwide. Here’s a condensed history of how this bean has woven its way into the lives of hundreds of millions of people:
- It’s said that the bean was discovered by the goats of an Ethiopian goatherd called Kaldi, who observed his animals acting unusually frisky after eating berries from a bush. Curious about this phenomenon, Kaldi sampled the berries himself. He found that they gave him renewed energy. News of this energy-laden fruit spread quickly throughout the region. Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula, and were first cultivated in what is today the country of Yemen.
- Coffee then traveled to Turkey. Then to Europe. In Turkey, the beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today. After a Turkish ambassador introduced it to the court of Louis XIV in 1669, Europeans quickly acquired a taste for it. A few years later, the Dutch introduced coffee into Java.
- In 1683 coffee was poised to conquer Europe. When Arabs tried to seize Vienna, a Pole warned the French, who repulsed the Arabs. They soon discovered bags of coffee left behind, and the first European coffeehouse was opened.
- About coffee in Europe: Many Europeans felt the Pope should ban coffee, calling it the drink of the Devil. To their surprise, the Pope, already a coffee drinker, blessed it instead, declaring it a truly Christian beverage.
- From Italy, coffee spread to Paris. The first French café was opened in 1686 by Italians. By 1700, the English were drinking coffee.
- In approximately 1720, one of the French king’s mistresses gave a coffee plant to a French lieutenant with whom she’d slept; on an ocean voyage to the Caribbean, he protected the plant from storms and pirates. He planted it on the island of Martinique and plantations soon grew from French Guyana to Brazil and Central America. By 1790, half of all the coffee in the world was grown in Haiti by African slaves.
- Almost all the coffee in Latin America descends from that single Martinique plant.
- The percolator was invented in 1827 by a French man. It would boil the coffee, producing a bitter-tasting brew.
- Espresso came from Neapolitan impatience: They simply couldn’t wait for coffee to be brewed. The French introduced the first espresso machine in 1822, but the Italians perfected and distributed it.
- Instant coffee was invented in 1906 by Mr. G. Washington, an Englishman living in Guatemala.
- Today, coffee is a giant, global industry employing more than 20 million people. It ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide. With more than 400 billion cups consumed every year, it’s the world's most popular beverage. In Brazil alone, more than five million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of upwards of three billion coffee plants.
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