Most of the world begins the day with a fresh cup of coffee. What has become the most popular beverage today was literally unheard of several centuries ago. If it hadn’t been for a shepherd in Ethiopia, we may not know about coffee at all. The history of coffee is definitely an interesting one, with multiple stories weaving throughout history, right up until present day…
According to legend, coffee was discovered in Ethiopia by a shepherd by the name of Kaldi. Although history has been unable to verify the story, there has been some evidence of truth in certain elements of the story. It is believed that Kaldi discovered coffee when he realised that his sheep remained active and spirited throughout the night if they consumed berries from a certain tree. He explained this to the abbot, who believed Kaldi and made a drink from the berries based on his observation. To his amazement, the abbot also found it hard to sleep after saying his prayers. The next day, he shared his experience with the other monks and soon the tales of the drink that kept you awake spread across the country. Soon after, coffee began its journey to the rest of the world.
The Arabs are known to be first people to trade with coffee. They began to grow and cultivate the berries and by the fifteenth and sixteenth century, coffee was being cultivated for commercial trade in Yemen, Persia, Syria, Turkey and Egypt.
Coffee started to be consumed in homes and public places alike, as it was not an alcoholic drink – forbidden in many Eastern Countries. It became a drink of choice at social gatherings and soon the wine of Araby as it was called, began to spread beyond Arabia.
Coffee began its slow journey to Europe in the seventeenth century when it was brought back by European travelers from Arabia. Contrary to the welcome that coffee received in Arabia when it first made its appearance, it was widely condemned in Europe. In 1615, the clergy of Venice condemned the consumption of the beverage strongly and created a controversy that required the intervention of Pope Clement III. The Pope drank the controversial beverage and gave his approval to coffee almost instantly.
Soon after, coffee spread to the rest of Europe with many coffee houses springing up across major cities in England, France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. It was easily available and people found themselves engaging in conservations over a cup of coffee. Coffee reached the America’s or the ‘New World’ during the 1600′s and became popular a century later as a result of the high taxes imposed on tea by the ruling government.
Although the Arabs closely guarded coffee to protect their monopoly on the beverage, the Dutch managed to obtain a few seeds in late seventeenth century. From the Ethiopian highlands, coffee is now grown in almost all parts of the world.
So next time you take a sip of the dark rejuvenating hot drink, think of the journey it made through time and geography to find a place, right there in your cup.
Photo by anvancy.