As an avid coffee lover, I started to wonder who discovered coffee and what is the story behind coffee. So let’s see what I found.
It’s complicated to define the story of coffee accurately, yet there are some known elements like who discovered coffee. It’s a fact that the coffee tree first found at the area of Abyssinia, and more specifically at Kaffa, a southwestern province of Ethiopia. The most widespread myth is that of Kaldi, a goat herder, who, as it is said, saw his goats jump like crazy when they ate the fruit of a particular tree. When he tasted that strange fruit, he immediately started dancing with his goats.
Then a passerby saw him and asked why he was dancing. Kaldi showed him the tree, and the passerby took some fruits to process them. When he ate them, he noticed that he could not sleep. He immediately thought this was the solution for his disciples not to sleep on the overnight prayers and sermons he did. He ordered all his students to eat some of the fruits before each preaching, and the results were fantastic. There has never been such active student participation!
Another element, however, opposes this, not as unreasonable but as a secondary element. Ethiopian native people traditionally have used to make coffee in a pan over an open fire and by adding milk. Islamic alchemists considered the addition of milk so bad that they said it was the first cause of leprosy. From this, we conclude that coffee existed in the area and was consumed by the Indigenous people before 600 BC, and from the appearance of Muslimism in Ethiopia. The first references to coffee beverages say that they were using the leaves of the plant and not the fruits. However, Ethiopians used to eat the fruits, especially before the various battles of the cities of that time (8th century AD). The natives have made two beverages from the leaves called “Kati” and “Amertassa.”
The legend says that coffee went to Yemen, south of the Arabian Peninsula, from the misdeeds of slaves carried by the Arabs and who ate coffee to withstand the hardships. At that time, coffee plantations were created, and from the 11th century, AD. began to grow systematically. The Arabs were also responsible for the spread of coffee throughout the Arab world. As alcohol was forbidden (and still is forbidden) from the Muslim religion, coffee was considered to be the wine of god (or Arabian wine for Europe). Therefore it was included in religious ceremonies and temples.
The name of the coffee is still a mystery. Some say it got his name from the region that was found, the Southwestern Ethiopian province of Kaffa. Others claim that it derives from the Arabic word Qahwa, which means to create an aversion to something. The word Qahwa was initially referring to wine, which was creating an aversion for food. It was then used for coffee that caused aversion for sleep. The strange thing is that no related word for coffee is used in Ethiopia. There it is called Buna, which means bean.
In the 10th century, an Arab physician named Rhazes reported the physical effects of coffee in his medical journals. He claimed that coffee could enhance longevity, calm nerves, and increase strength.
Coffee and Religion
The relationship between Islam and coffee was not always the smoothest. Some Muslims felt that coffee was a spirituous beverage and should, therefore, be prohibited by Islamic law. In 1511, Mecca’s governor, Khairbeg, saw in a Muslim mosque some believers preparing for an overnight prayer to drink coffee to endure. He got angry because they had to endure using their faith and not coffee, he took kicked them out of the mosque and ordered all cafes to be closed in Mecca. This has created a big issue for coffee and triggered a debate that lasted for a long time.
Then, two corrupt Persian doctors, the Hakimani brothers, who had the reputation of giving false treatments to patients for more money, condemned coffee as an unhealthy beverage. These doctors had a good reason for doing this. Coffee was a popular treatment among depressed patients who would otherwise pay doctors to treat them. The issue was resolved only when the Sultan from Cairo, Khairbeg, the Senior, intervened. He said that a beverage widely enjoyed in Cairo could not have been forbidden without his permission. Khairbeg soon paid his insolence since in 1512 he was accused of abuse of power and sentenced to death.
The catholic priests tried to do something similar to Islamists. They presented coffee to the Pope Clement the 8th in 1592. They claimed that coffee was something evil that only the Islamists were drinking and suggested to be forbidden. The pope tasted him. He liked it and made a very radical decision for his time. He blessed the coffee by saying: Since it is the product of the devil, I will bless it to take it from the devil and do it a product of god!
At the beginning of the 15th century, coffee had already reached to Aden and Moka in Yemen. From there, it passed to Medina, Mecca, and Jeddah. Later coffee appeared in Egypt, and from there to Syria and Persia. The nutritional benefits of coffee were so much that it was considered the same important as bread and water. A Turkish law gave a wife the right to divorce when her husband didn’t provide coffee.
When Did Coffee Arrive in Europe?
In 1683 the Turks, having been based in the Balkan Peninsula, had reached out of Vienna and waited for support to attack the city. Vienna was then the capital of the Habsburg empire, the largest empire of that era. The Turks set up their tents outside the city walls and besieged it until they were surrender, digging tunnels to the walls and placing explosives. There, they say, Peter Wender heard them, a baker who worked late at night and alerted the Vienna soldiers about the tunnels. The Turkish army that was much larger than the Viennese was finally expelled with the help of 50,000 Polish soldiers.
The translator Franciszek J. Kulczycki, for the Austrian Oriental Company played a significant role in this operation. He could speak Turkish, and he was disguised as a Turkish soldier to enter their camp. He revealed the secrets of the organization of the Turkish army to the Viennese. After their exile, the Turks left behind everything they had. So they left some strange sacks with beans, that the Viennese thought was food for camels. Kulczycki, however, knew what these beans were, and asked them in return for his cooperation. With these sacks opened the first coffeehouse in Vienna, “The Blue Bottle.” Wender, in turn, made small half-moose shaped rolls to fool the Turkish emblem and named it Pfizer. After about a hundred years, French confectioners added butter and yeast and so the croissant was born.
The Venetian merchants were the first to bring coffee to Europe in 1615. A few years earlier, the Spaniards brought cocoa beans with Hernando Cortes in 1528. The Dutch also had their first, bringing tea in 1610 from China with the Dutch East Indian Company.
The Coffee Tree on Europe
In 1960, the Dutch were the first to steal a coffee tree from the port of Mocha in Arabia and ship it to their colonies of Ceylon and Java. In 1713, the Dutch made a mistake and gave a coffee-tree as a gift to Louis, the 14th of France. He keeps it very carefully and creates a greenhouse to maintain it and cultivate. It has it for years and instructs its gardeners to grow it until…
The Coffee Tree on the American Continent
Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, a French navy officer, is said to have been the cause of coffee arriving on the American continent. He served in Martinique and in 1720 he was in Paris for his permission. He knew the coffee and had gone to Louis’s greenhouse several times to get a little root to transplant it to the new world, but he did not succeed. Then he thought to use other means. He recruited an escort with access to high society people and sent it to the doctor of Louis, De Sirac. Using her good looks, managed to persuade him to give her two small trees in pots.
Thus, on October 8, 1720, the trees were loaded onto the ship Le Dromadaire, escorted by Gabriel de Clieu himself, and started on their long journey. De Clieu, to protect them from the sea saltiness and humidity, had put them in glass containers. But his journey was not easy at all. Apart from the rough sea, the pirates, and some personal conflicts, water supplies began to finish. At such a point that de Clieu preferred not to drink himself, in order not to deprive his trees of the necessary watering. Eventually, in 1723 there was already the first coffee plantation in Martinique, and within 50 years, 19 million trees were grown on the island. 90% of the world’s coffee is said to come from those trees. Some trees were sent to the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean (Isle of Bourbon). These trees had smaller but very delicious fruits. The Santos variety of Brazil and Oaxaca Mexico originate from those trees.
Nevertheless, the Dutch were the first to have coffee in Central and South America, where today it is the primary economic power of many countries. The coffee first arrived in the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1718 to follow French Guyana. In 1727, in a diplomatic episode setting the border between Dutch and French Guyana, the Brazilian emperor sent colonel Francisco de Melo Pahleta to solve the problem. He not only solved the issue but also had an erotic affair with the wife of the governor of French Guiana. When she said goodbye to him, she gave him a bouquet of something strange flowers in which she had hidden coffee beans. The colonel presented them to the emperor, and once they understood that they were coffee, they planted them in the northern province of Para. From then until 1800, Brazilian coffee will become the most popular beverage, and the plant will fill the whole country as if it has found the right place to grow.
Brazil cultivated coffee for export and mainly relied on the work of slaves from Africa. For decades, in the 19th and 20th century, Brazil was the world’s largest coffee maker. As it is today, maintaining a virtual monopoly without limitations on prices. This has led to opening up production opportunities to other countries, such as Colombia, Guatemala, and Indonesia.
The Expansion of Coffee
Everyone was creating plantations in tropical places where they could plant coffee. The Dutch in Surinam, French Guinea, Indonesia, and Ghana. The French in the Antilles, Martinica, San Domenico, Vietnam, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, and Réunion. The Portuguese in Brazil, Angola, and São Tomé. Spaniards in Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Philippines. The Brits in Ceylon, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda. Some others not to stay out of the game chose other areas of Africa.
The Italians created plantations in Eritrea, the Belgians in the Congo, and the Germans in Cameroon and New Guinea. At the end of the 18th century, coffee began to play the role it still plays today. As a result, many villages, cities, or even countries support their economy in cultivating and exporting. One of the ironic elements of modern coffee history is that, after six centuries of wandering, coffee was planted in Kenya and Tanzania. These countries are adjacent to Ethiopia, the place where it was initially discovered.
Coffee is Commercial Wealth
Today, coffee is the world’s second-largest distributor of oil. It is grown in 52 countries and employs 26 million people. World coffee consumption for 2009-2010 amounted to 133.6 million bags and export turnover to $ 15.4 billion. Consumption has grown by an average of 1.2% per annum since the early 1980s, while in the last years it has reached 2%. The most significant increase is observed in Japan, which reaches 3.5% per year. Although it seems to have reached a marginal level in the last ten years, it is the third-largest country in coffee imports after the US and Germany.
Brazil is the first producer country with a big difference from the second that is Vietnam. Colombia fell third, with difficulty keeping this position from Indonesia, which is fourth, after the damage to the trees of recent years.