The history and development of the beverage that we know as coffee is varied and interesting, involving chance occurrences, political intrigue, and the pursuit of wealth and power.
According to one story the effect of coffee beans on behavior was noticed by a sheep herder named Kaldi as he tended his sheep. He noticed that the sheep became hyper-active after eating the red “cherries” from a certain plant when they changed pastures. He tried a few himself, and was soon as overactive as his herd. The story relates that a monk happened by and scolded him for “partaking of the devil’s fruit.” However the monks soon discovered that this fruit from the shiny green plant could help them stay awake for their prayers.
Another legend gives us the name for coffee or “mocha”. An Arabian was banished to the desert with his followers to die of starvation. In desperation, Omar had his friends boil and eat the fruit from an unknown plant. Not only did the broth save the exiles, but their survival was taken as a religious sign by the residents of the nearest town, Mocha. The plant and its beverage were named Mocha to honor this event.
One early use for coffee would have little appeal today. The Galla tribe from Ethiopia used coffee, but not as a drink. They would wrap the beans in animal fat as their only source of nutrition while on raiding parties. The Turks were the first country to adopt it as a drink, often adding spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom and anise to the brew.
Coffee was introduced much later to countries beyond Arabia whose inhabitants believed it to be a delicacy and guarded its secret as if they were top secret military plans. Transportation of the plant out of the Moslem nations was forbidden by the government. The actual spread of coffee was started illegally. One Arab named Baba Budan smuggled beans to some mountains near Mysore, India and started a farm there. Early in this century the descendants of those original plan were found still growing fruitfully in the region.
Coffee was believed by some Christians to be the devil’s drink. Pope Vincent III heard this and decided to taste it before he banished it. He enjoyed it so much he baptized it, saying “coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”
Coffee today is grown and enjoyed worldwide, and is one of the few crops that small farmers in third-world countries can profitably export.
Prior to 1000 AD: Members of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia notice that they get an energy boost when they eat a certain berry, ground up and mixed with animal fat.
1000 AD: Arab traders bring coffee back to their homeland and cultivate the plant for the first time on plantations. They also began to boil the beans, creating a drink they call “qahwa” (literally, that which prevents sleep).
1453: Coffee is introduced to Constantinople by Ottoman Turks. The world’s first coffee shop, Kiva Han, open there in 1475. Turkish law makes it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fail to provide her with her daily quota of coffee.
1600: Coffee, introduced to the West by Italian traders, grabs attention in high places. In Italy, Pope Vincent is urged by his advisers to consider that favourite drink of the Ottoman Empire part of the infidel threat. However, he decides to “baptise” it instead, making it an acceptable Christian beverage.
1607: Captain John Smith helps to found the colony of Virginia at Jamestown. It’s believed that he introduced coffee to North America.
1645: First coffeehouse opens in Italy.
1652: First coffeehouse opens in England. Coffee houses multiply and become such popular forums for learned and not so learned – discussion that they are dubbed “penny universities” (a penny being the price of a cup of coffee).
1668: Coffee replaces beer as New York’s City’s favorite breakfast drink.
1690: With a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha, the Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially, in Ceylon and in their East Indian colony – Java, source of the brew’s nickname.
1727: The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start when Lieutenant colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta is sent by government to arbitrate a border dispute between the French and the Dutch colonies in Guiana.
1886: Former wholesale grocer Joel Cheek names his popular coffee blend “Maxwell House,” after the hotel in Nashville, TN where it’s served.
1901: The first soluble “instant” coffee is invented by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago.
1903: German coffee importer Ludwig Roselius turn a batch of ruined coffee beans over to researchers, who perfect the process of removing caffeine from the beans without destroying the flavour. He markets it under the brand name “Sanka.” Sanka is introduced to the United States in 1923.
1938: having been asked by Brazil to help find a solution to their coffee surpluses, Nestle company invents freeze-dried coffee. Nestle develops Nescafe and introduces it in Switzerland.
1940: The US imports 70 percent of the world coffee crop.