The Boomer Corner
The History of Coffee Cultivation and Consumption
When I watch TV and see people hugging mugs of coffee, I close my eyes. These people have accepted a myth created by coffee growers a few hundred years ago. I’m not much of a coffee drinker so I guess my look at coffee is one sided. Some people think that if they say that they haven’t had their coffee yet, it’s okay to be grouchy.
Coffee was first found in Ethiopia on a plateau. According to legend in 850 AD, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed that after eating the berries from a certain bush, he became very energetic and didn’t want to sleep at night. He apparently told monks about it and they made a drink using the coffee beans. It kept them awake to say their evening prayers.
Coffee was first cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula, and was grown in the Yemini district during the 15th century. By the 16th century been cultivation was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. People began to enjoy coffee in coffee houses in cities across the Middle East. Social activities such as music were enjoyed in them as well as games like chess. They were places for the exchange of information and were sometimes called, “Schools of the Wise”. People travelled to Mecca by the thousands and they were introduced to coffee there.
People who travelled to the Near East from Europe brought back stories of the unusual dark coloured beverage. So by the 17th century coffee had made its way to Europe and was beginning to become popular. Some people called coffee the “bitter beverage of Satan”. Clergy condemned coffee in Venice in 1615, and because it created so much controversy, Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He tried coffee and liked it, so he gave it the papal blessing.
Coffee Houses began appearing across Europe. By the middle of the 17th century there were over three hundred coffee houses in London. By the mid 1600’s coffee arrived in New York (then called New Amsterdam). Tea was still the favoured drink until 1773, and the Boston Tea Party. Thomas Jefferson called coffee the favourite drink of the civilized world.
As more people wanted coffee, cultivators tried to grow it outside of Arabia. The Dutch were the first to try. They got seedlings and tried to grow them in India, but failed. They were then successful on Java which is now Indonesia. In 1714 the mayor of Amsterdam gave a coffee seedling to King Louis IV, which was planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723 a naval officer obtained a seedling from the Kings plant, and despite many difficulties, he managed to get it to Martinique. It was planted and is credited with being responsible for more than 18 million coffee trees over the next fifty years. This one seedling was the parent plant of all coffee trees in the Caribbean, and South and Central Americas.
Coffee has quite a history. I picture groups of men sitting around many years ago and deciding they had to convince people that coffee was necessary for their lives. It worked because a lot of people today still can’t start their day without their coffee.
About the Author
Linda Calder is a retired teacher. She likes to write and enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys going on cruises, taking pictures and scrapbooking.