The Discovery of Coffee–Truth or Legend?
By Kathie FitzPatrick
The colorful and interesting story of the discovery of coffee goes back centuries to the country of Ethiopia. At that time ancient coffee forests grew in the wild upon the lush hills of the Ethiopian plateaus. It was around 850 A.D.
One day a young goatherd named Kaldi seemed to be managing his goats in the usual way on a normal sunny afternoon. He noticed that his goats wandered off into some colorful looking bushes with red berries on them. Not thinking too much about it he went along with his normal duties.
After awhile he called out to his goats to move on. Normally they responded, and even knew their names when he called them. But not this time. Kaldi went up the hill to check further on how his goats were doing. When he came upon them he found his goats to be acting very strangely. There were leaping up in the air kicking and even butting heads with each other. They seemed to be acting in a wild and strange way.
“What has become of my goats? Are they bewitched?” Kaldi wondered. They were very interested in staying in that one spot, and grazing on the bushes there. Kaldi could not seem to herd his goats to come with him back to the normal pasture. He finally had to give up on them, and leave them in that location for the night.
When he came back the next day they were still grazing in the same location, and acting the same way, jumping, leaping and dashing around with unusual energy. I guess we might say today that they were acting “super-caffeinated.” The goats did not seem to sleep hardly at all.
Kaldi went over to the bushes with the red berries and picked a few. He held them in the palms of his hands up to his eyes and studied them. What was different about these bushes with the red berries, he wondered?
Kaldi couldn’t resist trying them himself.
You guessed it. He got to feeling pretty high and pretty weird right away.
Kaldi took the berries to an Abbot at a nearby monastery, and told him about what happened to his goats. Upon studying Kaldi, the Monks though perhaps it was him that was acting bewitched!
“Those berries are of the devil!” the Abbot exclaimed, as he threw the beans into the fire. The aroma of roasting beans quickly filled the room. The pleasant coffee aroma could hardly be ignored.
Later, the Abbot tried boiling hot water and adding the berries to make a drink. The result was that the Abbot an the rest of the Monks hardly slept at all that night after drinking the mixture. He decided that it was good to use the drink to keep him awake during long hours of evening prayer. . . or to awake in the early morning for his prayer and duties around the monastery. He soon told the other monks about it. As you can imagine word of such a good thing spread very quickly!
Although this story is sometimes referred to as a “legend,” it sounds like the truth to me! Here is another version if this story you might enjoy! Click on the link above to view it from the www.gocoffeego.com site.
More Interesting History About Coffee
The early discovery and use of coffee seemed to start in Ethiopia sometime within the 11th century. The coffee plant itself produces a white flower that smells somewhat like jasmine, then produces a cherry-like fruit. Back then in those early times, the leaves were boiled in water and resulted in a mixture thought to have healing and medicinal properties. In early times coffee appeared as a number of unusual concoctions.
It wasn’t until the 13th Century that people began roasting coffee beans, the first step in making coffee as we know it today. As the fame and popularity of the mysterious coffee plant spread to other provinces and countries the centuries long journey of the popular beverage was about to begin.
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In Ethiopia Serving Coffee to Guest is an Important Ritual
A coffee ceremony is a ritualized form of making and drinking coffee for guests in an Ethiopian home, and sometimes spans hours. The coffee ceremony is one of the most recognizable parts of Ethiopian culture and Eritrean culture and is still exercised currently today by some as a popular tradition in their culture.
Coffee is offered when friends come to visit the home, during holidays and festivities, or as a daily part of day to day life. If coffee is politely declined by the guest, then most likely some favorite variety of tea (shai) will be served.
Ethiopian and Turkish coffee is traditionally brewed to be very strong. A special treat for guests in the home.
The Ethiopians and Turks both like to brew their coffee very strong by the usual standards. Hosts like to use special cups and make a memorable experience out of enjoying coffee with their guests. Sometimes special festive clothing is worn to celebrate the evening or gathering.
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The Discovery of Coffee in the Ancient World
Back to early coffee use in the 11th century. The use and popularity of coffee quickly spread through the Arabian peninsula region. By the mid-14th century coffee cultivation reached the culture of Yemen and for about 300 years coffee was brewed and consumed according to the recipe first used in Ethiopia. Yeman’s atmosphere with such a dry, hot climate along with their fertile soil, lent perfect conditions for successful farming of coffee plants.
It was not until the year 1555 that coffee was introduced to the country of Istanbul. During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, coffee became even more popular as the Sultan grew to love and enjoy the beverage very much.
During his reign at the palace a new way of preparing coffee was discovered. The beans were roasted over a fire, finely ground then slowly boiled with water on the ashes of a charcoal fire. With this new preparation method coffee as a rich and desirable beverage began to spread even further.
Coffee soon became a vital and necessary part of the palace food preparation, and the position of Chief Coffee Maker was added to the roster of court positions. The job of the Chief Coffee Maker was to brew coffee for the sultan and his patrons. This person was chosen for his loyalty and ability to keep secrets. But like all special secrets, they can potentially leak out!
The use of coffee as a favorite beverage soon spread from the palace to the grand mansions, and from there to the homes of the public. The people of Istanbul soon became very fascinated by the use of coffee, and it was not long before it became a part of daily life.
The coffee beans were purchased green and then roasted at home in ordinary cooking pans. After that the beans were then ground in mortars, they were brewed in crude coffee pots known originally as “cezve.”
It wasn’t long before the general public became acquainted with the use of coffee through the new cultivation of coffeehouses. It is said that the first coffeehouse was named Kiva Han. It opened up in the district of Tahtakale and others quickly followed opening up all around the city. Istanbul soon cultivated a coffee culture and many coffee houses sprang up around the city. People came there to read books, play backgammon and to discuss literature and share lofty ideas with one another.
Discovery of Coffee -Venice
Venetian merchants who had become familiar with coffee as a favorite beverage in Istanbul carried back the coffee beans and new coffee traditions to Venice around 1615.
At first the beverage was sold on the streets by lemonade vendors. However by 1646 the first coffee house opened in Italy. Coffeehouses soon sprang up all over Italy as in many other neighboring lands. These new coffeehouses became a place where a platform developed for students, artists, writers, poets and other creative spirits to drink coffee and share ideas.
Discovery of Coffee -Marseilles
Visitors who had traveled from Marseilles to Istanbul discovered coffee there, and wrote letters about the matchless virtues of the dark rich flavored drink home to friends and family. In 1664 the first coffee beans along with the equipment to brew them were brought to Marseilles. The aromatic brew soon became very popular here as well! Promoted by the French Ambassador Monsieur de la Roque, coffee became even more well known in the region of France.
Discovery of Coffee – Paris
The glamorous city of Paris was introduced to coffee in 1669 by Hoşsohbet Nüktedan Süleyman Ağa. He was sent by Sultan Mehmet IV as ambassador to the court of King Louis XIV of France. Among the Ottoman ambassador’s possessions were several sacks of coffee beans, which he described to the French as able to create “magical beverage”.
Süleyman Ağa soon became the darling of Parisian high society. The Parisian aristocracy saw it as a great honour to be invited to share a cup of Turkish Coffee with Süleyman Ağa, who regaled his guests with his pleasant humor and conversation. The ambassador related many countless stories on the subject of coffee, which earned him the sobriquet of Hoşsohbet, or raconteur among their society.
The first real coffeehouse in Paris, Café de Procope, opened in 1686. It soon became a favourite haunt of the favorite and popular writers of the day . . . renowned poets, playwrights, actors and musicians. Many famous literary personalities such as Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire became captivated with coffee at Café de Procope. Following the trend set by Café de Procope, coffeehouses opened on practically every street in the city of Paris.
Discovery of Coffee – Vienna
It wasn’t long before the tradition of coffee as a part of everyday life found it’s way to Vienna, Austria. Some interesting stories surround this.
The year 1683 marked the end of the Second Siege of Vienna. As the Turks retreated from the city, they left their extra supplies behind. The abandoned goods included a large number of tents, livestock, grain and around 500 large sacks of coffee beans. The Viennese had no idea what to make of the mysterious contents of the sacks. One Viennese captain claimed that the coffee beans were camel-feed and decided to dump the sacks into the Danube River.
News of the mysterious sacks reached a gentleman named Kolschitzky who had lived among the Turks for many years and had served as a spy for the Austrians during the siege. He requested the sacks of coffee, with which he was very familiar, as payment for his successful espionage services during the war-time episodes.
Once obtaining the beans, Kolschitzky soon prepared and served small cups of Turkish Coffee to the Viennese, going door to door at first. Later he opened a large tent to the public. Soon he had successfully taught the Viennese how to prepare and enjoy coffee. As a result, the city of Vienna soon became acquainted with the joys of coffee as a favorite beverage.
The Viennese coffeehouses that opened during this period set an example for coffeehouses which were propagated and spread to many other countries during that time.
Discovery of Coffee – London
The country of England first became acquainted with coffee in 1637 when a Turk introduced the drink to friends in Oxford. It quickly became popular among students and teachers who established the “Oxford Coffee Club”. London with its cool foggy climate was ideal for the development of a coffee culture. Also the intellectual society was quick to receive and enjoy coffee as part of everyday life of work and study. The first coffeehouse in Oxford opened in 1650 and was called the “Angel”.
In 1652, a Greek man named Pasqua Rosée opened the first coffeehouse in the city of London. Rosée, using his extensive and advanced knowledge of how to prepare and brew Turkish Coffee, he introduced his friends and clients to its peerless and matchless taste.
As a result, by 1660, London’s coffeehouses had become an integral and important part of its social culture. The general public nick-named coffee houses “Penny Universities” as they were so often patronized by writers, artists, poets, lawyers, politicians and philosophers. The coffee seemed to give them the sharp edge in their thinking and intellectual endeavors and livened up the conversations with each other.
In London the coffeehouses offered customers a great deal more than piping hot cups of coffee. The entrance fee of one penny allowed them to benefit from the intellectual conversation that surrounded them from the creative and intellectual patrons.
Discovery of Coffee – HOLLAND
The history of coffee in Holland is quite a bit different from that of other countries. For many years the Dutch were more concerned with coffee as a trade commodity than as just a desirable beverage.
Coffee beans first reached Holland via Yemen in the 17th century. The Dutch began cultivating coffee on its own within its colonies. by 1699, coffee beans were planted on the island of Java. This laid the foundation for Indonesia’s many coffee plantations. By 1711, the first Javanese coffee beans were sold on the open market in Amsterdam, Holland
In Holland, the first coffeehouses opened in the 1660s. These coffeehouses with their unique style that featured rich attractive décor, a warm atmosphere and lush green gardens, stood out from coffeehouses in other countries. These types of coffeehouses were located mainly in the financial districts of Dutch cities. They became known as places where merchants, business people and financiers conducted their business meetings.
On the 1680’s it is said that the Dutch introduced the coffee beverage to the Scandinavian countries. Today it is said that the Scandinavian countries have the highest per capita consumption of coffee in the world.
Discovery of Coffee – GERMANY
The Coffee beverage was first introduced to Germany in 1675. The first coffeehouses opened in 1679-1680 in Hamburg, Bremen and Hanover.
In the beginning, coffee was considered a beverage of only the nobility. The middle and lower classes were not introduced to coffee until the early 18th century, and it was only much later that it came to be prepared and enjoyed at home as a daily part of life.
As coffeehouses were originally the domain of men, middle class women established their own “coffee clubs”. it wasn’t long before the coffee culture spread throughout Germany.
Discovery of Coffee – America
Coffee did not reach North America until 1668. The first coffeehouse was established in New York, “The King’s Arms” which opened in 1696.
After the huge rash of “tea parties” in 1773, after the Tea Act threatened Colonial rights and created an East India Company monopoly on the tea industry, this had an large impact on coffee sales. Coffee eventually took tea’s place as the primary hot beverage in America. During these times, coffee was mainly consumed for medicinal purposes and was still too expensive to drink every day.
In 1793, New York’s first coffee roaster opened on Pearl Street, selling wholesale beans to taverns and hotels, which led to an abundance of coffee businesses along the East River ports. Since coffee importers lacked appropriate communication tools and were at the mercy of the bean-carrying ships’ arrivals into port, most of this early consumer-grade green coffee was months old, gaining unattractive qualities from the musty and damp wooden ships. Yet still the coffee industry in Lower Manhattan grew, until the “coffee crash” of 1881 wiped out the majority of the businesses, and set the trend rolling toward coffee trade pricing regulation.
Today in current times, coffee is perhaps the most popular beverage in America second only to tea.
Specialty coffee shops seem to be on almost every street and corner in the USA. The advent of espresso coffee in the early 1990’s introduced to the US through Starbuck’s in Seattle yet added another side to coffee drinking: a rich dark concentrated brew created through steam pressure called the espresso shot. This became the base of many specially coffee drinks both iced and hot. The variety of flavors from almond, to Irish cream to mochas and machiatios were unheard of in the Italian culture that originally developed espresso back in 1903 to the present.
But the concept of the multi-flavors of espresso coffee and foamy drinks was quickly embraced by Americans, and has remained a top favorite of the coffee culture in the US to this day.
In current times coffee has become one of the most important commodities in world trade.
Second only to oil, coffee is thought to be the most valuable legally traded commodity on the world. People around the world love it . . . rely on it and it is consumed with joy in massive quantities by cultures world-wide! It is estimated that approximately 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily worldwide. That’s a lot of cups of Joe!