HistoryTea W. Kandinsky, Dominant Curve, 1936

History of Coffee


It was a shepherd, called Kaldi, who discovered the use of the coffee bean about four centuries ago, in a region of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).This shepherd drew his attention to some goats, which after eating reddish berries from an evergreen bush became very active and vivacious. This happened several times and the shepherd decided to taste these strange berries for himself. Raw berries were hard to chew, so he took some to the village. The shepherd decided to roast them to make them edible. He tasted some roast beans and his sleepy eyes got wide open. All village people liked it as it kept awake during long prayers. While experimenting with the beans, people crushed the roasted seeds into powder and poured boiling water to make a tasty drink. So, in this way the coffee grains were used to brew the delicious beverage consumed all over the world nowadays.

Though green beans were used in a boiled infusion beverage well before 1000AD, roasting to produce something akin to modern day coffees doesn't seem to have any reliable history until around 1200AD. However spice roasting was well established in the Middle East long before this time and coffee could easily have been included in the wide range of condiments produced by roasting.

The arabs were the first, not only to cultivate coffee but also to begin its trade. By XV century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the XVI it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

It's popularity was perhaps due, in part, to the fact that Muslims, forridden alcoholic drink by Koran, found coffe's energizing properties to be an acceptable substitute.

Though coffee as a crop was wide spread through Arabia and North Africa, the resulting crop was distributed through the Red Sea port of "Al Makha" or Mocha. The trade in Arabica coffee was jealously guarded by the Mocha traders for many years enabling them to control the supply and command high prices. This was achieved by only allowing the export of unviable coffee beans, having been roasted or in some other way heat-treated. Only with the growth of trade with the outside world and the realization of the economic potential of coffee caused pressure on the monopoly the Arabian traders held over the coffee trade.

In 1650, the first coffeehouse opened its doors in Oxford, England, its proprietor a Turkish Jew named Jacob.  In France, the first coffeehouse opened in 1672.  By 1843, there were thousands of coffeehouses throughout Europe and the American colonies.

In America at this time, only small amounts of coffee beans were imported to the colonies for many years.  Eventually, however, Dutch and French smugglers did introduce beans in great quantity, and coffeehouses opened in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.  Most were more like taverns the genuine coffeehouses, since they served not only coffee but also chocolate, ales, beers, and wines.  They also rented rooms to sailors and travelers.  One famous coffeehouse in New England was the Green Dragon in Boston.  At first it was popular with British officers, but in later years it came to be the gathering place of John Adams, Paul Revere and other revolutionaries plotting against England.

* Coffee World