Have you ever been enjoying a cup of coffee and wonder how we got this delicious drink in the first place? It’s one thing to discover the coffee tree. It’s quite another to end up with a fine beverage that is loved the world around.
Think about it. The tree had to be discovered. The fruit (cherries) had to be discovered. The coffee seeds (beans) had to be discovered. Someone had to figure out to dry the beans, roast the beans, and grind the beans. Then someone had to run water through the beans and then be brave enough to drink it. Then someone had to create a reliable way to make a tasty coffee drink.
And that’s just the beginning.
How It All Began
After doing some homework, it seems the very beginning of coffee’s history, namely the discovery of coffee itself, is a little hazy. That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. It starts with a story. In fact, there is more than one story.
One such account is of a goat herder whose name was Kaldi. It is said that one day while watching his herd he saw something interesting. He noticed that his goats were chewing on the fruit of the coffee tree, coffee cherries as we now know them to be. He then noticed his goats began dancing and jumping around very energetically. Wondering if this could be so, Kaldi did like his goats and ate the cherries. He found himself full of energy like his goats!
The tale goes on to say that Kaldi took the cherries to a local monastery and the priests, thinking they were a tool of the devil, threw them into a fire. Once in the fire, they were roasted creating a rich, enticing aroma. The story goes on to say they used these roasted beans to create the first coffee, which turns out to be quite heavenly.
Then there is the story of the Sufi from Yemen, the mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (Try saying that five times fast). When traveling in Ethiopia, the legend goes, he observed birds of unusual vitality, and, upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality.
Yet another account states the discovery of coffee was by Sheik Abou’l Hasan Schadheli’s disciple, Omar. According to an ancient manuscript, Omar was once exiled from Mocha to a desert cave. As he grew hungry, he chewed berries from nearby shrubs (coffee berries). When he did this he discovered that had bitter taste. In his attempt to improve the flavor somehow, Omar tried roasting the beans, but they hardened in the process. So, then he boiled them in an attempt to soften them up. To the luck of the world, this resulted in a wonderful smelling dark brown liquid. When Omar drank his newly found beverage he was full of energy. When this story reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.
Another story involves a goat-herd, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a Muslim holy man in a nearby monastery. But the holy man disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed and the holy men came. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee.
So Where Did The First Coffee Come From?
Tales aside, it seems Kaffa, Ethiopia was the the region where coffee was discovered around 600 AD. At this time, people weren’t drinking coffee as we know it. Instead they were taking in the crushed cherries for energy & focus for tasks like doing battle or long prayer vigils.
Some say coffee, as the hot beverage we know of today, came about in the tenth century. The people of Turkey began drinking it this way. Other sources say that coffee drinking began in Yemen in the 15th century. In either case, coffee drinking began to spread around the globe through Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean areas and Western Europe.
Throughout early coffee history, the spread of coffee drinking happened at varying rates among different regions based on proximity to coffee, availability and debates among religions about coffee drinking. Both the Muslim and Christian religions had periods where it was debated whether or not coffee was acceptable. As we see today, as time went on coffee became an acceptable practice and is popular world wide.
According to records, it looks as though by the middle 1500s the first public coffee houses sprang up in places like in what today is known as Saudi Arabia. Then they began to show up in Europe, as well.
A New Age of Coffee
The 1600s brought coffee into a new age. The popularity of coffee was sky rocketing in Europe. With the growing ability to ship coffee by ship over the oceans, countries in Europe had a greater control over their coffee drinking lives. The Dutch and other European countries created a vibrant coffee industry right on through to the industrial age, where things took a new step.
In the industrial age, like so many things, companies began using precise systems of roasting and grinding on a large scale. Quality coffee was going to be available to the masses at very affordable prices. In 1865, the first canned coffee was produced.
As processes improved, people enjoyed the convenience of canned coffee and most people purchased it that was into the roaring 20s. Instant coffee was invented in 1910, but didn’t catch on right away. The 1930s (and war) popularized instant coffee. Soldiers liked to drink coffee and this was a solution that would allow them to have it.
Coffee in Modern Times
Throughout the 20th century coffee became more and more of a household staple. In America in the 1950s and 1960s, a can of ground coffee beans was in almost every house. Coffee became one of the most popular commodity products in the world. With the commercialization of coffee, some felt that coffee could use an improvement and a return back to days of small roastings and a focus on producing great flavor.
So, in the 70s and 80s, high quality fresh beans and specialty coffee became popular. With that was the start of the modern coffee culture that has brought about the tons of great coffee shops, local roasters, home roasters and so much more.
Today this includes small specialty coffee shops where they roast and brew their own selcetion of beans ot large scale operations like Starbucks that provide a wide variety of coffee and espresso drinks from a simple espresso to creative, tasty recipes involving chocolate and caramel.
These days, the coffee culture has both convenience and flavor. A person can find a cup of coffee very easily. Coffee is offered in all kinds of eating establishments, mini marts, national coffee chains like Dunkin Donuts and small coffee houses.
The interest in making great coffee at home is also picking up. So, while some purists look down upon the large scale coffee operations, the convenience and accessibility it provided for people over the years has allowed people to the opportunity to enjoy coffee and now explore the world of coffee at home and small specialty coffee operations.
The Art and Craft of Coffee, Kevin Sinnott | wikipedia.com