History of Coffee
For many people today, it is almost unimaginable to start the day without their favourite drink – coffee. According to some sources, coffee is the third most commonly consumed drink in the world, after water and tea. It is consumed even more than beer. This is why we are interested in the history of coffee, and how it has become so popular.
The way coffee passed, from an unknown bush in Ethiopia to every corner of the globe, is a story of discovery, trade, new ideas and the bans against coffee. It is a story about the first successful revolution where slaves overthrew oppressors and won the war against Napoleon. It is the story of how coffee has become a favourite drink for breakfast, when before it was beer.
Unlike many other widespread drinks such as beer, tea or wine, coffee has come relatively late to the world stage. The first cafés were founded in Mecca at the end of the 14th century. In Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, it was in 1555, named Kiva Han. The first café on the European continent was opened in Venice in 1645.
That’s why we have decided to investigate and answer the important questions like: Where does coffee come from? Who invented coffee? When was coffee invented?
Who discovered coffee and how was coffee discovered?
The history of coffee begins with legends. The most famous one is from Ethiopia, while the others are from Yemen. Coffee is a big part of culture and tradition in both countries, so it is no surprise that both claim coffee origin.
The Ethiopian legend states a shepherd named Kaldi noticed that his goats became unusually active and loud after consuming red berries from a bush. He decided to try the berries and felt the same energizing effect. First, of course, he decided to share his discovery with his wife, and she advised him to take the berries to a nearby monastery.
Unfortunately, the monks did not share his enthusiasm and as true people of that time, they decided to act accordingly to everything that is new. They declared the berries “Devil’s work” and like all the other deceitful acts, they were thrown into the fire. However, the smell of roasted coffee was very tempting and woke up their hedonistic nature, so they took the beans out of the fire. They washed them with hot water to preserve them, and that is how first coffee was made. At least, according to the Ethiopian tradition.
The legend of Yemen is different. Actually, there are two of them. The first one in narrative, is very similar to Ethiopian legend and the discovery of coffee attributes to Yemenite Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. On his journey through Ethiopia, he noticed birds with unusually energized behaviour after eating red beans from a coffee plant. He decided to take the berries with him to Yemen and so he got coffee. Although this is a Yemeni legend, the coffee origin is still in Ethiopia.
Another legend says that Sheikh Omar, who was Sheik Abou’l Hasan Schadheli’s disciple, was credited for the discovery of coffee. He was a doctor-priest who lived in the city of Mocha (Mocca) in Yemen. For his treatment of the princess, he felt the wrath of the king and was expelled from the city. Out of hunger, he was forced to eat the unknown red berries. It turned out that these berries were too bitter to chew, so he tried to bake them on the fire. Baked, they were too hard to chew, so then he tried to cook them, by doing this he discovered the alluring and pleasant smell of coffee. Instead of eating boiled berries, he drank the potion and realized it had an energetic and revitalizing effect.
Since he was a doctor, he quickly realized the potential of the drink and shared his discovery with the surrounding villagers. Soon the news of his discovery reached Mocha, from where he was expelled. The sentence was withdrawn and he could finally return, glorious and celebrated as never before. After death, he was proclaimed a saint, and a monastery was built in his honour in Mocha.
Archaeologists, in early records about 900 BC, found evidence of using coffee as a medicine in the Arab world – against anaemia, common cold and constipation.
Scientists also believe that the chewing of red berries, as a stimulus, is widely known in Ethiopia, distinctly in the Kaffa region. According to some sources, coffee beans were consumed as porridge.
Regardless of the legends, it is certain that coffee draws its origins from Ethiopia, and that its use has been enhanced and popularised in Yemen. In any case, the first written record of making coffee dates to the 15th century in the records from the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. They used coffee as a stimulant in their religious rituals.
From Yemen, coffee spread to Mecca and Medina at the beginning of the 15th century, and then a few decades later to Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and Aleppo in Syria. Yemen was the centre of growing and trading coffee, and the main trade port was Mocha. The well-known Mocha coffee is named after this port. By the early 16th century coffee had spread all over the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. Few decades later, coffee was also known in the Ottoman and Persian Empire.
Özdemir Pasha, Governor of Yemen, is an important figure in the history of coffee. During the rule of Suleiman, the Magnificent he was the one who brought coffee to the Ottoman Empire. The coffee quickly became popular in the court, where a new method of making coffee was introduced. Green coffee beans were roasted on the fire, grounded to powder and boiled with water on coal ash.
The importance of coffee at the Osman Palace is also evident by the fact that a new position in court was introduced – Chief Coffee Maker (kahvecibaşı). This position has become very influential over time. Some of them even became Grand Viziers or in today’s terms Prime Ministers. It did not take long for coffee to spread from the court to the nobility palaces, and from there into the homes of all strata of the population. The first café in Istanbul, the then capital city, was opened in 1555, named Kiva Han.
It will be shown that the Turks should be credited for introducing Europeans to coffee. During the Great Siege of Malta, whilst the captured Turkish soldiers made coffee, for themselves, the locals also became interested in the drink, so Malta became the first part of Europe to be introduced to coffee.
The History of coffee on the European continent begins in Venice. Skilled Turkish merchants did not take long to convince their equally skilled Venetian colleagues to start trading coffee, until then an unknown commodity in Europe. By the end of the 16th-century coffee was well known in Venice. At first, it was sold on the street by lemonade vendors. Then in 1645 the first café was opened, and it was the first of its kind on the European continent.
By the end of the 16th century, another small but powerful trading force was formed. It was the Netherlands. They were the first in Europe who saw the huge potential of coffee. In the early 17th century, they brought few coffee bushes from Yemen and grew them in Amsterdam greenhouses. Four decades later, when coffee shops open across Europe, they became the largest suppliers of coffee to Europe. Based on experience in cultivation and emerging demand, they switched production to their Ceylon colony (present-day Sri Lanka). A few years later, production was switched to the island of Java and Suriname.
Although coffee was known in England at the end of the 16th century, the first café was founded in Oxford in 1654. Only 9 years after the one in Venice. It was Queen’s Lane Coffee House, which has been operating continuously ever since.
Soon cafes were opened in London and other cities, and until 1675 in England there were over 3000 cafés.
This was also the time of enlightenment, discovery and new ideas, and cafes became an idyllic gathering place. Thus, some sort of social and political hub. That is why the re-established King Charles II did not look at the cafes with enthusiasm. In 1675 he even attempted to prohibit them, unsuccessfully, of course.
Alongside the King, women of that time were also suspicious about cafes, and even a year before the king’s unsuccessful attempt to ban cafes, they launched the anonymous “Women’s Petition Against Coffee”, in which among other things was stated:
the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE …has…Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.
Charles II was not the first or the only one who wanted to forbid coffee innhold. The first such attempt was made in 1511 in Mecca, where the governor considered that coffee encourages gatherings and radical thoughts. He was afraid the new habit could unite the opposition, and therefore he decided to ban cafes and the custom of drinking coffee in general.
The radical Christians have been reluctant about coffee, as well. When it appeared in Italy, at the end of the 16th century, they declared it a Satanic potion. They even asked the Pope to ban coffee. However, after tasting coffee, Pope Clement VIII, a skilled diplomat and politician decided to do the complete opposite. He baptized coffee and declared it a Christian drink, which gave extra wind to the sails for coffee spreading right across Europe.
Even in Turkey coffee was forbidden for a short period of time. At the beginning of the 17th century, Murad IV banned coffee for a while, with very severe sanctions. For the first offence the penalty was a beating. For the second, the offender was tied in a sack and thrown into the Bosporus.
Hundreds of years later, coffee was banned in Sweden. King Gustav III ordered coffee to be given to prisoners sentenced for heaviest offences, in order to determine the harm of coffee. It is an interesting fact that all the prisoners, who participated in the experiment, outlived him.
Even Frederick the Great of Prussia attempted to ban coffee, trying to popularize beer as the right drink to start the day. He failed. Although Germans are considered beer lovers, coffee is still more popular.
A new moment in the history of coffee will come from the famous French King Louis XIV.
During his rule, coffee Turkish Ambassador – Süleyman Ağa brought coffee to Paris. He was popular among the aristocracy, and in his salon, guests were served new and exotic drinks – coffee. Like other countries, France was no exception, and coffee spread rapidly to Paris, and later across the whole of France. The first café in Paris was Café de Procope, opened in 1686. This café became the gathering place for the artists and philosophers of that time, among which were Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot.
Besides philosophers, coffee has attracted attention to somebody else, King Luis XIV, the most powerful ruler of Europe. A new moment in the history of coffee will come from him.
To make coffee affordable for the masses and to get rid of the Dutch monopoly on the coffee trade, his intention was to grow coffee in France. Unfortunately for him, this was not possible due to the inappropriate climate. However, Luis XIV did not intend to give up, so he ordered that the royal Jardin des Plantes in Paris be built for that purpose. It was possible to grow coffee under controlled conditions in greenhouses, but not in sufficient quantities.
The solution was to switch coffee cultivation to a more appropriate location. Accordingly, the king ordered the sea-captain Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu to take several plants and transfer them to French possessions in the Caribbean. In 1723 De Clieu planted the first coffee on the island of Martinique, where coffee cultivation flourished at incredible speed. More than 15,000 shrubs of coffee were growing on the island by the middle of the 18th century. Thats coffee spread to other French ruled areas of the Caribbean, including Saint-Domingue, or today’s Haiti.
Like in all the French colonial properties, the coffee cultivation depended on imported slaves from Africa. Due to the working conditions and the inhumane treatment from slave-owners, slaves revolted in 1791. The rebellion ended in 1804 with independence and the abolition of slavery. This was the largest and most important anti-colonial and anti-slavery event to date, including Spartacus uprising in Rome 2000 years ago, where former slaves fought for their freedom. It had a huge impact on the later abolition of slavery and the fight against racism.
At about the same time as the Turkish Ambassador popularized coffee in Paris, the Turks brought it and in another powerful empire in Europe – the Habsburg Monarchy. Only the way Vienna was introduced to coffee was very different to the events in Paris. In 1683 Vienna was besieged by a huge Turkish army, but thanks to the help of the Polish king, the Turkish army was defeated and expelled from the monarchy. Among the loot, there were more than 500 bags of coffee. For the winners, coffee was unknown. They thought it was food for the camels, and decided to throw in the Danube. However, a lucky and skillful Polish nobleman Kolschitzky, part of the Polish contingent who liberated Vienna, knew what it was. He spent a few years in the Ottoman Empire and therefore he was familiar with Turkish customs.
He asked, and without problem got coffee. Soon he began to sell coffee in Vienna, first door to door and then he opened a tent on the central square and made Viennese crazy for coffee. For his efforts the Viennese would repay him massively. A street was named after him, and even a monument was built in his honour, which still stands today.
The very first café in Vienna was opened in 1683. In 2011, UNESCO included Viennese coffee house culture in the national inventory of intangible cultural heritage.
Only a few years later there would be another important event in coffee history. The Portuguese king also wanted to get some coffee and ordered a certain Francisco de Mello Palheta to find the precious shrubs. Not everything went smoothly since the French were not interested in sharing their secrets, so De Mello Palheta, determined to prove himself, had to turn to other means. He won the heart of the wife of the Governor of French Guyana, as a gift, without her husband’s knowledge, she smuggled him enough coffee plants to start a plantation. Which he took to what was then the Portuguese colony of BrazilIn the next 100 years, Brazil would become the world’s largest producer of coffee, and still is today.
In 1730 the British started to cultivate coffee in Jamaica, and ever since coffee is a widely available commodity.
The next contestant on the road to the conquest of the world of coffee, was the United States. Although coffee was known there already at the end of the 17th century, the real incentive for spreading coffee came to the forefront of the American War of Independence. After the Boston Tea Party, the vast majority of citizens who supported independence from the British Crown dismissed tea as unpatriotic which opened the door to the coffee popularization.
Let us mention as an interesting fact that Brazil could not pay the costs of their Olympic team for the games in Los Angeles in 1932. However, they supplied the national team with a sufficient amount of coffee, which they were selling during the Olympic Games to support themselves.
Today, the biggest coffee lowers in the world are the Finns, with 12 kg of coffee per capita per year. Immediately behind them are other Scandinavian countries Sweden, Iceland and Norway.
And to end an aphorism that I really liked – Life happens, coffee helps.