COFFEE BEAN ORIGIN
Tracing the Origin of Coffee Beans: From Kaldi to the World
Discover the Origins of the Energizing Coffee Bean: A Journey from Ethiopia to the World
Coffee, a drink that has energized millions around the world, has a rich history that dates back to the Ethiopian plateau. According to legend, it was a goat herder named Kaldi who first discovered the wonders of coffee beans. After observing the energetic goats after they ate the berries, Kaldi shared his finding with the local monastery’s abbot.
The abbot, in turn, made a drink from the berries and found that it kept him alert during the long prayer hours. This discovery was shared among the other monks, and slowly but surely, the knowledge of the energizing coffee beans began to spread.
Starting from the east, the coffee beans embark on a journey that would take them across the globe, from the Ethiopian plateau to the Arabian Peninsula. Join us as we trace the fascinating history of coffee, and discover how this simple bean became a global phenomenon.
The Arabian Peninsula
As early as the 15th century, coffee was being cultivated in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the 16th century, it had reached Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. During this time, coffee was a popular drink enjoyed in public coffee houses, known as qahveh khaneh, which emerged across the Near East. People gathered at these coffee houses not just for the delicious drink, but also for socializing and exchanging ideas.
The coffee houses eventually gained a reputation as “Schools of the Wise” as they became a hub for information and knowledge. The popularity of coffee continued to spread, especially with the thousands of pilgrims visiting Mecca each year from all over the world. The “wine of Araby” quickly became a widely recognized and appreciated drink, marking the beginning of coffee’s journey from Yemen to the world.
Coffee Comes to Europe
In the early days of the 17th century, tales of a mysterious dark beverage began to spread across Europe. The tales had been brought back by travelers to the Near East, who had discovered the unique taste and energizing effects of coffee. Despite initial suspicion and fear, coffee soon gained popularity across the continent and became a staple of social gatherings and conversation.
However, not everyone was excited about the arrival of coffee in Europe. When it first reached Venice in 1615, the local clergy condemned it as the “bitter invention of Satan.” The controversy was so significant that Pope Clement VIII was asked to weigh in. To the surprise of many, he tasted the beverage himself and was impressed by its flavor, giving it papal approval and paving the way for its widespread acceptance.
As coffee gained popularity, coffeehouses sprang up in major cities like England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland. These establishments became known as “penny universities” because for the price of a cup of coffee, people could engage in lively conversation and exchange of information. With the growing popularity of coffee, the journey of the coffee bean origin from its birthplace in Ethiopia to Europe had come full circle.
The New World
The Arrival of Coffee in the New World: The mid-1600s saw the introduction of coffee to New Amsterdam, which later became known as New York after the British takeover.
Despite its debut, tea remained the preferred drink among the colonists in the New World until 1773. This was when the American Revolution erupted against King George III’s heavy tax on tea, leading to the famous Boston Tea Party. The event was a significant turning point in American history as it marked a shift in the nation’s drinking preference from tea to coffee. The widespread popularity of coffee in the New World solidified its place as a staple beverage in American culture.
Plantations Around the World
As the popularity of coffee continued to rise, various countries aimed to cultivate the plant outside of Arabia. After a series of failed attempts by the Dutch to plant coffee seedlings in India, they finally found success in Batavia on the island of Java, which is now known as Indonesia. The coffee plants grew exceptionally well in this region and soon, the Dutch were able to establish a thriving coffee trade.
Inspired by their success, the Dutch went on to expand their coffee production efforts to other islands such as Sumatra and Celebes. The flourishing coffee industry soon made Batavia one of the world’s major coffee centers, and Java coffee became known for its high quality and distinctive flavor. The expansion of coffee cultivation in Java also played a significant role in solidifying the position of the Dutch East India Company as a dominant player in the global coffee trade. With the increased demand for coffee, the coffee bean origin was no longer limited to Arabia, but had spread far and wide, becoming an essential part of the daily lives of millions of people worldwide.
Coming to the Americas
As the demand for coffee increased, the race to cultivate coffee beyond Arabia intensified. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam gifted a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France, who then ordered its planting in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723, a young naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu was able to secure a seedling from the King’s plant, overcoming the obstacles of unfavorable weather conditions, a saboteur’s attempt to destroy it, and a pirate attack, to successfully transport it to Martinique. The seedling thrived and in just 50 years, there were 18 million coffee trees on the island.
Francisco de Mello Palheta played a crucial role in the establishment of the renowned Brazilian coffee industry. Sent by the emperor to French Guiana to obtain coffee seedlings, the French Governor’s wife, smitten by Palheta’s charm, ultimately gave him a bouquet of flowers containing enough coffee seeds to start what is now a billion-dollar industry.
From then on, coffee seeds continued to spread across the world through various means, including the efforts of missionaries, travelers, traders, and colonists. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had established itself as one of the world’s most profitable export crops, second only to crude oil. The widespread cultivation of coffee beans contributed to its global influence and popularity.