The Dramatic History Of Coffee

Coffee history is an exciting history, full of drama and an amazing aptitude for survival. Coffee has been coveted by many a nation for its income producing ability. From uncertain origins, to elixir for the elite, to a drink for the people, coffee has come a long way baby.

The legend most commonly attributed to the original discovery of the effects of coffee refers to an Ethiopian goat herder, Kaldi. It is said that he noticed his goats dancing jubilantly around a green bush with red berries. Deducing the berries were the cause of the euphoria, he tried some of the berries himself. He soon discovered he felt the same euphoria and joined in the dancing. He then took his discovery to a monk, and word spread from there.

Coffee as we know it, a hot drink brewed from roasted beans , began in Arabia around AD 1000. By the 13th century, Muslims were addicted, and where ever Islam went, coffee followed. Arabia made sure exported beans were infertile by boiling or parching them, and it is said that no coffee bean sprouted outside of Africa or Arabia until the 1600s. That is when Baba Budan left Mecca with fertile beans strapped to his belly. This kicked off an agricultural expansion and somewhat of a war for the coveted drinks origins that would last for years.

The Dutch sprouted the first plant in Europe in 1616. In 1714, King Louis XIV of France received a coffee tree that resided in his garden. A young naval officer asked for a clipping to take back with him and was denied. The officer the proceeded to lead a midnight raid on the garden, escaping with clippings from the coveted plant, and boarded ship with them.

The ship met many trials, but the seedlings survived. There were storms, pirates, and drought, not to mention jealous shipmates, one of whom actually stripped a branch from the fragile plant. At one point, the officer gave up half of his water rations to the young plant. It was planted and kept under armed guard in Martinique, and yielded approximately 18 million trees in about 50 years.

In 1727 the Brazilian government wanted a cut of the coffee trade, but they needed fertile beans from a coffee country. Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta was commissioned with the task. Sent to French Guiana under the guise of settling a boarder dispute, he knew it would be a challenge to penetrate the coffee farms. He chose the path of least resistance, and befriended the Govenor’s wife. The plan worked. At a state farewell party, she presented him with a bouquet as a token of her affection. It was spiked with coffee seedlings.

From these shoots rose Brazils coffee empire. It is at this point in coffee history that the drink begins to evolve from elixir for the elite to a drink for the people. Today it is marketed all over the world in a wide variety of flavors and for a wide range of prices.

S. Brooks is a specialized researcher focusing on providing valuable information & solutions for every day issues.

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