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A History of Coffee

#132 - 20 - 0 - A History of Coffee
[ 2008-03-07 00:00:00 ] - lizc

The history of coffee is a little vague and shrouded in myths and legends, but here's one version that may interest you.

Coffee has come a long way from being a little known drink that was said to be accidentally found by a goatherd named Kaldi many, many years ago. The origins of coffee as a beverage can't precisely be pinpointed but what has been recognised of its discovery was established in a popular myth that the coffee was discovered in around the 9th century.

As the legend goes, a young Ethiopian goatherd by chance noticed that the coffee berries which his goats had been eating began to have unusual side effects. Upon eating the berries, the goats seemed to leap around more, apparently having a sharp burst of energy as if affected by a stimulant. Local monks came upon the goatherd and his charges and they too were tempted to try the strange red berries, the result of which was that they were able to stay awake to complete their prayers.

The story continues that the goatherd took the strange berries to the nearby village elders, thinking that they may have magical attributes. When the elders boiled the berries with water, they discovered that the berries did indeed have a stimulating effect and they promptly began drinking the brew on a regular basis and that was apparently the beginning of coffee as a drink.

The story may have some basis in fact since it is known today that the first coffee berries originated in Ethiopia and spread throughout the East as the Ethiopians began trading with the Arabs.

The Arabs, in turn, began to treat coffee as a highly prized plant which they guarded closely against being exported outside the Islamic world while still fertile. To make the beans infertile, they were boiled or roasted and thus no coffee grew outside Africa and Arabia until the 1600s. Tradition continues that Baba Budan, and Indian pilgrim and/or smuggler journeyed from Mecca carrying fertile seeds. These seeds were planted and bore fruit and thus became available in many of the European colonies of Africa and India.

A merchant from Venice was told about ad strange black liquid drunk by the Turks and thus in 1615, coffee was introduced to the Europeans and the first coffee shops were established in Austria, Italy and England. It wasn't until the following year, however, that the Dutch managed to smuggle an actual coffee plant into Europe and it was another 80 years before they founded the first European-owned coffee estate in Java, now part of Indonesia.

By the 18th century, the French were able to introduce the plant to the Americas where it has grown into a highly valued crop, particularly in Brazil, which is world renowned for its coffee growing. Currently, coffee is grown on five continents and has become one of the most traded commodities on the world market.

It took a considerable length of time but the lowly coffee bean has become one of the most highly regarded plants known today as well as being one of the most popular drinks. I hope you've enjoyed this brief history of coffee and that it doesn't conflict too much with others that you've read.
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