A brief history of coffee

Most of us kiwis enjoy a good cup of coffee on a daily basis. We’re pretty proud of our high standards in coffee. Whether it’s from your local barista or home brewed, coffee has been and will always be an essential element of Kiwi social culture.

Coffee has been around us for hundreds of years which is also the second largest legally traded commodity in the world.

Let’s have a look at the history of coffee.

A goat discovered coffee?

It is believed that an Ethiopian herdsman named Kaldi observed his goats behaving unusually and full of energy. He noticed the herd chewed cherry-like fruit from a certain tree. Fascinated by this, Kaldi himself tried the fruit and experienced the effects of the cherries.

Kaldi then reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink with the cherries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. Soon after, the word of these magical berries spread, and beloved coffee beans were discovered.

First use

When unprocessed, coffee is a cherry like fruit which becomes red when ripe, and the coffee bean is found at the centre of the fruit. Before coffee became popular as a beverage, it was consumed in other forms.  Ancient tribes in Ethiopia mixed the berry with ghee, a clarified butter, and pressed the mixture into a scrumptious power bar. Their warriors marched into battle with their new, energizing snack.

It wasn’t until the 15th century that people began to roast coffee beans, the first step in the process of making coffee as we know it today.

Origin of the word “coffee”

The word “coffee” was derived from the Dutch koffie in the early 1500. In Yemen it earned the name qahwah, which was originally a romantic term for wine. It later became the Turkish kahveh, then Dutch koffie.

History

The first use of modern day roasted coffee believed to be originated in Arabia. In the 13th century, coffee was extremely popular with the Muslim community.

The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century, in Yemen‘s Sufi monasteries.

The word qahwah originally meant wine, and Sufis in Yemen used the beverage as an aid to concentration and to keep themselves alert during their night time devotions.

From the Middle East the popularity of coffee soon spread through the Balkans, Italy and to the rest of Europe, east to Indonesia and then west to the Americas, largely through the Dutch.

Introduction of coffee to Europe

Coffee was first introduced to Europe on the island of Malta in the 16th century. By the 17th century, coffee was becoming popular across the entire European continent.

The concept of a coffee house, which was originated in Arabia, was soon becoming a phenomenon in Europe. People were entertained at coffee houses by musical performances, dancing, games, and discussions of breaking news of the day. These coffee houses soon became known as ‘schools of the wise’, the place you went to if you wanted to know what was going on in your world.

Coffee replaced the common breakfast drink beverages of the time – beer and wine which lead people starting their day alert and energized.

Introduction of coffee to Americas

Americas got its first taste of coffee via the introduction of coffee seedlings to Martinique in the Caribbean in 1720.

The French territory of Saint-Domingue started cultivating coffee in 1734 and by 1788 it supplied half the world’s coffee.

Brazil became the largest producer of coffee in the world by 1852 and it has held that status ever since.

Coffee had become a worldwide commodity by the end of the 1800s, which allowed entrepreneurs to look for ways to profit from the popular beverage. Around this time the world saw the birth of the self-emptying coffee bean roaster and pre-roasted coffee in paper bags.

From 1960s onwards, the popularity of specialty coffee started to grow. As a result, the opening of first Starbucks took place in Seattle in 1971.

With a proud history of hundreds of years, coffee plays a vital part in world’s economy.

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