CURIOUS FACTS - history of coffee


The Legend of Coffee: History of amazing drink

There are many legends associated with coffee. And now experts don’t have consensus about the origin of the name. Some believe that the "coffee" comes from the Arabic "kaue" – meaning: force, energy. Others associate the name with South Ethiopian Province called Kaffa, where even today there are Arabic coffee forests preserved.

The story of the discovery of coffee, a favorite drink of all mankind is lost in the ages. There are a number of differing stories as to the origin of coffee and how it was discovered. One story is that of an exiled Arab Sheik who saved himself from starvation by making a soup from the berries of the coffee shrub. The most common is, however, that of Kaldi the goatherd or shepherd who, in around 600-800 AD, was tending to his animals on the mountainside one night in Eastern Africa, most likely modern day Ethiopia, when he noticed that they were acting strangely. On investigating this he realised that they had been eating the cherry-red berries of a nearby shrub. As a result of this they remained awake, jumping and leaping around the whole night - even the older goats. Curious, the goat herder picked some and tasted them himself. He found that they invigorated him and made him more wide awake.

It was about this time that a monk called Chadely or Scyadly from a nearby monastery was passing. The goatherd told him about the goats and he demanded to be shown this plant. Kaldi showed the monk a pretty little shrub with a greyish bark and brilliant foliage, the slender branches of which, at the base of their leaves, had bunches of small white flowers mingles with clusters of small berries, some green, riper ones a clear yellow colour and yet others, which had reached complete maturity, of the size, shape and colour of a cherry. It was the coffee shrub.

The monk, wishing to try the effects of these berries, crushed a few into a powder and poured boiling water over them to make a drink. This was the first cup of coffee - it was not until much later, however, that coffee was first roasted. .Impressed with the results of the drink in making him wider awake and yet not affecting his intellectual capabilities, the monk took the new discovery back to his monastery realising that it would help him and his fellow monks stay awake during their long hours of prayer. Coffee soon spread from monastery to monastery and, therefore, became in much demand with devout Muslims, believing it to be a divine gift brought by an angel from heaven to the faithful.

And so coffee had been discovered. In the centuries that followed, the people of this land absorbed coffee into their culture and daily routine. It was not, however, until later that coffee was discovered by the outside world.


Coffee's Journey Around the World

Coffee Leaves Africa
Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula, and were first cultivated in what today is the country of Yemen.
From there, coffee traveled to Turkey where coffee beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today

Coffee Arrives in Europe
Coffee first arrived on the European continent by means of Venetian trade merchants. Once in Europe this new beverage fell under harsh criticism from the Catholic Church. Many felt the pope should ban coffee, calling it the drink of the devil. To their surprise, the pope, already a coffee drinker, blessed coffee declaring it a truly Christian beverage.
Coffee houses spread quickly across Europe becoming centers for intellectual exchange. Many great minds of Europe used this beverage, and forum, as a springboard to heightened thought and creativity.

Coffee Travels to America
In the 1700's, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French infantry captain who nurtured one small plant on its long journey across the Atlantic. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean Island of Martinique, became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. It was from this humble beginning that the coffee plant found its way to the rest of the tropical regions of South and Central America.
Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonized United States by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown.

Coffee in the 21st Century
Today, coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people. This commodity ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide. With over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is the world's most popular beverage. If you can imagine, in Brazil alone, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants.
Sales of premium specialty coffees in the United States have reached the multi billion-dollar level, and are increasing significantly on an annual basis


ARABICA and ROBUSTA Which bean is right for you?

It’s the age old battle of the caffeine freak – what’s the better bean, the classier, subtler, harder to grow Arabica, or the hardy, beefy, robust Robusta bean?

The answer, generally, is considered to be Arabica, the same way that famous film connoisseur of fine wine, Miles from Sideways, will steer clear of a Merlot in favor of a Chateau Cheval Blanc. But here’s the thing – the Chateua Cheval Blanc that Miles so adores is actually a blend of Merlot and another wine he slams in the movie – Cabernet Franc.

And that’s what makes the Arabica vs Robusta question so hard to really conclusively answer - some of the best coffee around has a little of each.

Arabica is grown high up in the mountains, and it requires a lot of tender loving care to keep it happy. That, of course, makes it more expensive to grow, and thus drink. To keep prices down, your friendly neighborhood corporate coffeehouse will add the cheaper, hardier, easier to grow, Robusta beans to their blend, kind of the same way a cocaine dealer might throw a little baking soda into his stash to bring about a better profit. You’ll still get a buzz, but it won’t quite be as pure as it might have been, if you know what I mean (and no, you should never use cocaine, but you see the point I’m trying to make here).

Ultimately, unless you’re , you probably don’t need to know much about Arabica and Robusta, other than to know they exist. The Arabica, with twice as many chromosomes as the Robusta, has great complexity to it, which makes it a great home choice, but the Robusta is really the bean that has made low-cost coffee drinking possible. If you can take its slightly more bitter taste (and many prefer it), it’s a great inexpensive option.