The history of coffee - from Ethiopia around the world


Posted on Oct 16, 2022      40


Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. Perhaps that’s why it has been hotly debated in society, and its history is shrouded in legends. At different times, coffee was forbidden and declared a “devil’s potion”, but this did not prevent it from winning fans all over the world.

When and where did coffee first appear?

Legends say that the origin of the coffee tree is in Ethiopia, and the first mentions in scientific treatises date back to the V century. It is said that there was a herdsman, Caldim, who discovered the beans. The goats he was tending liked the evergreen shrubs with reddish berries and ate them.

The shepherd noticed the goats became more active and faster after a meal like this. So he tasted the berries himself. They turned out to be tasteless, but gave a tired Caldim strength and vivacity. He told about it to the abbot of the monastery, who gave a decoction from the plant to the monks, so they would not fall asleep during a long service. Gradually, the inhabitants of the area took an interest in the invigorating elixir.

Another legend has it that it was an Ethiopian physician who invented coffee. After finding a tree with fragrant shrubs, he prepared a decoction from the seeds and leaves. After he drank some, the doctor felt a burst of energy and began experimenting. He added healing infusions to the decoction, and the resulting potions cured even seriously ill patients. The author kept the recipe of the miraculous elixir a secret until the end of his life, and only before his death told his son about it.

According to another version, the coffee was found by Sheikh Omar when he was in exile and hiding in a cave. When he woke up in the morning, he heard a beautiful bird singing and followed its voice. Seeing the fragrant tree, the sheikh could not resist. Once he tasted a decoction of the wonderful berries, he fell firmly in love with the taste.

The story of the origin of coffee is also connected with the archangel Gabriel. Legend has it he used a coffee decoction in Ethiopia to heal Mohammed, who was dying and for whom no other remedy worked. The unusual black elixir restored vitality and mental clarity to the patient.

The history of coffee cultivation began in the VII century on the territory of modern Yemen. At first the beans were simply boiled, ground and added to food. They also tried to make tinctures with water. In the 12th century, plantations appeared here. For almost 200 years, this country was the major supplier of coffee to the Orient.

How did the drink become popular?

In the middle of the 15th century, aromatic beans reached Turkey, wherefrom coffee reached Central Asia. This was an important stage in the drink's history. The citizens of Constantinople liked it so much that a few years later, the first coffee shop in the world opened there.

Gradually, the technology of brewing changed. Earlier coffee beans were steeped in water, but the Turks thought of roasting and grinding them first. This improved the taste considerably and coffee gained popularity in the Orient. The Arabs used to say kahwa, which means “to drive away sleep. The Turks changed the name to “kahwe”, from which the word “coffee” was derived, which has caught on in European languages.

As the art of brewing developed, the drink was not only consumed at home but also brewed in public. This is how the history of coffee houses began. At first they were simple huts, but later they became chic and comfortable establishments, which later opened in Europe. Coffee houses contributed to the growing popularity of the invigorating drink, and people came to them to listen to music, watch artists, and exchange information.

However, the history of coffee was not all that smooth. The coffee craze that swept Turkey in the 16th century worried the authorities. They believed it unleashed tongues by provoking unwanted conversations about politics. Coffee was banned and bags of beans were thrown into the sea. But even this did not stop people from drinking their favourite drink.

How did coffee spread all over Europe?

Coffee first appeared in Europe in 1615, when the first cup of coffee was drunk there. The locals were introduced to it thanks to travelers who, upon their arrival from the Middle East, told them about the unusual black brew and let them try it.

However, healers and the clergy for some time forbade the use of this “devil’s potion”, “the bitter invention of Satan”. Eventually, Pope Clement VII had to intervene. He tasted the coffee. He liked the taste, so the head of the church allowed it to be consumed.

A new round of coffee history in Europe was in the XVII century, when many coffee houses appeared in different cities of England, France, Germany, Austria and Holland, which became centers of social life. In England, the so-called “penny universities” appeared. This name came from the popular establishments where visitors socialized over a cup of flavored drink at a price of 1 pence.

Over time, a tradition emerged of starting the morning not with wine and beer, as had been the custom in the past, but with coffee. Unlike alcohol, it was energizing and invigorating, and gave strength to work. In the middle of the XVII century in London alone, there were already over 300 coffee houses. Many of them gained regular visitors, which included merchants, brokers and artists.


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