Coffee Notes, by Jay Spencer Seiler


The history of Coffee
November 3, 2009, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Since the title of my blog is coffee notes, I thought it apropos to provide a history of Coffee,that wonderful beverage, one of the elixirs of life. This history is from ABOUT.COM.

For us Westerners coffee is three hundred years old, but in the East it was widespread as a beverage, in every level of society, since earlier times. The first definite dates go back to 800 b.C.; but already Homer, and many Arabian legends, tell the story of a mysterious black and bitter beverage with powers of stimulation. In the year 1000 about, Avicenna was administering coffee as a medecine. And there is a strange story, dating from 1400, of a Yemeni shepherd who, having observed some goats cropping reddish berries from a bush, and subsequently becoming restless and excited, reported the incident to a monk. The latter boiled the berries, and then distilled a bitter beverage, rich in strength, and capable of dispersing sleep and weariness.

However the discovery occurred, the fact remains that the coffee plant was born in Africa in an Ethiopian region (Kaffa). From there it spread to Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it developed enormously, and entered popular daily life.

By the late 1500’s the first traders were selling coffee in Europe, thus introducing the new beverage into Western life and custom. Most of the coffee exported to European markets came from the ports of Alexandria and Smyrna. But the increasing needs of a growing market, improved botanical knowledge of the coffee plant, and high taxes imposed at the ports of shipment, led dealers and scientists to try transplanting coffee in other countries. The Dutch in their overseas colonies (Batavia and Java), the French in 1723 in Martinique, and later on in the Antilles, and then the English, Spanish and Portuguese, started to invade the tropical belts of Asia and America.

In 1727 coffee growing was started in North Brazil, but the poor climatic conditions gradually shifted the crops, first to Rio de Janeiro and finally (1800-1850) to the States of San Paolo and Minas, where coffee found its ideal environment. Coffee growing began to develop here, until it became the most important economic resource of Brazil.

It was precisely in the period 1740-1805 that coffee growing reached its top spread, in Center and South America.

Although coffee was born in Africa, plantations and home consumption are comparatively recent introductions. Actually it was Europeans who introduced it again, into their colonies, where, thanks to favourable land and climatic conditions, it was able to thrive.

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