The Origins Of Coffee

August 10, 2018

The Origins Of Coffee

The history of coffee goes as far back as the 10th century. The native (undomesticated) origin of coffee is thought to have been Ethiopia. Ethiopians are the first ethnic group to have recognized the energizing effect of the coffee plant. Coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen.

Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world and was directly related to religious practices. The earliest evidence of coffee drinking is from the 15th century in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. The Sufis used the beverage as an aid to concentration and as a kind of spiritual intoxication when they chanted. It was used to keep them alert during their nighttime devotions. There were periods of time in the 15th century where coffee became forbidden by orthodox imams due to its stimulating effect. These bans were later overturned.

By the 16th century it had reached the rest of the middle east, Persia, Turkey, the Horn of Africa and northern Africa. Coffee then spread to the Balkans, Italy, the rest of Europe, Indonesia and then to America. The first European coffee house was opened in Venice in 1645.

Cultivation of coffee was taken up by many countries in the latter half of the 19th century. Harsh conditions led to many uprisings, coups and suppression of peasants, notably, Cuba. For many decades in the 19th and 20th centuries, Brazil basically had a monopoly on the coffee trade. However, a policy of maintaining high prices opened up opportunities to other nations such as Colombia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Vietnam, second only to Brazil as the major coffee producer in the world.

Coffee reached North America in 1668. After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, Americans switched to drinking coffee during the American Revolution because drinking tea was considered unpatriotic. Coffee was still considered medicinal and too expensive to drink daily. It was consumed mostly by the wealthy class. The coffee came from damp, musty, wooden ships, yet the coffee industry in lower Manhattan grew. Until the coffee crash of 1881 wiped out the majority of businesses and set the ball rolling for coffee trade price regulation. Eventually, through the invention of steam powered ships, paper packaging and advancements in roasting technology, coffee became a beverage accessible to those outside the wealthy class.

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