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The history of coffee

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Who discovered the refreshing nature of the coffeeberries and the delightful brew it was possible to make with the red berries is hard to say. There are several theories, like the one about the shepherd who observed that his sheep became skittish after chewing the red coffeeberries. So because of that I will give you the history of coffee according to an encyclopedia 1880, everything may not be correct but nevertheless its interesting and enjoyable.

Traditonal muftiSjehab-eddin, a mufti (muhammedan priest) during a trip to Abessinia (now Ethiopia) in the middle of 1400 century, learned to know about the brew which made the need to sleep disappear. The brew had been used and been grown for ages in Abessinia and beyond in the land of Kaffa. Sjehab-Eddin saw that it was good and decided to take bushes back to his hometown Aden in the land known now as Yemen. He especially felt that the dervesch (muhammedan monks), could use the brew to easier manage their nightly meditations.

Aden, year 1500, picture courtesy of http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/ Press for larger image, 400 kb

The spread of coffee

From Aden the brew and the bushes spread to Arabia, Egypt and the Orient. In the year of 1467 the first coffeebush arrived to Mecca. The coffee was not looked at kindly by all. In 1511 the governor of Mecca, Kair Beg banned the use of coffee. He meant that coffee was equal to wine which was banned in the Koran. The ban was soon lifted and Kair Beg was punished by death (not just because ha banned coffee, I believe).

It was not until 1697 that a grander scale of coffeefarming started (the high demand made the coffeeprices skyrocket). Before that all coffee came from the plantations in Aden. It were the Dutch who started to farm coffee in Java 1697 and 1719 the first shipment of javacoffee reached Europe. Soon thereafter coffeefarming started in Ceylon, Southeast Asia and on the island of Bourbon (now Reunion Island). The coffeebush reached Paris via a botanic garden in Amsterdam.Press to see closeup of map with Aden (called Sana om this map), Abessinia and Kaffa A french seaofficer, De Clieu took a plant from this bush and carried it with him across the Atlantic ocean (somehow the coffeeplant survived) to the Westindies and it was this plant who was the "grandmother" to the grandious coffeeplantations in Central and South America. The rest is - history.

The coffeehouses

Wards coffeehouse in Bread Street 1671, EnglandThe coffeehouses were the first place where people learned about the brew. The importance of the coffeehouses for the spreading of coffee cannot be valued enough. In Konstantinopel the first coffeehouses opened 1554. They soon became so popular that they recieved attention from the High priests who banned the coffeehouses as they became a too strong competiton to the church. The ban was soon lifted.

In the middle of the 1600-century the use of coffee reached other parts of Europe. In the south of Italy coffee were used around 1650. In Marseille the first coffeehouse opened 1671. In France doctors protested against the use of the good brew with not much success.

1669, coffee became fashionable in Paris when the turkish emissary Soliman Aga treated the kings court to a black cup of coffee. Though ridiculed by french writers the use of coffee grew. The first simple coffeehouse opened the same year by an unnamed Armenian.In 1724 a Sicilian, Francois Procope opened a coffeehouse which still is in use (Café Procope). It were frequented by literate nobles like Rousseau and Voltaire.

In London the greek Pasqua Rossie opened the first coffeehouse 1652. In Wienna the first opened 1683 and in Berlin 1721.

Last updated 28 may 2002

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