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how long has coffee been around

how long has coffee been around

how long has coffee been around

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The history of coffee begins in legend. According to one legend, ancestors of today’s Kaffa people in a region of Kaffa Ethiopia were the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee plant. However, no direct evidence that has been found earlier than the 15th century, or even where coffee was first cultivated.

The story of Kaldi, the 9th-century Ethiopian goatherd who discovered the stimulating effect of coffee when he noticed how excited his goats became after eating the beans from a coffee plant, did not appear in writing until 1671 and is probably apocryphal.

There is evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree from the early 16th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen, spreading soon to Mecca and Medina. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, South India (Karnataka), Persia, Turkey, India, and northern Africa. Coffee then spread to the Balkans, Italy, and to the rest of Europe, as well as Southeast Asia.


An Ethiopian Legend

Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans.

The story goes that that Kaldi discovered coffee after he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.

Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink with the berries. And he found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery. And knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.

As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would bring these beans across the globe.

The Arabian Peninsula

Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia. And by the 16th century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.

Coffee was not only enjoyed in homes, but also in the many public coffee houses — called qahveh khaneh — which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity.

Not only did the patrons drink coffee and engage in conversation. But they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess and kept current on the news.  Coffee houses quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that they were often referred to as “Schools of the Wise.”

With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, knowledge of this “wine of Araby” began to spread.

Coffee Comes to Europe

European travelers to the Near East brought back stories of an unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent.

Some people reacted to this new beverage with suspicion or fear, calling it the “bitter invention of Satan”. The local clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the beverage for himself before making a decision. And he found the drink so satisfying that he gave it papal approval.

Despite such controversy, coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland. In England “penny universities” sprang up. So called because for the price of a penny one could purchase a cup of coffee. And they engage in stimulating conversation.

Coffee instead of wine and beer

Coffee began to replace the common breakfast drink beverages of the time — beer and wine. Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and energized, and not surprisingly, the quality of their work was greatly improved. (We like to think of this a precursor to the modern office coffee service.)

By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses in London, many of which attracted like-minded patrons, including merchants, shippers, brokers and artists.

Many businesses grew out of these specialized coffee houses. Lloyd’s of London, for example, came into existence at the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.

Where Did Coffee Originate?

Where did coffee originate?  Well, that’s the easy bit. At the very beginning, it came from Ethiopia. But how the bean made it to every corner of the globe? That’s what we are going to dig into.

After a slow discovery in Africa, coffee went west into Europe to be discovered. And it coveted by the newer civilizations as well as east into Asia where it was planted and harvested.

There’s a lot to cover, so grab a cup of coffee and read on.


How Was Coffee Discovered? 

Ethiopia And The Dancing Goats

The most popular origin story of the beloved bean starts with Kaldi and his goats (1) in 700 AD. Kaldi, an Ethiopian (formerly Abyssinia) goat herder stumbled on his goats acting quite strange.

They were dancing. This definitely wasn’t normal. He discovered that they were eating red berries and concluded that this fruit was the cause of this odd behavior.

After stumbling upon this magic fruit, he shared his findings with a monk, who was ecstatic to find something that would help him stay awake all night as he prayed.

Another story, however, claims that Kaldi shared these beans with a monk who disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire.

The result was a wonderful, pleasing aroma which became the world’s first roasted coffee. Shortly after this, the beans were ground and boiled to produce what we know today as coffee.

Who Invented Coffee?

It is known that the best-known story regarding the origin of coffee was discovered in 300. It is an old man named Kaldi who lived in Ethiopia (Africa). Kaldi was a goat keeper who kept composing songs all day on his flute.

Every day. Before the sun went down, Kaldi played his flute in a particular way to call his goats. One day to his surprise, no goat listened to his call. And no matter how much he played and played his flute, the goats did not get to where he was.

Therefore, he went to look for them, while he was still playing his flute, tired of walking and playing. He finally found them. He was amazed at what he saw. his goats were running, bleating, jumping, and everyone was very excited.

Dancing and singing

After observing them, he realized that they were chewing on the leaves and fruits of a plant. He had never seen them before. Kaldi also decided to try the fruits, and soon after he began to feel more energy, happiness, he began to dance and sing with his goats.

Kaldi, very ecstatic and expectant, took some of these fruits and branches to the religious superior of a nearby monastery, the monks upon receiving them, boiled the berries, and tasted the resulting infusion, discovering that with them, they could stay awake and energized.

They started using it as a stimulant, to maintain vitality or to stay awake at night to pray.

Besides, by chance. ‘ also realized that these beans could be roasted and could make a drink that had the same effect and tasted more pleasant. “

Drying coffee

One day two monks named Sciadli and Aydrus were collecting coffee when the rain caught up with them in the field. Upon arrival at the monastery, they left the harvested coffee beans drying near the stove while they went to pray.

When they returned, they found a delightful smell that invaded the entire room and the roasted coffee beans; We could say then, that this was the discovery of coffee roasting.

Thus, this drink was considered religious in its beginnings, later stimulating. It was also given to warriors to fight in battles, it even happened to be considered a somewhat magical drink with healing powers, and finally, this infusion became, in the social drink of the Arab world.

Eventually, this infusion became the social drink of the Arab world, and from there, it spread across the globe. So who first invented coffee, well Kaldi is thought to be the first.


The First Steps of Coffee Harvesting

It is important to state that there are other stories of the origin of coffee and all of them, like the above, take place on the Ethiopian plateau. Modern technology and advancements in genealogy have allowed us to trace the origins of the coffee plant back to Africa, and it is most likely, although not certain, that coffee originated from Ethiopia, and this is a, mostly undisputed, general consensus.

No one is certain at which point people started roasting and brewing coffee beans like we do today; although the story above states it, such a quick journey from coffee cherry to roasted cup of coffee is deemed pretty unlikely.

Either way, the drink of coffee began spreading across the Arabian peninsula and the Muslim world, with Yemen usually believed to being coffees first destination after leaving Ethiopia. By the end of the 16th century it was spread through the rest of the Middle East, Persia, and Turkey.

The Arabs kept a monopoly on coffee production by either boiling, roasting, or baking the beans before they left the region in order to ensure that they would not germinate if planted. So how did coffee, now planted in over 70 countries, escape the monopoly held upon it by the Arabs?

The Expansion of Coffee

The first green or unroasted coffee beans to be smuggled away from their homeland, and the monopoly held on them by the Arabs, were smuggled out by a man called Sufi Baba Budan.

He is revered by both the Muslim and Hindu traditions for this singular act of smugglary ( I think that is a word), and is often depicted with seven green coffee beans strapped to his chest; although some accounts of the story tell us that he hid them in his beard.

Sufi took these beans and planted them in his native India, in Mysore to be precise. It is from here that coffee is said to have spread to Europe before being taken by colonizers to their colonies and spread further afield.

The Rise in the Popularity of Coffee

From Ethiopia and the Arabian peninsula coffee spread to northern Africa, Turkey and from there it made its way to Europe, its first port of call being Venice; a port which conducted a huge amount of trade with North Africa and the Middle East.

Merchants arriving there brought it to the wealthy Venetians, and they enjoyed it. From here, as imports increased, prices fell and availability grew.

Muslim drink

Coffee was first judged as a “Muslim drink” and the Christians of Italy often warned against consuming it. However, it was widely welcomed into society once it was tasted and deemed a “Christian beverage” by Pope Clement VII; before this there were many petitions in Italy to outright ban coffee.

It is worth noting here that back in the early 1500’s -about 100 years before coffee reached European shores. Coffee was banned on two occasions across the Arabian peninsula because of its stimulating effects.

Although coffee expanded and worked its way into the wealthiest houses in Europe it wouldn’t take off as a worldwide beverage. Until the Europeans first began exporting it from their colonies in India to their home countries.


Having colonized large parts of India the Dutch, followed by the British, began importing large quantities of coffee back to their homeland. Prior to this, countries on the Arabian peninsula had pretty much had a monopoly on the coffee trade. And they charged very high prices for their product.

The new imports now arriving in northern Europe helped lower prices and increase the availability of this exotic drink.

Once supply had increased and more wealthy Europeans. And their monarchs had gotten a taste of this beautifully stimulating beverage, demand increased. And the search for the coffee tree began.

in 1600

The Dutch won the race for the coffee tree. And in the early 1600’s they had some growing in the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens. By the mid 1600’s the trees were thriving. And some were taken out to be planted in their colonies in southern India and Ceylon, today’s Sri Lanka.

These sights were soon abandoned and the Dutch moved their plantations to their outposts in Indonesia. And Suriname, and within a few years these colonies were the major supplier of coffee to Europe.

The Dutch, being the sole possessors of the coffee tree in Europe, gave a clipping from one of their bushes to the French King as a gift when signing a treaty.


A Frenchman

A while later, a Frenchman Gabriel de Clieu convinced the gardener of the King’s garden to give him a clipping of this plant, which he transported over to a French territory in the Caribbean. In Gabriel’s own words we find an account which tells us that water was rationed for a period of this trip. And he shared his portion with his precious cargo.

He also tells how he had to thwart at least one attempt to sabotage the plant. The coffee tree thrived in the Caribbean, so much so that It is from this clipping that most of the coffee plants found in South America, Central America, and Mexico originate.

Coffee and Today’s World

Since coffee’s inception as a beverage coffeehouses have existed and they have provide people, of all classes and levels of education. A space to comfortably meet and hangout in, where everyone was on a level footing, and where there was none of the unruly nature found in bars and pubs; alcohol was actually banned to prevent such troubles.

Even today coffeehouses, around the world, are seen as comfortable settings for first dates, meeting friends you haven’t seen in a long time, working, and studying.

Whereas people used to work with each other in coffeehouses they now use the internet to work with other around the globe. Maybe in coffeehouses also.

Drink for breakfast

Coffee is considered a breakfast drink and this is because of it’s well known stimulating properties. Many claim that they “are not awake” until they’ve had their cup of morning coffee.

Coffee can be found and drunk in all the far corners of the world, on boats, on planes, and even in space. Coffee is constantly battling beer for the place of “the world’s third popular beverage” with both of these lining up behind water and tea.

Coffee’s story began in Ethiopia, and its growth is tightly woven with the expansion of Europe’s colonial powers. Having survived bans, oppression’s, a trip in a beard, and a water rationed transatlantic trip coffee is now one of the worlds biggest exports. And around 10% of the worlds population can count themselves as part of the worldwide coffee industry.

All from some cherries that energized some goats on the Ethiopian plateau over 1100 years ago.

I hope you enjoyed this post “how long has coffee been around”.

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