Coffee can be traced back to Ethiopia and its ancient coffee forests; a legend is told about a goat herder named Kaldi who first saw the potential of the now popular coffee bean. He reported his findings to a local monastery who made a drink from the berries and were surprised how it kept the monks awake, this discovery grew east and hit the Arabian Peninsula.
The Arabian Peninsula
Organized cultivation and production of coffee first started on the Arabian Peninsula, and in the 15th Century coffee plants were being grown in Yemeni, a hundred years later in was also common in Syria, Persia, Turkey and Egypt. Coffee houses sprung up all over Arabian cities, not just for drinking this new bitter brew but also to play games and enter into conversation. These coffee houses were termed as Schools of the Wise, because of the information imparted in them. As millions of tourists visited the holy city of Mecca, word soon spread of this new Arabian drink.
Coffee and Europe
The Middle East was frequented by many European traders, and soon coffee had made its way to Europe. In some quarters the new drink was treated with fear and some clergymen thought it was the bitter invention of Satan.
Coffee Houses soon sprang up all over Europe and became the centres of social activity among the communities. Major cities in England, Germany, Holland, France and Austria were the first to embrace this new drink and its associated commerce. The coffee shops were nicknamed penny universities as for the price of a penny a person could obtain a coffee and have stimulated conversation.
The popular breakfast drinks of wine and beer were replaced by coffee and citizens felt the benefit of its invigorating bitter taste. By the middle of the 17th Century there were over 300 coffee houses in London alone, and many businesses were formed in these early meeting places.
America and the New World
Coffee first arrived in the 1600’s in New Amsterdam, coffee houses spread although tea continued to be the favourite drink almost until the late 1700’s. The colonists revolted in 1773 against a new tax imposed by Britain, and the so called Boston Tea Party changed America’s views forever in favour of coffee. A famous quote from Thomas Jefferson announced the change when he said “Coffee – the favourite drink of the civilized world”.
Increased coffee consumption led to fierce competition for new countries to grow the plants. The Dutch obtained seedlings and tried to cultivate coffee in India towards the end of the 17th Century, but this attempt failed. They tried again in Java (Indonesia) and were successful, the seedlings thrived, and the Dutch had now access to production and expanded their efforts into Celebes and Sumatra. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam gave a present of a coffee plant to Louis XIV of France, this seedling was the forefather for nearly 20 million coffee trees in Martinique, and was also the parent of all the coffee trees in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Coffee has now overtaken tea as the most popular drink in many areas of the world, and it is estimated that nearly 150 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee were produced worldwide between 2015–2016.