June 30, 2021

The history of coffee

Historic picture of train freight and coffee


Some legends say that a goat herder named Kaldi found his goats acting strangely after eating the berries from a green plant. Other stories say that it was discovered by Ethiopian shepherds or even Arabian traders who wanted to make their camels more alert and energetic on long journeys across dry desert land.

Upon discovering the energising berries, Kaldi thought it would be a great way to keep him alert during long hours of evening prayer. He shared his discovery with other monks at the local monastery and soon after knowledge about this new food spread around quickly. Monks all over were enjoying their newfound energy from these exciting berries! As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would bring these beans across the globe.

Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey

Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in Yemen's district of Arabia and by the 16th century it was known throughout Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Coffee wasn't only enjoyed at home but also in many public coffee houses that had begun to appear across cities all over Near East. The coffee houses were the best place to take a break from daily life. It was different than any other establishment of its time because it catered not only for people who wanted to socialise, but also those that desired intellectual stimulation and knowledge. The atmosphere at these establishments would often be filled with information about events going on around town or ideas being discussed among intellectuals; all which helped contribute to their reputation as “Schools of the Wise."

Europe and America

In the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. Coffee houses became a centre for social activity where people could meet up in major cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna.

These coffee shops, was also called Penny Universities because people paid one cent for a cup of coffee and provided another hour’s worth of stimulating conversation. Coffee became more popular than beer or wine as it was more affordable and did not leave people hungover like alcohol consumption does. While those who drank coffee were healthier overall due to less drunkenness, their work quality skyrocketed when compared with that of drunkards. In the 1600s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, known as New York, where the revolt against King George III generated a mass switch from tea to coffee amongst the colonists. Also known as the Boston Tea Party.

South and Middle America

Quickly expanding their horizons to include new places, the Dutch were eager for coffee plants. They succeeded in getting onto a small island called Java. They then expanded to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes. A french naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu obtained a coffee plant for himself. He managed to transport it safely to Martinique where he introduced this new cultured crop into their ecosystem. From a humble seedling, new life was born. Though the coffee bean had been around for centuries before this one little plant sprouted, it eventually spread all throughout South and Central America. The Martinique coffee seedling is credited with the spread of over 18 million trees in 50 years. The incredible thing about this plant is that it was also a parent to all other Caribbean, South and Central American plants!

In 1727, while on a diplomatic mission to French Guiana, a Portuguese Lieutenant called De Melo Palheta got creative. The French were not willing share their precious plants and so Mello Palheta had no choice but ask France's governor's wife. Thanks to his good looks she happily agreed and gifted him a large bouquet flowers before he left. Buried inside those beautiful flowers there would be enough coffee seeds to start an industry worth billions today as we speak!