All About Coffee

The Beginning Of Coffee

Coffee was originally called "qahwahin" Arabia. But, it was from the Turkish word "kahveh" that the modern words for coffee are derived; German kaffee. English coffee, French café, Dutch koffie. There have been books written about the history of coffee. It has a long and somewhat interesting history. Here is North Coast Coffee's short version:

Although coffee was "born" in Ethiopia, it wasn't until the very late 1800's that coffee was introduced into other parts of Africa. Today Tanzania and Kenya grow some of the best tasting coffee on the planet.

There is a legend that a long time ago (some have it around the year 800 BC, others around 500 AD), an Ethiopian goat herder by the name of Kaldi, noticed that some of his goats were frolicking about much more than they normally did. He saw that they had been eating something from a bush with dark shiny leaves. Upon closer inspection, he saw that they had been eating the red berries from the bushes. Kaldi ate some of the coffee cherries himself, and, being amazed at the stimulating effect that they had, brought some to the local monk. The monk boiled the cherries and made a beverage that was strong and bitter. Like Kaldi, the monk felt the effect of the caffeine in the drink and liked it very much.The beverage soon became popular as the monks found that it helped keep them awake during long hours of prayer.

In coffee's early history, it was not consumed in the same way that we do today. Since the pulp of the coffee cherry was sweet, it was first eaten alone or with the seeds (beans). In some places, the green unroasted coffee beans were ground up and mixed with animal fat. This mixture was then pressed into small lumps and was used by travelers for energy. The Arabs were the first to use the green coffee beans alone. After removing the pulp and skin, they would crush the green beans and mix them with water to make their coffee drink.

It was not until the 14th century that the current method of roasting coffee became popular. And even then, for many years, the drink and the grounds were consumed together. By the early 1500s roasted coffee was traded all over Arabia - from Turkey to North Africa. During the latter half of the 17th century, coffee became very popular in Europe. Since the Europeans had to buy their coffee from the Arabs, the Arabs were very protective of their coffee plants. In fact, in Arabia it was a crime punishable by death for a European to have a coffee plant in his possession. Eventually some plants were smuggled out. The coffee plant, however, does not tolerate frost and would not grow in the colder European climate.

Because of the dramatic increase in demand for coffee, around 1700 AD, the Dutch managed to get coffee plants and started to grow coffee in their colonies in Indonesia. Java, Sumatra, Timor and Bali were all Dutch colonies in which coffee was introduced and grown. The French and the British soon followed suit, by establishing coffee plantations in the French & English colonies in the Americas and in India. Coffee soon spread to the Spanish colonies throughout all of Central and South America.