For most of us, a day does not begin until we have had our regular cup of joe! From Americanos to lattes, to cold brews and everything in between, coffee is the key to making or breaking a day once we get up out of bed in the morning. But where did this lovely and absolutely necessary beverage come from?
From Ethiopia with love
The origins of coffee are said to go back to the 9th century when a chance encounter with a peculiar plant changed the beverage world forever. It was here in Ethiopia during the 9th century when a goatherder named Kaldi noticed his flock of goats dancing, prancing, and virtually flying about as they munched on plump red berries found on a tree.
Intrigued, Kaldi gathered some of the fruits and brought them to the local monastery, where the abbot wisely used the cherries to brew a special drink. Kaldi and the monks at the monastery gave the drink a try and fell in love with its innervating and uplifting powers. The monks would from then on incorporate the beverage into their daily ritual routines, early morning, and late-night prayer and fasting services. From Ethiopia, this new and unique drink would spread to Yemen and from there around the Muslim world, with coffee becoming a monolith of a beverage in the 1300’s.
As alcohol is prohibited in the Muslim religion, coffee and tea houses would come to fill the niche that wine once held around North Africa and the middle-east especially. From here coffee would be introduced to Europe. Europe’s introduction to coffee came in a few different ways, one famous method, in particular, would come when the ambassador of the Ottoman empire would pay a special visit France’s King Louis the 14th.
The Sun King, a famous gourmand, gave this new drink a try and from then on, coffee and the exotic culture and aesthetics of the Orient came into vogue across the European world. This did not come without its challenges, though. This new drink made people excited, agitated, and energetic. Not dull and lazy like alcohol did. This set off alarms in the ears of officials of the Catholic Church, who labeled the new drink “demonic”.
That is until the Pope himself gave coffee a try! When Pope Clement VIII sampled this “drink of Satan”, he decided to give the beverage his blessing instead, and solidified Rome as a coffee capital of the world par excellence!
But not all interactions between Europe and the Islamic world would be so harmonious, as the first coffee plants and beans to reach Europe were stolen from the Yemeni port of Mocha by Dutch traders!
The Dutch traders would take some of the plants to their colonies in India, and then the island of Java in Indonesia (hence the nickname for coffee still used today, "Java"). They would also present a coffee plant to the Sun King.
Louis the 14th recognized a treasured when he saw one and had a special botanica built in the (stolen) plant’s honor. The plant would be guarded and specially nurtured, and its seeds would be given to one of his trusted admirals, who then took the seeds to the island of Martinique in the New World. A harrowing trip from France to Martinique proved to be successful, as the seeds from this very one plant would go on to be the ancestor of virtually all the coffee plants found in North and South America today!
A global legend
From its origins in Ethiopia, coffee has had one wild, wild ride. From a chance discovery, to even being put on trial by the Catholic Church, to traveling the high seas, to being your favorite morning pick-me-up. Coffee’s history has only just begun, and as innovations, and changes in both the beverage world and the world at large take place every second of every day, we can bet on seeing an exciting and unique future for coffee, too!