The history of coffee could literally fill up an entire magazine publication (Time Magazine published a great 8 page article in their Special Time Edition publication called Coffee. Great read!), but in the interest of your time and mine, I want to hit some of the high points, especially the legendary beginnings of what many believe to be the discovery of the coffee plant.
The legend goes that Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat-herder, was watching over his flock one day and noticed some ‘erratic’ behavior that he had not noticed before. He discovered that this goats had been eating from this particular plant with ‘cherries’ on it. He investigated a little further by eating one of the cherries himself noticing a significant sensation that he had never experienced before. The story unfolds later to reveal that a Muslim monk had passed through falling upon this same plant, he took some with him to his monastery, brewed up a potable concoction of the fruit, shared it with his peers in which they summarily experienced an ‘enlightened’ meditation time. And there you have it, around 1000 AD monks in the Middle East first brewed coffee and discovered its caffeine benefits.
As time passed this beverage became popularized in local coffee shops. Because of the prohibition of alcohol in the Muslim faith, coffee shops became more and more popular due to the ‘awakening’ effect of coffee. As European travelers would pass through, inhabit the coffee shops, drink the coffee, and experience the ‘wakening’ effects of the caffeine, coffee soon become an heavily sought commodity that would be smuggled out of the Middle Eastern countries and spread throughout Europe. It was a welcome change from alcohol which made people drowsy. It was even written by one English observer, “This coffee drink hath caused a greater sobriety among the Nations.”
Pretty soon coffee began to challenge the tea trade which was big business for many large tea companies. Coffee began to make such an impact that the Catholic Church began to look at it as a possible ‘evil’ that would steer people away from purchasing and drinking tea. At one point the upper clergy in the church came to Pope Clement VII (circa 1600) and requested that he ban coffee from all Christendom. Pope Clement VII, being a kind of leader that wanted to make wise decisions, chose to try a cup a coffee before banning it. Reportedly he made this statement after having his first cup of coffee, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” And there you have it, coffee isn’t only a blessed beverage in the Islam faith, the Catholic faith has blessed it as well.
Coffee continued to trend upward and the coffeehouse began to become a favorite hangout, especially in Great Britain. Coffeehouses became community centers that naturally grouped people together according to their trade, societal standing, and/or place of residence. Coffeehouses were considered the opposite (an antidote) for taverns. Some were specially designated for politicians, educators, theologians, doctors, and businessmen in general. Coffeehouses were given the nickname “penny universities” because anyone could come in and learn what many people could only learn or hear in the local university.
Jumping forward to the early 1900s instant coffee was mass produced allowing coffee to become a staple in the home, Maxwell House and Nestlé being some of the first companies to take part. And so starts the first wave of coffee. Starting around the 40s and 50s coffee became a favorite for the diner crowd.
As the decades passed the Second Wave of coffee began trending. Around the 1970s, companies like Starbuck’s and Peet’s Coffee opened and made a big impact on future generations of coffee drinkers. Home brewing also got a big boost with the advent of the Mr. Coffee automatic-drip coffee maker, making brewing a cup of coffee easy to do at home.
Leaping to the 21st century there has been a new focus and renewed interest in coffee. This is what we call the Third Wave of coffee, also known as the specialty coffee movement. In Part 1 of the blog post, Home Brewing – Essentials, I dove into the passion behind this third wave. It simply is a renewed focus on the quality and sustainability of coffee. Coffee shops have seen an increase in the US over the past two and a half decades from an estimated 1600 coffee shops (year 1991) to over 31,000 (year 2015). Specialty coffee roasters have seen a similar increase as well.
The history of coffee cannot be told without the countless numbers of generations of families and people that have contributed to the farming and producing of this immaculate drink. When you get a chance check out this three minute video called Journey Of A Specialty Coffee Bean: Cherry To Cup. Blessings!