The History of Coffee

The history of coffee starts in Ethiopia where, legend has it, a goat herder observed his goats having unusual vitality after eating the berries from a particular plant. Whether that is true or not, we don't know, but the first written mention can be found in the works of a Persian physician named Razi who wrote about it in the 10th century.

Originally the coffee plant grew only in Ethiopia, but it was soon cultivated in Arabia as well and began to flourish in other areas after that. Interestingly enough, some early uses of the bean did not involve drinking, and one Ethiopian tribe used them wrapped in animal fat as their source of food when they went on raiding parties. It was not until the mid 1400s when coffee was introduced to the Turks that it became a fine drink that could be mixed with other spices.

There is a dark era in the history of coffee. Many people feared its stimulating effect and some even tried to have it banned in the 1500s. In the 1600s coffee was introduced to Italy by the Muslims and once again groups tried to ban it. However, Pope Clement VIII tried a few cups and decided it was good. He gave it his blessing.

The British East India Company and Dutch East India Company introduced coffee to England and soon coffeehouses sprung up throughout the Empire. These houses were establishments where people could go to discuss social views of the day as well as enjoy a great cup of coffee. Many people also believed that coffee had medicinal properties, a fact we know to be true today.

France introduced coffee to the Americas in French Guiana. The first coffee plantations came to Brazil in 1727. Brazil has a perfect climate for growing coffee and the trees flourished. Brazil was soon the biggest producer of coffee in the world, and by 1907 produced 97% of the world's coffee harvest.

Of course, once coffee became a household drink people wanted to improve on the process of producing and storing it. In 1900, Hills Brothers invented a method of storing roasted coffee in vacuum tins, making it available for storage in the home and ultimately putting an end to local coffee mills and roasting shops. In 1903 a German coffee importer named Ludwig Roselius, gave his researchers some ruined coffee beans in order to experiment and perfect the process of removing the caffeine from them. Thus inventing decaffeinated coffee. He called this product "Sanka" which has been popular in the US ever since it was introduced in 1923. In 1906 an English chemist named George Constant Washington, who was then living in Guatemala, created the first mass-produced instant coffee, although the first soluble instant coffee was actually invented in 1901 by Satori Kato.

Today, the history of coffee continues with new producers and products coming into the market, and new ways to retail the brew.

Next Page: Coffee Makers


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