Coffee: it’s a daily ritual for many of us. We take it for granted in American society. Often here in the States we become divorced from the origins of our consumables. (Though if you are enjoying fair trade/ organic blend Ugly Mug coffee then you care about where your coffee comes from. Good on you.)
Like walking in half-way through a movie, we see only the happy ending – wide-spread global coffee production and massive access to our favorite morning beverage. (I’m not addressing here coffee’s role in geopolitics or worker exploitation, there’s enough there for a long series of blogs.) But coffee doesn’t just happen.
Take a moment to contemplate your coffee. This month our Roaster’s Pick is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Ethiopia is where coffee was first discovered. Multiple legends tell of the discovery of coffee. Coffee didn’t start everywhere, it didn’t even start in the places that we currently associate heavily with coffee production. It was transported, planted, and fostered by people of different cultures and times. Those people whether they were in the 9th century or the 18th were united by their love of coffee. The most amusing example of the trek coffee has made around the world is from its discovery in Ethiopia in the 9th century to Brazil in the 1800s and from there back to Kenya and Tanzania on the African continent in 1893, a journey taking 600 years and several ocean crossings.
Below is an abbreviated timeline of coffee’s journey. Imagine the thousands of steps it took for your coffee to come to you, and the people who carried (sometimes even smuggled) the seeds across deserts, oceans, and rainforests. Some were Sufi mystics, Arabian ambassadors, Venetian merchants, American Revolutionary War soldiers, Brazilian coffee plantation workers, and catholic popes.
800s Ethiopia – Stories of discovery of Coffee in Ethiopia by people
1300s East Africa – Coffee cultivated by Arabs
1400s Yemen – Credible evidence of coffee drinking by Sufi mystics in monasteries
1500s Persia, Turkey, Northern Africa – Coffee drinking reaches the Middle East sparking some debate over by Imams over whether Muslims should be allowed to drink coffee
1554 Constantinople, Turkey – First coffee shop opened
1500s Trade with Africa and the Middle East brings coffee to Europe, first in Venice, Italy, then later up through England
1600 Rome, Italy – Pope Clement VIII proclaims coffee alright for Roman Catholics to drink despite calls to ban it.
1600s Japan – Coffee reaches Japan through Dutch traders
1670 India – Coffee reaches India from Yemen
1675 England –3,000 coffeehouses are open throughout England
1669 France – Coffee comes to France via an ambassador from a Turkish Sultan
1700s Caribbean & South America – Coffee is brought to Martinique, and in 50 years has spread through Haiti, Mexico, and many other Caribbean islands. Coffee also reaches Brazil.
1773 Boston, USA – The Boston Tea Party causes many Americans to switch to drinking coffee from tea. Throughout the Revolutionary War drinking tea was seen as unpatriotic.
1822 Brazil – Coffee cultivation gains steam, laying the groundwork for Brazil’s current ranking as the world’s largest coffee exporter
1893 Africa – Coffee from Brazil is sent to Kenya and Tanzania completing
Picture: "Kahve Keyfi" (Coffee Delight), unknown artist, early 18th century (Curtesy of Wikimedia Commons).