A Brief History of Coffee

Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, West Africa. According to popular legend a local goat herder going by the name of Kaldi, was watching his flock as usual when he noticed that his goats were acting unusually frisky and were very alert. Further observation revealed that the affected goats were eating berries from a certain type of bush that he has never noticed before. Kaldi′s curiosity led him to eat some of the berries himself and he found that these berries gave him renewed energy and concentration.

The news of this energy-giving fruit quickly spread throughout Africa. Monks, hearing about this amazing fruit tried it for themselves and were keen to distribute it to other monasteries far and wide. Unfortunately the berries would not last the long journeys involved. The monks soon discovered that if they first dried the berries they would last much longer and would survive the long journeys to distant lands. Upon reaching their destination they reconstituted the dried berries in water, ate the fruit, and drank the liquid. They found that consuming the beverage and fruit gave them more energy enabling them to pray for longer periods of time.

Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula, and were first cultivated in what today is the country of Yemen. From there, coffee travelled to Turkey where beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today. During the early 17th century, coffee houses spread quickly across Europe becoming centres for intellectual exchange and commerce.

Many great minds of Europe used this beverage, and forum, as a springboard to heightened thought and creativity. In 1700, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu. De Clieu was on leave from Martinique in Paris and asked if he could take a clipping from King Louis XIV's coffee plant to take back with him.

This request was denied, but undeterred De Clieu later crept into the Kings botanical gardens late at night and stole a seedling. On his return journey he carefully nurtured the young coffee seedling on the long arduous journey across the Atlantic. He survived terrifying storms and attacks by pirates, sharing scanty rations of water with his precious plant. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean island of Martinique, was put under armed guard in his estate and incredibly became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. It was from this humble beginning that the coffee plant found its way to the tropical regions of South and Central America, then on to Indonesia and Asia, becoming the vital beverage enjoyed by most of the world today.

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