The story of how coffee was first discovered and then spread to all of the major countries on Earth is a fascinating tale that includes romance, politics, religion, intrigue, heroics, deceit, greed, and innovation.
C offee: but probe deeper into this sweet-sounding word – follow its roots to the the Italian caffè, French café, the Turkish kahve, and Arabic qahwa – and you’ll find a flow of time that reaches across Europe, through Asia, and into the African continent.
Etymology of coffee is not certainly known; however, there are various arguments about it. According to one view, it is an African word; Sir James Murray, in his New English Dictionary, argues that the word “coffee” is originally derived from the African language. Coffee is named after “Kaffa”, a city in the Soha region of Ethiopia, an upland region in Africa, which is considered to be the motherland of the coffee plant and the primary production center of coffee.
Another argument is that the word coffee originally comes from Arabic. In the 15th century, the Arabic word “bunn”(bun) was used for both the coffee tree and its fruit. Coffee fruit is called“kahva”in Arabic. It has been claimed that the word “kahva” in Arabic is an altered version of “Kaffa”. The word coffee, kahve, is used for the drink in Turkish.
The story of coffee includes many twists and turns – green coffee was smuggled across the ocean, presented to kings, carried along the ancient spice routes on the land and sea, banned by governments and clergies. For many people on earth coffee means imperialism, colonialism, and general exploitation.
Many of these dates are approximate.
Early, up to 10th century
Possible cultivation of coffee in Yemen. Archeological evidence is open to interpretation.
Khalid observes the effect of coffee on goats and himself. Legend
Rhazes (Arab physician) mentions coffee under the name bunca or bunchum.
11th to 15th century
Avicenna (Arab physician and philosopher) describes the medicinal properties of bunchum
Sheik Omar (founder of Mocha) discovers coffee as a beverage at Ousab, Arabia. Legend
Persian, Egyptian, and Turkish ewers made of pottery are first used for serving coffee.
1400 – 1500 C.E.
From around the middle of the 15th century comes the earliest credible evidence of coffee consumption, and this was in Yemen’s Sufi monasteries.
[Coffee is thought to have spread from Ethiopia to Egypt and Yemen where it was first roasted, and then by the 16th century it spread throughout the Middle East, Turkey, Persia, and into northern Africa. Later coffee spread from the Muslim regions to Italy and then very quickly throughout Europe. The Dutch then brought coffee to the East Indies and the Americas.]
Specialized tools for coffee making appear in Turkey and Persia hand roasters, Turkish cylindrical coffee mill, and the Turkish metal coffee boiler ~ cezve.
Sheik Gemaleddin, mufti of Aden, learns of coffee in Abyssinia and sanctions its use in Arabia Felix. Legend
Turkish law allows a woman to divorce her spouse if he does not supply a daily coffee quota.
Coffee plant is introduced into Ceylon ~ Sri Lanka.
Coffee is introduced into Cairo.
Kair Bey, governor of Mecca, prohibits the drinking of coffee. The sultan of Cairo revokes the prohibition.
An Arabic poem reads,
“O Coffee, thou dost dispel all care, thou art the object of desire to the scholar.”
Sultan Selim I, conquers Egypt, brings coffee to Constantinople ~ Istanbul. Turk Kahvesi is born?
The kadi of Mecca closes the coffee houses. His successor reopens them under license.
Coffee drinking introduced into Damascus.
Coffee drinking introduced into Aleppo.
Religious riot against coffee houses. Chief judge settles the controversy by serving coffee at a meeting of disputants.
Soliman II forbids the use of coffee.
The first coffee houses are opened in Constantinople.
1570 – 1580 C.E.
Religious dispute over coffee. Amurath III closes coffee houses by classing coffee with wine, but coffee use continues privately.
Rauwolf (German physician and botanist) travels to the Levant, mentions coffee in his writings
“A very good drink they call Chaube that is almost as black as ink and very good in illness, especially of the stomach. This they drink in the morning early in the open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of clay or China cups, as hot as they can, sipping a little at a time.”
Alpinus (Prospero Alpini, Italian physician and botanist) travels to Egypt and describes coffee.
First printed reference to coffee (chube) in Rauwolf’s Travels.
Gianfrancesco Morosini (city magistrate in Constantinople) reports to the Venetian senate of the Turkish use of cavee.
First authentic account of the origin of coffee by Abd-Al-Qadir Al-Jaziri writes Umadat Al-Safwa fi hill Al-Qahwa, (manuscript in Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris) more
“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.”
Sheik Abd-al-Kadir, claims that Sheikh Jamal al-Dain al-Dhabhani (-1470), mufti of Aden was the first to use it:
“He found that among its properties was that it drove away fatigue and lethargy, and brought to the body a certain sprightliness and vigor.”
First printed description of coffee plant (bon) and drink (caova) in Alpini’s The Plants of Egypt.
Belli (botanist) sends Egyptian (?) coffee beans to de l’ Ecluse (botanist).
“seeds used by the Egyptians to make a liquid they call cave.”
First printed reference in English to chaoua in a note in the translation from the Dutch of Linschooten’s Travels.
Coffee cultivation introduced into southern India at Chickmaglur, Mysore, by Baba Budan. Legends
Modern form of the word coffee first appears in English in Sherley’s Travels.
Captain John Smith refers to the Turk’s drink coffa in his book of travels.
Sir George Sandys (English poet) visits the Middle East and describes the drinking of coffa.
Dutch traders visit Aden to study the possibilities of coffee cultivation and trade.
Pietro Della Valle writes to Mario Schipano in Venice that he will be bring some coffee with him, which he believes to be unknown in his native country. Coffee is introduced into Venice.
The first coffee sold in Europe was in pharmacies as a medicinal remedy.
The Dutch, Pieter Van dan Broecke, smuggles coffee plants from Mocha to Holland, but attempts to cultivate the plant fail.
Peregrine White’s wooden mortar and pestle (used for braying coffee) is brought to America on the Mayflower by his parents.
Sugar first used to sweeten coffee in Cairo.
Coffee drinking is introduced into England by Nathaniel Conopios, a Cretan student at Balliol College, Oxford.
Wurffbain (Dutch merchant) offers for sale in Amsterdam the first commercial shipment of coffee from Mocha.
Coffee is introduced in to France at Marseilles by P. de la Roque.
Coffee comes into general use in Italy. First coffee house opens in Venice. Pope Clemente VIII was requested by some of his monks to outlaw the “Muslim” brew. He declined and said,
“This beverage is so good it would be a sin to let only pagans drink it!”
His subsequent “baptism” of coffee propelled it spread across Europe.
First coffee house in England is opened at Oxford by Jacobs. Coffee introduced into Vienna.
Due mainly to the super intellectual achievements of Galileo and Newton, the Age of Enlightenment (Reason) begins in W Europe (until 1789), with coffeehouse and salon thinkers (philosophers) challenging the authority of the Church and promoting reason and individualism.
First coffeehouse opens in Paris. King Louis XIV is presented with a coffee tree from the Dutch. It is believed that sugar was first used to supplement coffee in his court. (1686 C.E.?)
Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a Viennese who had lived in Turkey, opens the first coffee house in Vienna from spoils of battle for Vienna: bags of coffee that were left by Turkish Army.
The Dutch smuggle a coffee plant out of the Arab port of Mocha and become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially.
First coffee house opens in Berlin.
Jonathan Swift writes that,
“Coffee makes us sever, and grave, and philosophical.”
Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew de Clieu, after countless difficulties, manages to import coffee trees to Martinique in the Caribbean. Eventually, 90 percent of the world’s coffee spreads from this one plant.
The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start when Lieutenant colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta when the wife of French Guiana’s governor gave him a bouquet in which she hid cuttings and fertile seeds of coffee.
The British introduced coffee to Jamaica.
The one-act operetta Kaffee-Kantate (Coffee Cantata) is composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. At the time there was somewhat of a movement to forbid women from drinking coffee as some thought it would make them sterile.
The tale begin when the father Schlendrian says,
“You wicked child, you disobedient girl, oh! when will I get my way; give up coffee!”
“Father, don’t be so severe! If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.”
Vietnam cultivates its first coffee plantation.
Coffee cultivation begins in Mexico.
Coffee cultivation begins in Jamaica.
Johann Sevastian Bach composes his Kaffee-Kantate. Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria,
“Ah! How sweet coffee taste! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee.”
One of Europe’s first coffeehouses, Caffe Greco, opens in Rome. By 1763, Venice has over 2,000 caffes.
Guatemala cultivates its first coffee plantation.
The famous Boston tea party – also part of the coffee history timeline – a rebellion by Americans against the new increased tea taxes put by the British. Dressed as Indians, the Americans dumped three boat loads of tea into harbor and then replaced it with coffee as their revolutionary beverage of choice.
Prussia’s Frederick the Great tried to block imports of green coffee, because Prussia had economic problems at the time, but public soon changed his mind.
Coffee plants shipped from Cuba to Costa Rica.
Mexico received its first coffee plant.
The first prototype of an espresso machine is created in France.
Hawaii received coffee from Rio de Janeiro.
James Mason invents the coffee percolator.
Introduction of coffee to the British colonies in East Africa.
The coffee plant completed its journey around the world when it was introduced into Kenya and Tanzania just south of the original birthplace Ethiopia.
In Germany, afternoon coffee becomes a daily ritual.
Hills Bros. starts to pack roast coffee in vacuum tins which marks the moment of the decline of the local roasting shops and coffee mills.
Luigi Bezzera files a patent for the first espresso machine. In 1905 the first commercial espresso machine was manufactured in Italy.
Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago invents the first soluble instant coffee.
First commercial decaffeination process was invented by Dr. Ludwig Roselius.
The Coffee plant arrives to Madagascar.
The first mass-produced instant coffee was invented by George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala.
Melitta Bentz invents the first drip coffee maker with a filter made of blotting paper.
As the Prohibition starts in the United States, coffee sales rise.
Dr. Ernest Illy develops the first automatic espresso machine. At the same time, Alfonso Bialetti invented the world’s first stove top espresso maker, later to become the most popular maker in Italy.
Instant coffee mass production is invented by the Swiss company Nestle as it assists the Brazilian government in solving its coffee surplus problem. It is named Nescafe.
Achilles Gaggia enhances the espresso machine with a manual piston that creates a high pressure extraction to produce a thick layer of crema.
In 1961, Italy experienced a total eclipse of the sun. The same year, FAEMA introduced the world’s first pump operated espresso machine named E61 (eclipse of 1961).
1969 C.E., July 20
Apollo 11’s LEM Eagle broadcasts to the Johnson Space Center,
“If you’ll excuse me a minute, I’m going to have a cup of coffee.”
Today coffee is the world’s most popular beverage. More than 400 billion cups are consumed each year. It is the world’s largest commodity, second only to oil.
“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.”
Customer: “Waiter, is this supposed to be coffee or tea?”
Waiter: “What does it taste like?”
Customer: “It tastes like gasoline!”
Waiter: “Well, sir, that would be the coffee. The tea tastes like turpentine.”
~ ○ ~
REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING
- Stefan’s Florilegium. Herewith, Bear’s Chronology of Coffee for the Anachronist. coffee-msg.
- The espresso and coffee guide.
- The Turkish Coffee Culture and Research Association.
- Ukers W. H. All About Coffee. The tea and coffee trade journal.1922.
- TLW’s Coffee-Teascope.