With the word coffee, images like an espresso shot, latte art or disposable cup of some popular global coffee chain may come to a person’s mind. But ever wondered why the best coffee beans are named “Arabica”?
What today is considered the popular drink of the western world used to be Arab’s favorite qahwa. Unlike cocoa or tobacco both of which gained their popularity in Europe around the same time as coffee did; 16th and 17th century, and has originated from the western hemisphere, the birth place of coffee is situated in sub-Saharan Africa; Ethiopia.
As the old tale goes it was an Ethiopian shepherd who first discovered the energizing characteristics of coffee cherries. Later Yeminis began its cultivation. It was from the Yemini port Mocha, that coffee began its journey to different parts of the world. During the early 15th century, coffee made its way to Egypt and spreading through Syria got introduced in Turkey by the mid 15th century.
The surroundings of University of Azhar in Cairo attracted the forging of coffee houses. Their growing popularity then became evident in the city of Aleppo, Syria up to Ottoman Empire’s capital; Istanbul.
To trace how coffee came to America, we first have to look when and how it spread across Europe. Both from the Ottoman Empire and via the Syrian Mocha port coffee got introduced in European culture. East India Company in the 17th century bought coffee from Mocha and exported it to India and further regions.
The coffee seedling never thrived in Indian region back then but was successfully cultivated in Java (now Indonesia). Dutch successfully expanded their area of cultivation for coffee further to Sumatra and Celebs Islands.
On the other hand as Turkish armies made advancement along Danube, so did coffee. Although Turkish siege was over in 1683 in Vienna coffee was there to stay. Early 17th century and King Louis XIV of France receives a young coffee sapling from the Mayor of Amsterdam which was then successfully planted in Royal Botanical Garden Paris. A young naval officer is said to have transported a plant from there to the island of Martinique which paved the way for coffee trees to spread throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America.
Another tale related to origin of Brazilian coffee is of Francisco de Mello Palheta, who acquired coffee seeds for his emperor secretly via the French Governor’s wife instead of the Governor himself.
Coffee is said to have reached North America by mid 16th century starting from New York called New Amsterdam back then. It was King George III who basically laid the foundation for coffee to become America’s favorite caffeinated drink instead of tea, by imposing heavy tax on tea.
Coffee has covered a long journey across the globe since its discovery. The fact is regardless of where the plant originated from, it has become a highly priced crop to cultivate and the original cultivators today don’t stand among the top producers. Millions of coffee plants are planted across the globe and to this million dollar industry, probably the biggest threat proposed today, is by climate which gets to decide where and where not the coffee crop may flourish.