Aromatically Rich: The Origin of the Savory Drink Named Coffee

Share your this to your friends!

There is no doubt how coffee is loved by a lot of people around the world, however some coffee lovers may still wonder about the origin of their favorite drink that seems to function as a “magical fuel” for their worn-out bodies. If you are one of those people and you are interested in learning how this “magical fuel” became a popular energy-giving beverage, then this article got you covered! Keep scrolling and explore the unbelievably long yet undeniably rich history of coffee.

In this article, we will learn about:

  1. How coffee was discovered
  2. How coffee got to the Arabian Peninsula
  3. How coffee dominated Europe
  4. How coffee reached the lands of America

Who was the first person to discover coffee? 

Kaldi with his goats

Truth be told, the real origin of coffee is still a mystery to this day. No one knows about the person who discovered it as well as the exact location of its discovery. But, there is a legend that continues to circulate. It is about the tale of how coffee, the unique beverage loved by many, came into existence.

According to the legend, its history dates way back to 850 A.D. in the medieval kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia. During that time, an Ethiopian herdsman named Kaldi noticed that his usually limpid goats (other sources say sheep) suddenly seemed to have a lot of energy to the point of not sleeping. He observed the animals’ change in behavior after they ate the red berries-like fruit of a particular tree. Curious, Kaldi had a taste of the fruit for himself, and much like his goats, he experienced an unexplained high energy level. Afterward, he hurried to a monastery nearby and told a monk of the fruit’s “miracle.” The monk found a way to use the fruit to create a drink, which helped him to stay awake throughout the long night of prayers. The monk shared the newly invented drink with the other monks in the monastery, and the tale about the miraculous fruit started to spread across the Arabian Peninsula like wildfire. Interesting story, right? If this legend is true, then thank the heavens for goats, I guess?

The real brewing begins

Old map of the Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula quickly became a coffee-producing region. The first known coffee trees were cultivated in the Arabian Peninsula about 1100 as a result of the Arabians’ fast realization of the potential significance of the fruit they acquired from Ethiopia. Hundreds of years later, coffee became a widely consumed beverage in the lands of Syria, Egypt, Persia, and Turkey. The locals gave it the name gahwah, and it immediately became a part of their staple food. The term “gahwah,” which was once classified as wine, eventually came to mean the “wine of Islam” to the Europeans. Turkish people modified the beverage by adding more spices and introduced it to the land of Constantinople. When the Mufti of Aden had his first taste of coffee, he wholeheartedly gave his approval of it, which caused the immediate spread of knowledge regarding the delightful beverage across the lands and eventually reached the holy city of Mecca. In 1475, “Kiva Han,” the first coffee shop ever, operated in Constantinople.

Even yet, difficulties began to arise for this beverage despite its widespread appeal. Just a little over 50 years after coffee shops soared in popularity within the sacred city of Mecca, governor Khayr Bey outlawed coffee in 1511. This is because discussions about social and political issues were being incited in coffee shops. Khayr Bey highly valued his position of authority, and he felt frightened that the said conversations inside coffee shops would spark turmoil and insurrection in his city. He issued an order for the stoppage of every coffee shop in his dominion, even those as distant as Constantinople, in order to enforce the ban. Because of his command, the same event he dreaded eventually occurred: uproars and mayhem in his city. Coffee lovers all over the land perceived the command as an insult and started to run amok!

Tragically, the conflicts extended outside of his domain as well! The Sultan of Cairo entered the fray as things became extremely nasty. He declared that the governor was way off the mark and argued that there was nothing wrong with drinking the aromatic beverage. As a result, the governor is seized and put to death. Lesson learned? Do not ever stop someone, a coffee lover at that, from drinking his beloved coffee, especially if that someone is your boss. It will not get you anywhere but six-feet deep underground. 

The addicting aroma reaches the shores of Europe

The Grand Canal, Venice, with San Simeone Piccolo by Francisco Guardi

In 1570, coffee was introduced to Venice by the traders as they exchanged their unique treasures in the port city. Initially, only those with hefty wealth had access to this unfamiliar item, which was occasionally sold for therapeutic purposes. Europeans had misgivings about coffee, which was said to be due to its dark color and bitter flavor in contrast to the sweet drinks popular in the region. They believed that this beverage represented the devil in human form and would doom everyone who drank it. The liquid was outlawed by the Venetian Church in 1615. The situation was so intense, but everything started to change when Pope Clement VIII intervened and drank the “Drink of Satan.” After a few sips, he decided it was not, in any way, evil. The bitter drink’s popularity only increased after it gained the Church’s acceptance. The Church so welcomed coffee to the point that the Pope himself baptized some of the coffee seeds! How crazy is that? 

Coffee continued to dominate Europe as it allowed European traders to own or settle in lands that had a suitable climate for planting and growing coffee seeds. In 1645, years after the Pope baptized the coffee seeds, the first coffee shop in Venice was built. Multiple coffee shops started to operate across Europe as well, evidently showing how the bitter beverage dominated the place. Similar to the ones in the Arabian Peninsula, European coffee shops served as an avenue for people to meet, socialize, discuss current events, and of course, trade gossip. Moreover, coffee houses in several parts across the European continent became so famous for news and knowledge that they were known as “penny universities” because one could easily learn a lot for the price of a cup of coffee, which, back then, was sold for a penny. However, penny universities only accepted male customers. Yes. These shops welcomed every person from different social classes except women. Bummer, I know. Everyone deserves a taste of that magical energizer! Okay, enough of the silly protest. 

Inside the building Lloyd’s of London (Present time)

The first coffee shop in England operated in 1652, while in 1668, an English man named Edward Lloyd opened his own coffee shop. As Lloyd socialized with his patrons, he compiled lists of their ships, their itineraries, as well as the items they were transporting. The said lists were then used by insurers to offer insurance to persons in need. Traders monitored ships and shipments. Over time, Lloyd’s of London gained international recognition as an insurance provider. 

Furthermore, Dutch traders also had the chance to get their hands on some of the precious coffee-making beans after a tremendous struggle in the 17th century. Since they had acquired numerous colonies, the Dutch chose to plant the seeds on the lands they assumed the coffee would flourish. They were relatively unsuccessful in their initial attempts to plant the seedlings in India, but they were fortunate enough in Batavia, on the island of Java (presently known as Indonesia). Another fact about the Dutch is that they were the ones who called the bitter drink as koffie.

America receives the magical beans

A coffee plant seedling was sent to King Louis XIV of France by the mayor of Amsterdam in 1714. The Royal Botanical Garden in Paris was to receive it when the King ordered its planting there. Come 1723, a young naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu acquired a seedling from the King’s plant. He was able to get it to the island of Martinique without incident despite a difficult journey. This risky venture of de Clieu led to the growth of roughly 18 million coffee trees on the said island during the succeeding years. The very seedling that the young man acquired gave rise to all coffee trees in Southern and Central America as well as in the Caribbean.

If you have reached this part of this article, then congratulations! I hope you learned something from the long yet fascinating history behind this bittersweet gem of a drink we call coffee.

For further information about the history of coffee, you might want to click on the link below:

A Timeline and History of Coffee

Share your this to your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *