Coffee and Tea History, Facts and Lore
The history of coffee is fascinating – full of exotic international locations, distinctive cultural influences, intrigue and commerce.
Legend has it that coffee was first discovered by a goat herder named Kaldi in Ethiopia. Kaldi witnessed the joyous and energetic behavior of his goats after eating the fruit of coffee shrubs. There are stories of monks witnessing the goats’ euphoric transformation and trying the fruit themselves, staying up all night to experience divine enlightenment.
It is thought that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed around 1000 A.D. in Arabia. The clever Arabs did take coffee with them to Africa, but to prevent the cultivation of coffee plants by other countries, the exported beans were rendered unfertile by parching or boiling. Coffee wasn’t grown outside of Arabia or Africa till the Seventeenth Century, when the Dutch brought coffee to Europe, and subsequently to Java, which is now part of Indonesia. The first European coffee house, opened in 1683, still stands in Venice today.
Next in the history of coffee come Eighteenth Century tales of kings, a stolen clipping of a coffee plant spirited across the seas and ravaged by pirates and fierce storms, but eventually reaching Martinique, where it grew under close watch. The first harvest came in 1726, and by 1777 there were almost 19 million coffee plants on Martinique.
Brazil did not want to be left out of the growing coffee culture. Legend has it that the Brazilian government sent Francisco de Melo Palheta, a military officer, to French Guiana to procure and smuggle out the miraculous and profitable coffee bean. He reportedly did so by wooing the governor’s wife, and the rest is Brazilian coffee history.
North America’s love affair with coffee began in the late 1668, and coffee houses sprang up in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia shortly after. Coffee continued to spread throughout the world, becoming vital to the development of global economies and one of the most valued commodities in world trade. And it all began with some very happy goats…
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