The Fascinating History Of Coffee – From Kaldi to Gaggia

There are a few circulating stories about the discovery of the effects of coffee and its initial consumption. They all revolve around an Ethiopian goat herder called Kaldi. It’s said on one fateful day Kaldi noticed goats in his heard behaving inordinately energetically. On further observation he linked their behaviour with red berries growing on some bushes which they were seen eating.

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Curious; he tried the berries and found he too began to feel animated. It wasn’t long before he shared this new discovery with others and the berries became popular throughout the land. It’s not known if Kaldi was a member of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia but they are said to have consumed a mixture of ground berries and animal fat earlier than 1000AD.

Arab traders soon encountered coffee in their travels bringing it back to their homelands and cultivating the plant on farms. It was these Arab traders around 1000AD who were also likely to be the first to have boiled the beans consuming them as a drink identified for its ability to prevent sleep.

Bernard Lewis, in his “Istanbul and the Civilization of the Ottoman Empire”, tells of the ottoman scribe Ä°brahim Peçevi who wrote of the first coffeehouse in Istanbul: “Until the year 1555, in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffee-houses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hakam from Aleppo and a wag called Shams from Damascus came to the city; they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee.”

The demand for coffee around this time escalated to such importance that soon it was legally acceptable for a woman to divorce her husband if he was not able to supply her with her daily coffee.

Around 150 years later coffee was introduced to Italy by Italian traders. Although initially declared an infidel threat by the Vatican in fear of Ottoman influence, Pope Clement the VIII after no doubt tasting the drink himself was quick to declare it acceptable for Christian consumption. In 1645 the first of what would be many coffeehouses opened in Italy.

In 1650 the fist coffee house in England The Grand Cafe is alleged to have been opened in Oxford. The café exists to this day though their specialty is now wine. Soon thereafter more and more cafes began to open around England. They became a place to share ideas and news of the day. It was from here the term ‘Penny Universities’ was coined. A penny was the price of admission, an affordable sum, which allowed the well to do to share ideas with those who were less fortunate. Two years later, a Greek from Ragusa named Pascal Rosea opened the first coffeehouse in London, in Cornhill. In 1668 Edward Lloyd opened his famous Coffee House in Lombard Street, London, which soon became a popular congregation for shipowners and sea merchants.

1668 was a pivotal year in coffees adaptation into north American culture as this was the year that New York City’s favourite breakfast drink beer was replaced by coffee.

Pascal Rosea after opening the first coffee house in London also established the first coffee house in Paris France in 1672. The café stood alone as a coffee outlet in the city until Café Procope opened in 1686. Café Procope is still in existence and boasts a history of being the gathering place of historic figures such as Voltaire, Denis Diderot and Rousseau. Café Procope will also argue it’s right as the birthplace of the Encyclopédie, the first modern encyclopedia.

Europe’s first Viennese café is commonly accepted as being opened by a Greek merchant named Ioannis Diodato in 1675. It was coffee houses in Vienna that established the process of filtering out the coffee grounds adding sugar and milk. A vienna coffee is one prepared with cream, this perhaps a throwback to Viennese influence.

It was circa 1690 that the coffee plant was smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha by the Dutch and transported and farmed in new colonies in Ceylon and Java. Java is now a well known bean origin.

The mayor of Amsterdam gave Louis XIV of France a small coffee bush as a gift in 1714. Louis XIV treasured the tree highly and had it tended to in his royal greenhouses. Years later in 1723 a French Captain who; whilst visiting from his station in Martinique managed to convince the kings physician to source a cutting from the bush. His intention was to cultivate coffee on the lush volcanic island of Martinique. This cutting may very well have seen up to 90% of the world’s coffee originating from this plant and it almost didn’t make it to Martinique due to rough seas, attempted theft and pirates. Fifty years later there were 19 million coffee trees which were noted in an official survey.

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