Coffee information from The Coffee Brew.

Coffee – An Exciting History from around the World.

Many will be aware that beer is possibly the oldest man-made brew while wine comes in at a distant second. Recipes for beer can be dated back as far as 6,000 BC while winemaking only came to light from about the turn of the first millennium.

Somewhere around the 9th century their younger cousin came to light – and his name was coffee. No one really knows how old the coffee plant itself is but there is some archaeological evidence which reveals that humans were eating the berries as long ago as a hundred thousand years.

 

There is one legend doing the rounds that says a goat herder in the highlands of Ethiopia observed his flock eating the red berries from a nearby tree with the result they became quite excited. So naturally he tried them himself and he too felt a great lift. I bet he had no idea just how popular and sought after these little green seeds would become. At this time the humble beginnings of today’s coffee culture were about to begin.

By 600 AD that special berry and the rich flavoured brew it made from drying and grinding its seeds, had found its way to what is now known as Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsular.

There are some stories that tell of a native of India smuggling the precious seeds of the tree out of Arabia around 1650 AD, then planting them in the hills of Chikmagalur. Arabian law forbad the exporting of beans that could germinate, effectively controlling coffee trade for centuries. Whether it is a myth or history, the fruit of those seeds now forms a third of India's huge coffee crop.

Europeans - the British, Dutch, French, and others - spread the beans to other countries during their travels. The Dutch were responsible for its introduction to Java in the 18th century. From those plantings, history tells us, came the famed tree coveted by France's king, presented to him as a gift.

Louis XIV of France found that the coffee tree didn't tolerate frost so he had a greenhouse erected to supply him with the beans to make the brew he so loved. It is said from that source came the cultivars used in Central and South America.

Reaching Martinique around 1720, sprouts were planted and grew well in the hot and steamy Caribbean climate. From the thousands of trees that resulted, some were transported to Mexico where the product now forms one of their largest exports.

Just think of this next time you are having a cup of your favourite coffee. Measured by monetary volume, coffee is now the second most commonly traded commodity in the world behind crude oil. Amazing, isn’t it?

The coffee plant then made its way to French Guiana at around the same time. Well suited to the steamy atmosphere the tree grew well here. Seeing an opportunity, a rogue named Francisco de Melo Palheta solicited the aid of the governor's wife to smuggle seeds out of the country. As he prepared to depart for Brazil, the lady handed him a bouquet of flowers containing the illicit seeds.

The rest is history as Brazil is now one of the largest coffee growers and producers in the world today.

Finally the travel of the coffee bean completes the full circle. From Brazil the seeds make their way to Kenya and Tanzania some time in the late 19th century, which is actually not very far from their original home in Ethiopia. So taking some six centuries to return home is was most certainly a long and eventful journey. What an excellent excuse to take a break, brew a cup of your favorite bean and reflect on the history of the crop that brought us our coffee culture as we know it today.

Like all great industries the coffee story is an interesting and intriguing part of modern world history full of legends and reality.


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The Coffee Brew - Coffee information.