July 16, 2024

It’s a mystery how coffee first came to be cultivated and used as a beverage. One popular story is that goat herders on the Ethiopian plateau saw that their goats became more energetic and had problems resting at night after eating a large quantity of small berries from a particular type of plant. Monks from the local monastery made a drink with the mysterious berries, which helped them to stay alert during long evening prayers. Whether accurate or not, this is the most common story behind the beginning of coffee’s long and interesting history.

Commercial Coffee Trade

The first officially recorded trade and cultivation of coffee took place on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee plantations were established in Yemen and during the next century, coffee became one of the most popular beverages in the region, which including Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Persia. Public coffee houses were established across the Near East and they became a place where people engaged in conversation and social activities, exchanged information and watched performers. Because the Arabian Peninsula was the center of trade and pilgrimage, the popularity of coffee began to spread to other regions and into Europe.

Before reaching the shores of Europe, however, coffee was introduced on the island of Malta first. Turkish slaves on the island made coffee as their traditional beverage and the beverage soon found its way among the Maltese high society. As a vibrant trading center in the Mediterranean, the Republic of Venice was soon exposed to coffee, brought by traders from the Middle East. At one time, coffee was so rare that the wealthy in Venice were charged quite heavily for a cup. Coffee went further north and coffee houses were opened in Vienna. A local Austrian way of serving coffee became known as Melange, which was coffee mixed with hot foamed milk.

Coffee Spreads To The Rest Of The World

In England, traders obtained coffee beans directly from Near East, South Asia and South East Asia. By 1675, more than three thousand coffee houses were established throughout England. Dutch traders first obtained live coffee trees and seeds in 1616, which were brought to Amsterdam and by the end of the 17th century, their colonies in Suriname became major producers of coffee. Central and South America were ideal for coffee plantations due to fertile soil and tropical climate and the first coffee plantation in the New World was established on Martinique and it spread to Haiti, Mexico and other Caribbean islands. Coffee plantations gained momentum in Brazil after their independence in 1822.

In the Far East, Dutch traders brought coffee to Japan and the first coffee house was opened in 1888 in Tokyo and by early 1930’s, more than 30,000 were established in the country. Today, coffee plantations can be found in the southern states of India, in Africa as well as Central and Southern America and many tropical islands in the Pacific. Coffee is consumed by people all over the world and is still the world’s most popular beverage of choice.

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