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The History of Coffee

History of Coffee

Coffee, a cup of joe, java, are words that we associate with that hot black substance that we drink every morning. But where did it come from and how did it get here to the states. Coffee is basically a brewed drink prepared from roasted beans or berries. The word coffee entered the English language sometime around late 1500s. It was said to come from a Dutch word Coffee, and that may have come from the ottoman Turkish word, Kahve. Kahve was said to have originated from the Arabic word Gahwah. Coffee itself is however much older, possibly upwards of 100 years older, than the actual term.

There are a few legends that surround the origins of coffee. One such legend dates coffee back to the early 15th-century in the region of Kaffa Ethiopia. It was said that a goat herder named Kaldi discovered coffee after observing his goats becoming excited when eating the beans from a specific plant. Another legend talks of the discovery of coffee by a Sheikh Omar. It was said that Omar who is a type of healer in his village was exiled from a place called Mocha in Yemen to a cave in the desert. Hungry and almost starving Omar found what is believed to be coffee berries and tried to eat them, but they were too bitter and made them difficult to eat. He tried to roast the beans but that made them too hard to eat, so he then tried to boil the beans which resulted in this fragrant dark brown liquid. After consuming this iquid Omar felt reenergized and noticed that his hunger had subsided. The news of Omar and his newfound brew reached the city of Mocha and he was allowed to return with his new potion. At one point the coffee fruit was used to make wine. This would’ve been my wife’s dream cocktail.

In the early 16th century coffee had expanded from Yemen and Ethiopia to the rest of the Middle East. Now people in Persia, Turkey and in other northern countries of Africa were all enjoying this rich dark flavorful potion that helped energize and even cure some ailments. Up and until Pope Clement the VIII declared it a “Christian drink”, it was considered a Muslim only beverage. Shortly after this move by the Pope, we see evidence of the first Roman coffeehouse opening at 1645. Once popularity grew in the southern European countries it was only natural for it to move north and eventually make its way to England. During this time we also start to see the Dutch East India Company becoming the first large scale importer of coffee.

Dutch East India Company

While doing my research for this blog. I came across an interesting fact. Sometime during the year 1654, only 10 years after the first Roman coffeehouse was open, England’s first coffee house Queens Lane Coffee House opened. The interesting part is that it’s still open today. If you’re into coffee and/or interesting history this should be on your must visit list. It’s now on mine.History of coffee

Coffee has been around for a while. It started somewhere in northern Africa, made its way through the Roman empire , and it has been to England. How did coffee get here to United States. It is said the founder of the Virginia colony Captain John Smith brought it here around the year 1607 after learning of it while traveling through Turkey. In the early days of coffee here in the states it was nowhere near the popular drink that it is today. In fact, tea and shocker alcoholic beverages were much more desired by the early colonist. It wasn’t until we threw a little party here in Boston where are we dumped said tea into the Boston Harbor. As you can imagine tea became less important after that and it was also considered non-patriotic to drink tea. So began our love affair with coffee.

What’s interesting is that the American revolution and even the Boston tea party were planned in a coffee house. After the Revolutionary War had ended, importing tea was allowed again and back in favor. Coffee started to decrease in popularity again until the War of 1812 when the British cut off tee importing again. So, people started to roast, grind, and brew coffee once again in the States.

Fast forward 50 years and we start to see that coffee has made its way into the main stream culture. In 1864 John and Charles Arbuckle bought the “Self Emptying “ coffee bean roaster from Jabez Burns. This allowed them to become the first to sell pre-roasted coffee by the pound on a large scale. Their main customers were the Cowboys of the American wild west and other exploring mountain men. It wasn’t long before other entrepreneurs of the time took notice. Soon James Folger, Maxwell House and the Hills brothers jumped into the mix. Once Folgers and Maxwell House entered the business, we also started to see the use of vacuum packaging and instant coffee make their way to the consumer.

Coffee History James Folgers History of Coffee Maxwell House

Once again war changes the course of coffee consumption. During World War 1, coffee import and export was disrupted to every country mainly because shipping was more focused on the movement of troops and machinery to help with the war efforts. As you can imagine after World War I Europe took quite a time to recover. This open the way for the US to become the leading purchaser of coffee in the world. By 1922 America was consuming more than half of the worlds entire coffee supply. Over the next 20+ years the consumption of coffee continue to grow in the United States. Coffee became more affordable and easier to brew. The American population what is now hooked and enjoying more coffee than ever.

As we see coffee starting to really get a foothold with people of all walks of life enjoying it, World war two begins. Like World War 1, shipping is diverted to carry troops and munitions. Coffee has to take the back burner again. During this time roasters were only receiving about 60 to 70% of their previous supply. As with many things during the war coffee was also rationed. People were allowed 1 pound per person over the age of 15 every five weeks. Here in America we went from an average of 20 pounds of coffee per person per year down to an average of 10 pounds of coffee per person per year. This ration was said to be one of the toughest on the American people. This is why coffee was one of the first items that President Roosevelt took off the Ration list in 1943.

Coffee Consumption Chart
Coffee continues to grow in popularity in the United States. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen an increase of over 4% consumption. Americans drink about 281,000,000 cups of coffee every day and there are now over 33 thousand coffee shops across the country. What’s amazing to me , after doing this research , is that coffee seems to be a drink thats popularity was directly affected by war. Maybe this is something we should look at more closely. Next time we, our country, with the rest of the world is considering going to war, maybe we should consider how it will affect our daily cup of coffee.


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