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Who, When and Where in the History of Coffee

Coffee have been a part of culture for over one thousand years. The history of coffee widely varies according to the source due to the length of time as well as the blurring of truth that sometimes occurs.

This is especially right when something as powerful as coffee is involved, as coffees have brought people much wealth and prosperity throughout the history of coffee.

Coffees were learned around 850 A.D. in the part of Africa now known as Ethiopia. According to one tale that has been passed down through the generations, a sheep herder named Kaldi learned coffee as he tended his sheep. He noted that his sheep became extremely active after eating the red cherries from a plant as they went from one pasture to another.

He ate a few of the cherries himself, and was soon as overactive as his herd. The tale goes on to say that a monk passed by and scolded him for “partaking of the devil’s fruit.” But, the monks soon found themselves eating the same fruit to help them stay awake for their prayers.

Originally, the coffee plant grew naturally in Ethiopia. But once the people of Arabia became enthralled with coffee and transplanted plants to Arabia, coffees were monopolized by them.

Later, countries beyond Arabia whose inhabitants believed coffee to be a delicacy and guarded its secret with the greatest care started to siphon off coffee plants as was possible.

The Arabian government prohibited the transportation of the plant out of the Moslem nations, so the actual spread of coffee was started illegally.

In the 17th century, Italian traders introduced coffees to the West and changed the history of coffee forever. Many Christians believed that coffee was the drink of the devil.

But in Italy, Pope Clement VIII drank and endorsed coffee against the advice of his advisors who wanted it to be considered part of the infidel threat. Because of his endorsement of coffee, it became acceptable as a Christian beverage and spread throughout the West.

Coffee Houses started opening in the mid-17th century in the Western world. The first coffee house opened in Italy in 1645, in England in 1652, in Paris in 1672, and in Berlin in 1721.

In 1668, Edward Lloyd’s coffee house opened in England and eventually became Lloyd’s of London, the best-known insurance company in the world. By this time as well, coffee had replaced beer as New York’s City’s favorite breakfast beverage.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Dutch became a prominent force in the coffee industry with a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha. The Dutch cultivated coffee commercially in Ceylon and in their East Indian colony of Java, which came to be the source of coffees’ nickname. But, the French stole a seedling and transported it to Martinique.

Fifty years later, an official survey found 19 million coffee trees on Martinique and eventually, it’s estimated that ninety percent of the world’s coffee spread from this one seedling.

The Dutch and French monopoly was broken up in 1727 when Brazil entered the fray. Lieutenant colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta was sent by the Brazilian government to arbitrate a border dispute between the French and Dutch colonies in Guiana.

Not only did he settle the disagreement, but he also started an affair with the wife of the governor of French Guiana.

The dear lady bid the lieutenant colonel adieu with a bouquet in which she hid cuttings and fertile seeds of coffees that started the Brazilian part of the history of coffee. By 1907, Brazil accounted for 97% of the world’s coffee production.

As the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe and the United States, coffees were changed forever.

Hills Bros. became the first company to vacuum pack coffees, changing the coffee industry from a local one to a regional and even national one. Sanka was introduced to the United States as the first decaffeinated coffee. And Nestle learned how to freeze dry coffee and keep it fresher longer.

The most recent changes in the history of coffee has come over the last sixty years. In 1946, the espresso machine was invented in Italy, giving rise to the Cappuccino.

And in 1971, Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle’s Pike Place public market. And that ladies and gentlemen is a small and brief history of coffee, and I hope you loved reading about it.

© Copyright Randy Wilson, All Rights Reserved.

Randy has more articles on coffee and coffee beans at

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