Where Did Coffee Originate ?
It has been more than 4 centuries since coffee arrived in the western world. This energy drink was quickly appreciated over time, both for its properties and for socializing. We gladly share a coffee while chatting and have always done so. And it is probably this aspect, linked to sharing and exchanging, that has at times made it controversial ...
These little grains, so harmless to us today, have long been at the heart of controversies and bans; sometimes even leading to revolts throughout history, both in their country of origin and in other places. It was only at the cost of a long journey, both historically and geographically, that coffee became the drink we know today.
How did these coffee beans from Ethiopia spread around the world to become one of the most consumed products in the world today? How have simple coffee beans managed to endanger kings and emperors throughout history, from the Arabic world to Europe and North America?
THE DISCOVERY OF COFFEE
Legend says that it was a shepherd from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) who discovered coffee. It was when he saw that his goats were more restless than usual after eating the fruits of a shrub that he decided to try eating some himself. He was the first to notice the energizing effect of the caffeine in the fruits of the Arabica coffee plants. He then shared his discovery with the nearby Sufi community. The latter made a decoction of it in water, which they quickly appreciated, as it kept them from falling asleep during prayer.
Despite the beauty of legends, science tends to rationalize the facts to bring out the truth. This is how a biological study found the origin of coffee. The Arabica coffee tree originated in Ethiopia, where it has been consumed since prehistoric times by the ancestors of the people of this region of the world. Excavations have shown that coffee-based preparations were part of their diet.
The first written record relating to coffee dates from the 9th century in a medical book. This knowledge was expanded in the 11th century by Avicenna, the Persian physician and philosopher, who wrote the book "Canon of medicine". In it, he describes the effects of coffee and caffeine on the body, especially on the digestive system.
During the following centuries, coffee crossed the borders of the countries of the East, thanks in particular to the travelers going on pilgrimage to Mecca. They carried with them the precious grains giving them energy for their long journey. Coffee spread to Yemen and the rest of the Arabic world, making the plant ever more popular and appreciated.THE BEGINNING OF COFFEE CULTIVATION
Scientific research confirms that it was in Yemen that the cultivation of coffee trees began. During the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who ruled much of the Mediterranean basin and central Europe, the domestication and cultivation of coffee began.
The Ottoman people consumed coffee on a regular basis. They mastered the production of the plant and the roasting of beans. Over the conquests made by this Sultan during the 15th century, consumption spread to the various annexed countries, making this beverage more and more popular. It was through marketplaces in the port-city of Mocha, Yemen, that coffee spread well beyond the borders of Ethiopia and Yemen.COFFEE, A CONTROVERSIAL DRINK
It was in the 16th century that the first cafés began to emerge in Egypt and the region around Mecca. People came there to drink the famous beverage, chat, and exchange ideas. It was at the same time that for the first time in history a leader questioned the right to consume coffee. As the Qur'an says, any intoxicating substance is prohibited for consumption. It was the Sultan of Cairo who lifted this ban with a lot of medical arguments, and affirming that the consumption of coffee was perfectly in accordance with the laws decreed by Allah himself!
A similar episode took place when cafés opened in Syria, attracting scientists and scholars. Despite the bans, the controversial drink continued to be drunk and enjoyed by more and more consumers across the Arabic world.
Authorities actually feared the birth of protest bubbles in cafés, raised by thinkers of the time. The energizing beverage exacerbated the scholars’ thoughts, leading them to share their doubts, and creating new thought currents. As often, the novelty frightens the authorities! The coffee bean alone therefore represented mistrust of authority and the possibility of questioning the very order of society or the religion in place.
However, at this time, we began to find more and more establishments offering coffee in Baghdad, Istanbul, Damascus, as well as in many cities of the Arabic world. Nothing was stopping its expansion and distribution, not even religious and political authorities.COFFEE IN AMERICA
First, coffee reached North America in 1689. Although widely populated by English tea-loving immigrants, the country quickly made it the national drink. The episode of the Boston Tea Party, during which the stocks of English tea were sunk by the inhabitants of North America marked a real split with the British crown, which reaped an undeniable economic advantage from the taxes collected from the exports of tea. It was then coffee that supplanted English tea.
Over time, to meet European demand, coffee is introduced in South America, Brazil and Colombia in particular, where cultivation represents an important part of the income from the land. Unfortunately, it is thanks to slavery that production is ensured, benefiting only the owners of huge farms.COFFEE NOWADAYS
Today, all coffee production comes from countries whose latitude allows the cultivation of coffee. We speak of "the coffee belt". Thus, they are found in Central America for example (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc ...), in South America (Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, etc ...), in Africa (Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, etc…), as well as in Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia, etc…). It is in countries with tropical flora that the coffee shrub is generally cultivated. Even though Robusta and Arabica do not require the same setups to grow, the temperatures still need to be good for plants of both species to grow properly.