Coffee History: The Origin of Coffee!

The Birth of Our Favorite Beverage!

Rolling hills in Ethiopia

Coffee has a long and winding history. It's a drink that has been popular all over the world, brewed a variety of ways over time. For our first Coffee History segment we thought we'd dig into where it all began!

There's some debate as to where coffee was first consumed, but the most likely answer is Ethiopia. There are legends of mystics observing the vitality of birds that fed on coffee cherries, then tasting the fruit and feeling it themselves. The disciple Omar, of Sheik Abou'l Hasan Schadheli, is said to have attempted roasting coffee beans to consume them without the bitterness of the cherry. When the bean became hard he boiled it, ultimately finding the brown liquid this created to be satisfying. All of this would have taken place in the 13th century CE.

The first record of coffee beans actually being harvested comes from the same region in the middle of the 15th century. Beans were exported from Ethiopia to Yemen, which was the first example of real knowledge of the coffee plant. These beans were then cultivated in Yemen. This shows that not only was knowledge of coffee harvesting present in Ethiopia, but the skills to cultivate them were transferrable.

Spread of the Beverage

By 1554 coffee had spread across the Middle East, and was often used in religious practices. The beverage was strongly associated with Sufism, being particularly popular in cities like Cairo, Aleppo, and Istanbul, where cafes became commonplace.

Pyramids in Egypt

But all of this popularity also led to scrutiny. In 1511, coffee was forbidden by conservative, orthodox imams. This was because it was against scripture as interpreted to consume stimulating substances. Eventually, in 1524, this ban was overturned by fatwa. Later bans were instituted in Egypt and Ethiopia as late as the 17th century. Coffee remained a controversial drink throughout the time period.

Coffee also spread throughout Europe during this period as well. By the 17th century, coffee houses in England became key to the Enlightenment, and coffee was being moved around the world by the East India company. As expected, the drink continued to spread across the globe. Though for hundreds of years it remained a luxury in many areas due to the particular climate requirements of the plant.

We'll be back soon with more tales of coffee's past!

 

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