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Coffee History

There are different kinds of coffee drinkers around the world, divided into four distinct groups. The Middle Easterners like their coffee dark, overbrewed and a tinge bitter, but with much sugar and sediment. The Latin Americans are the second group who invariably prefer their brew dark roasted, almost burned and from an Espresso machine. The English-speaking, North American world prefers their coffee brown, not black, and without bitterness. It should be clear and light, without sediment. There is a fourth kind of coffee drinker who must be mentioned as they are abundant if not elegant. They are the ones who drink coffee made from powdered bean stirred into hot water, served in a styrofoam or paper cup, usually with much cream and sugar added to remove any trace of bitterness or dark color. 

Coffee was thought to have originated in Yemen, on the Arabian peninsula, where Europeans found it growing, but more than likely it originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia, where it grows wild to this day a few thousand feet above sea level. Arabian traders likely brought it to Yemen where coffea arabica was cultivated from about 500 A.D. In Arabia, it was first used as a medicine, then as a drink associated with religious exercises. Then the people of the street discovered coffee and with it came the coffee house. When visitors from around the known world tasted it in the coffee houses of Mecca and Cairo, it spread rapidly because of its hardy nature. Coffee pollinates itself. This means that mutations have less chance of occuring, the differences in various growths of the cherished product being caused not by the plants themselves, but by the soil, moisture, acidity and climate of the environment. 

 The original owners were always jealous of their treasured commodity. The Arabs refused to allow the seed to leave their country by insisting that all beans be dehydrated or boiled. It wasn't long before Baba Budan, an Indian Moslem pilgrim procured seven seeds which he is alleged to have hidden under his cloak, bound to his stomach. Once home, he planted them in southern India where they flourished. They quickly spread throughout India. When visiting Frenchmen attempted to transfer the seed to southern France, near Dijon, their failure was caused by frost which the plant cannot tolerate. It was the Dutch who transported the plant to Java where they soon established coffee growing. Coffee was then available either from Mocha (the primary port of Yemen) or from Java, giving rise to to the Mocha-Java blend. 

The next chapter in the spread of the black treasure was when Louis XIV of France arranged for a Dutch tree to be brought to Paris where his gardeners protected it in the first ever European greenhouse. It was 1715 and the flowering of the tree was successful. Five years later, sprouts were stolen by one Mathiew de Clieu and made their way to Martinique where they once again flourished, from which coffee cultivation was transferred to Haiti, Mexico, and many Caribbean islands. In 1727, De Melho Palheta was sent to French Guiana by the emperor of Brazil. Despite the traditional jealous guarding of the black fruit, some seeds were acquired from the wife of the Governor of French Guiana and were used to establish the billion-dollar industry of Brazil. At last in 1893, coffee seed from Brazil was brought to Kenya and Tanganyika, a few hundred miles south of its original home in Ethiopia, ending a centuries long circumnavigation of the earth.  

 



 


  



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