Ah, who doesn't love a warm cup of Joe in the morning? It's safe to say most of us are coffee lovers. It gives us a fresh start and keeps us going throughout the day.
In other words, it's a lifesaver. Yet, do you know the history behind this delicious beverage? If not, it's about time you learned how coffee came to be. You'll be surprised to know it's actually thousands of years old.
Is life possible without coffee?
You drink a cup or two of coffee every day, yet, have you ever imagined your days without some Joe? In the world we live in today, it's hard to picture getting up in the morning and heading to work without something to kickstart the day.
When we're working harder than ever, imagining life without coffee makes us squirm in discomfort. Would our lives be the same today without coffee? Thankfully, no one knows, and hopefully, never will.
Before coffee: The Pre-Caffeine Era
Okay, this isn't actually a historical era, but nonetheless, it's a terrifying one. Yes, there was a time where people weren't drinking coffee. I know, I know, what a tragic point in human history. But we have coffee now, so don't worry.
If anything, the history of coffee should humble you and have you appreciate your cup of brew more than ever. So, before the whole world was caffeinated, where did it start? Was it Italy? Colombia? No, think again.
The cradle of coffee
Your coffee didn't originate from an Italian coffee bean field. Instead, it's suspected that coffee came from Ethiopia. That's right, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. In the mountainous rainforest near Kaffa, coffee has grown wild for thousands of years.
Though this is the birthplace of coffee, we aren't sure when humans started to consume this tasty beverage. However, there's one story most people believe, and it involves a goat. Yes, a goat. Oh, you're going to like this story.
Once upon a time...
An Ethiopian goatherder named Kaldi went to check on his goats. He noticed they were hopping around with excitement and giddiness. Some goats were even dancing (rumor has it). Curious, he noticed the goats were eating leaves and berries from a small shrub.
Kaldi was intrigued and decided to give the berries a try for himself. I mean, what could go wrong? It didn't take long for his heart to start pounding, and he started to dance with his goats. He had been hit by the beauty of caffeine.
A nice story, right?
You can't dislike this story, it's cute. But remember, this is just a story. I have a feeling that Kaldi wasn't the first person to fall in love with coffee. In fact, the first coffee lovers were probably the Oromo people.
They're a Cushitic ethnic group and native in Ethiopia who represent 34.5% of Ethiopia's population. Odds are they were eating coffee berries for thousands of years, as they would crush the berries up and mix them with fat to make power bars.
Coffee traveled across the Red Sea
It wasn't long until coffee traveled across the Red Sea to Yemen in the 15th century. It was there that the Sufis mystics discovered that the coffee beverage could keep them awake during their nightly prayers.
What's significant is that it was in Yemen where roasted coffee beans were first documented. The most popular species of coffee was found in Yemen, Coffea Arabica. This coffee now makes up 60% of the world's coffee supply - and don't we love Coffea Arabica.
So, where did the word 'coffee' come from? The Arabic community called coffee 'Qahwa." The word 'Qahwa' in Arabic means wine. Though it's not 100% certain, the odds are that the word coffee originated from 'Qahwa.'
By the end of the 15th century, coffee has spread throughout the Islamic world. And once coffee became popular, there needed to be a place for people to enjoy this tasty beverage. This was when cafes began to come to life.
The birth of cafes
Devote Muslims, don't drink alcohol, and aren't going to enjoy socializing at a pub. So, they had to come up with a different type of meeting place. This was when cafes were invented.
Since they would serve only coffee, devote Muslim men could enjoy a cup of coffee with friends while engaging in a lively conversation of politics and religion. It wasn't long until coffee was a staple in Muslim society and almost necessary for people. In Turkey, if the husband didn't provide coffee beans for his wife, it was grounds for divorce.
Cutting the coffee fun
Naturally, some rulers weren't happy with how excited civilians were about coffee. No ruler wants to see their people enjoying themselves at the cafes - they should be working instead! But the real concern was that people would discuss politics and would have their position of power harmed.
And, as you know, rulers don't want to be challenged by their people - they're all about control. In many cities like Constantinople, coffee was banned during the 1500 to1600s. So, people drank coffee in secret.
Europeans were coffee-less
While the Arabic community was enjoying coffee, Europe didn't even know it existed. Coffee and tea didn't reach Europe yet, as beer was Europe's favorite beverage. On average, every man, woman, and child in England drank 350 liters of beer per year until the 17th century.
For Germans, that number was between 400 to 600 liters. It's safe to say that Europeans were basically drunk throughout that time in history. However, that all changed once the Dutch, Venetians, and Italian merchants started to import coffee in the 17th century.
Cafe culture in Europe
Now, when you think of cafe culture today, you imagine places like France, Italy, and Spain. But oddly enough, it was England that first adopted cafe culture. In 1652, London's first cafe opened up. And by 1700, there were over 2000 cafes across London.
Cafes were called Penny Universities and, for the same price of a beer, you could sit a listen to intellects chat over a cup of coffee. Meanwhile, pubs were known for being violent as they were usually drunk and armed.
King Charles preferred pubs
The problem with cafes is that people could have a non-inebriated conversation over a cup of coffee. They would talk about politics, religion, and we all know that leaders don't like that. King Charles didn't like that people were talking without being drunk, so he tried to ban them.
People thinking for themselves? People sharing ideas? Ew, gross! We can't have that! But he was quickly challenged and decided to back down. Good choice, Charles.
Capitalism was born in cafes
That's right. In English cafes, early Capitalism was founded. Even important businesses started as cafes. Lloyds of Londo was Lloyd's Coffee House, the British East Indian Company and Jerusalem Cafe, and the London Stock Exchange was Jonathan's coffee.
Yes, they all began as cafes. But not everyone loved cafes. Women, in particular, didn't like them as they weren't allowed inside cafes. It was more of a boys club back then. But that wouldn't last for too long.
The women wanted coffee gone
Men weren't going to be the only ones who could enjoy a cup of coffee. So the women decided to petition against coffee.
They said, "We find of late a very sensible Decay of the true old English vigor; our gallant being every way so Frenchified...We can attribute to nothing more than the excessive use of the newfangled, abominable, heathenish liquor called coffee, which was so eunuch our husbands...and spent their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous, puddle-water...we humbly pray, that henceforth the drinking coffee may on severe penalties be forbidden and that instead thereof, lusty nappy bear and cock-ale...be recommended to general use." It was a full six-page complaint.
And then coffee went wild
By 1777, coffee was so popular that it spread throughout Europe and Prussia. It became such a problem that Frederick the Great said, "My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were his ancestors."
In 1781, he banned citizens from roasting coffee and went so far as to create a secret anti-coffee police. They had to sniff out illegal coffee dealers. But that didn't last too long. The Venise then became Europe's biggest coffee lovers.
Coffee with a twist
The Venise loved coffee so much, they decided to experiment a little. They decided to add sugar and milk to coffee, creating the Kapuziner. The name was after the color of the Kapuziner monk's robe. This was known in Italian as a cappuccino.
In 1669, a Turkish ambassador introduced coffee to the French. Though they didn't originally like the taste, they liked the feeling of coffee. In other words, they like that it made them poop. Well, don't we all like that part?
Coffee fueled the mind
Aside from being able to poop wondrously, coffee also fueled the mind. Thousands of Parisian cafes were pushing the Enlightenment. On July 12, 1789, Camille Desmoulins delivered a passionate speech while standing on a cafe table and inspired the crowd into a rage.
Two days later, the crowed stone Bastille, which started the French Revolution. In America, leaders used cafes as the headquarters of the American Revolution. Who knew that coffee held such historical power. A cup of Joe literally changed the world.
Europe needed more coffee
Europe didn't want to rely on the Ottoman Empire for their coffee supply, so they went on a hunt for more coffee. In the mid 17th century, the Dutch came back to Europe with coffee from India to grow in Ceylon, Sumatra, Java, and South East Asia.
Dutch colonists were supplying Europe with coffee by enslaving local peoples. Dutch civil servant Eduard Douwes Dekker quit in disgust and wrote the book 'Max Havelaar' which discussed the horror taking place in Java as Dutch landowners gain wealth through exploitation.
The French spread the coffee seed
The Dutch weren't the only ones who were trying to expand the coffee supply. In 1720, Gabriel Mathieu De Clieu took a coffee plant to Martinique. Oh, and he weathered through a lot to get that coffee plant to Martinique. He fended off a pirate attack, storms, and dehydration.
While dehydrated, he shared his water with the tiny plant. And his small sacrifice paid off enormously. Within 50 years, there were 18 million coffee trees. All those trees were the offspring of his single plant.
Freeing one, enslaving another
In Europe, coffee was seen as a beverage that was freeing people. William Ukers wrote about coffee, "wherever it has been introduced, it has spelling revolution. It has been the world's most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think.
And when the people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants." Yet, while it helped free Europe and America, it enslaved native people where coffee was being grown. It looks like you can't have one without the other.
An enslaving drink
At one point, 60% of Europe and America's coffee supply was coming from the two smaller islands: Saint-Domingue and Martinique. But who was harvesting all the coffee, you ask? Well, the salves, of course! You thought the French were going to harvest their own coffee?
Ha! 500,000 African slaves harvested the coffee, and that's the sad truth. So, all those revolutions that happened because of coffee ended up enslaving thousands of people. It made one person rethink about coffee.
Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, French writer, and botanist was traveling through the Caribbean when he noticed the disgusting forced labor over coffee.
He said, "I do not know if coffee and sugar are essential to the happiness of Europe...But I know well that these two products have accounted for the unhappiness of two great regions of the world: America has been depopulated so as to have land on which to plant them; Africa has been depopulated so as to have the people to cultivate them." Not everyone was blind to what was really happening.
The slaves rebelled
The French Revolution inspired the slaves to rebel and demanded their freedom during the Haitian Revolution. In 1804, the slave-free nation of Haiti was formed. However, when it comes to the sheer number of slaves, Brazil takes the cake.
In the first half of the 19th century alone, 1.5 million African slaves were brought to Brazil to work on coffee plantations known as Latifundia. The coffee plantations made the owners some of the richest people in Brazil. In the western hemisphere, Brazil had slaves longer than any other state.
Brazil rules the coffee world
When you have 1.5 million slaves in your coffee industry, it's not hard to come out as number one. Brazil's supply of coffee allowed it to be cheap enough for middle-class and working-class people in America and Europe to enjoy the beverage.
Ironically, Brazil democratized coffee through slavery. By the 1920s, Brazil was producing over 80% of the world's coffee supply and remains the world's leading coffee producer for the past 150 years. In 2017, it produced 2.5 million tonnes. Now that is just wild.
Central America followed Brazil
It wasn't too long until Central America followed in Brazil's footsteps. The history of Guatemala exemplified what happened to the entire region. After seeking independence from Spain, Guatemala saw coffee production as a source of wealth. But there was a problem.
Indigenous peoples occupied the best coffee-growing land. Rich coffee growers then confiscated the land and kicked the indigenous people off. Then, those same indigenous peoples were forced to work the coffee plantations. A huge military force oversaw the coffee plantations to keep things in check.
Costa Rica was an exception
For the rest of Central America, it followed in Guatelmaa's footsteps. However, Costa Rica was the only exception. This was because Spanish settlers previously killed off the indigenous people of Costa Rica. So, Costa Rica didn't have the labor for large coffee plantations.
Of course, there were still slaves, but not as many. Instead, small farming families worked together to service the land. Due to this, they were able to become a more stable and united country.
George Washington and instant coffee
George Washington, an oddly named Belgium, mixed refined coffee with water to create instant coffee. Okay, so he wasn't the first to invent instant coffee, but he was the first person to mass-produce it. His invention was a hit as it came just before the first world war.
In 1818, the US Army bought the entire George Washington instant coffee supply. By the time the war ended, the US army was preparing over 40 million cups of coffee per day. Now, that's a lot of coffee.
Coffee vs Fungus
You can't have too much of a good thing. Eventually, something will happen. And with coffee, that's what happened. In Asia, there was an outbreak of leaf rust, which caused the growth of Hemileia vastatrix. It appeared in Siam and wiped out all their plants.
It then spread to the Spanish Philippines, Vietnam, British Raj, and Dutch East Indies. Many states needed to switch to tea, which actually resulted in turning Britain into a tea-drinking nation. England was on the hunt for a new species of coffee.
As the fungus was ruining Asian crops, Coffea robusta was found in central Africa. The coffee bean was amazing. It was disease-resistant, twice as caffeinated, and could grow anywhere in the coffee belt. But there was one disadvantage. The robusta beans tasted horrible.
They needed to be blended with a mixture of Arabica to be drinkable. In 1938, Nestle created Nescafe, a powered coffee that took over the instant coffee market. This was perfect for the post-world-war period.
The espresso revolution
This was one invention that everyone can appreciate now. Back in the day, one cup of coffee took around 5 minutes to make. But when Italian Angelo Moreno invented the espresso machine. Naturally, it was approved up but was a game-changer.
After the espresso machine was made, it could produce a cup of coffee in 30 seconds. The speed and taste of espresso was a hit among people as it helped to fuel capitalism and keep people going.
Bring the revolution at home
The espresso revolution didn't stay in cafes. It was brought into homes with espresso makers and other household appliances. Up until now, it's all about having the perfect cup of coffee. But what we ignore are the base of coffee: the beans.
In 1997, Fairtrade was created to ensure that coffee harvesters are given proper rights. Since launched fairtrade, it has increased and improved the lives of coffee harvesters - but there's still work to be done. We're not perfect.