The history of coffee

As a legend goes, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia around 600 AD, when a shepherd, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries (known as “cherries”) of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself; thus, he found out about its beneficial properties. The shepherd, proud of his discovery, thought of sharing his secret with the monks of a nearby monastery. So, he brought them some of these berries. The wise monks made an aromatic beverage out of them and very soon attributed sacred properties to the drink, as it kept them alert during their nightlong prayers.

The Arabs were the first to have adopted it as a beverage; they also used to add clove, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise into the mix.

During the Middle Ages, the coffee plant was cultivated in Arabia, near the Red Sea, where the Arabs struggled to maintain the monopoly in its cultivation.

In 1470, coffee arrived in Mecca and the first coffeehouses began to emerge, despite the prohibitions by the authorities, who believed that the consumption of coffee in the coffeehouses estranged the congregants from their religious duties.

In 1554, merchants brought coffee from Damascus, Syria, to Constantinople, while in 1955 the first coffeehouse opened. The people of Constantinople loved the exotic drink and the coffeehouses spread rapidly across the whole city. The European travelers to the Orient were impressed by the exotic beverage and were enchanted by its properties. However, the civilized West viewed the new drink with suspicion, until Pope Clement VIII, in 1600, condoned its use and called it “a Christian drink”, after having indulged himself in its taste and aroma.

In 1723, a French naval officer, stole some coffee plants from the greenhouses of the “Jardin Royal des Plantes” in Paris and transported them to Martinique illegally. In 1727, a Portuguese officer from Brazil seduced the Governor’s wife in French Guinea. She expressed her love and affection by giving him some coffea seeds and shoots, which started the biggest coffee plantation in the world, after being replanted in Brazil!

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