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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The History of Coffee

Coffee should be dark as night, sweet as love, and must come from exquisitely roasted seeds from the berries of the bunno. This mysterious bush has been the topic of coffee connoisseurs and historians for centuries. Many argue that the origin of the "bunno" bush is found in the Kingdom of Kaffa, the legendary location for the first consumption of this beverage. However, another legend describes Kaldi, an Arab goat herder, who was bewildered by the perplexing behavior of his herd.

Around 800 AD, Kaldi allegedly sampled the berries, which the goats were feeding on, and experienced a sense of spiritual enlightenment and in doing so, proclaimed his discovery to the world.

Consequently, there are those who credit the first coffee discovery to Homer in the Odyssey. Homer describes an instance where Helena, daughter of Zeus, mixes a drink in a bowl "which had the power of robbing grief and anger of their sting and banishing all painful memories." Apparently, the Gods used coffee for medicinal and spiritual reasons while they comfortably lounged at Mount Olympus.

During the cultivation, brewed coffee was reserved exclusively for the priesthood and the medical profession; doctors would use the brew for patients experiencing a need for better digestion, and priests used it to stay alert during their long nights of studying for the church.

In many cultures, if you could afford to serve coffee to your guests, it was a sign of wealth and power. The person with the innate ability to obtain a rare beverage for the sole purpose of consumption with similar attitudes and affluent people was well respected. Often times, there were separate rooms set aside for individuals to partake in this rare experience free from judgment of society.

However, when coffee was first introduced to the masses it was not well received. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca. However, the popularity of the drink led these bans to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I.

In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked.

When coffee was first imported to Italy, the trade between Venice and the Muslims in Egypt, North Africa, and the East brought a large assortment of African commodities, including coffee, to this foremost European port. Initially, coffee was first distributed in Venice to the wealthy and then it made its rounds into the market.

During the 16th century, coffee became readily available in England through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. England's first coffee house was opened in St. Michael's Alley in Cornhill and shortly after, the popularity of coffeehouses spread rapidly throughout England.

Throughout the history of the coffee trade and the existence of the coffeehouse, banning of women from the houses was quite prevalent. They were banned from visiting them in England however; they often frequented them in parts of Germany. The ban may have been due to the 1674 "Women's Petition Against Coffee" which stated:

"The Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE has Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age."

Coffee reached Paris between 1669 and 1670 when Ambassador Soleiman Agha from Sultan brought with him a vast amount of coffee beans. Most of the reserve was given to the Europeans and the French, with a small donation going to the royals.

In 1683, the first coffee house was opened in Vienna, Austria after the Battle of Vienna, where stocks were obtained after defeating the Turkish Army. A new custom was established by the Military officer Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki who received the coffee beans after the war; sugar and milk were added to the brewed coffee giving it a rich and creamy aromatic flavor. The new concoction was celebrated in local Viennese coffeehouses by hanging a picture of Kulczycki in the window.

Europeans raced to become the foremost distributors of coffee beans however, the Dutch finally won the race in the late 17th century when "they allied with the natives of Kerala against the Portuguese and brought some live plants back from Malabar to Holland." The Dutch began growing coffee in Malabar and in 1699 took some to Batavia in Java, which is now Indonesia. Over the next passing years, the Dutch colonies became the main suppliers of coffee beans in Europe.

By the end of the 17th century, most of the coffee supply was coming from the province of Yemen, Arabia. But, due to the overwhelming popularity, the propagation of the coffee plant was spreading throughout Java and other areas of Indonesia. It wasn't until the 18th century that coffee was introduced to the America's.

The distribution of the coffee beans was attributed to several countries throughout the 17th century. France was the first to introduce coffee to the America's through its colonization with Martinique and the West Indies, where the French plantations were originally founded.
In 1727, Brazil's first coffee plantation was designed by Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta who smuggled seeds from French Guiana.

In the past, coffee was reserved for the elite; however Brazil was determined to distribute it to the commercial masses by using African slave labor until the abolition of slavery in 1888.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Brazil was the biggest purveyor of coffee and an essential powerhouse in the trade. In 1893, Brazil introduced its coffee beans to Kenya and Tanzania, which essentially ended its journey throughout the continents.

A policy of maintaining high prices for the coffee commodities led such countries as Guatemala, Colombia, Viet Nam, and Indonesia now second only to Brazil as the major coffee producer in the world. "Vietnam began production of trade associations with the US in 1995." Nearly all of the coffee grown there is Robusta, which was native to West and Central Africa.

There are countries that contribute a small amount of coffee resources throughout the world which include Ethiopia, a country that produced only a small amount for export until the Twentieth Century, and a great extent of that was from the vicinity of Harar in the northeast.

Australia, where the coffee trade dates back to 1880 when the first of 500 acres began to be developed in an area between northern New South Wales and Cooktown. "Today there are several producers of Arabica coffee in Australia that use a mechanical harvesting system invented in 1981."

Nowadays, coffee is a staple in our society. This rare beverage regulates people's lives and dictates certain social norms in different settings.

Coffee houses are seen on every corner, on every street, and in the markets in every major city around the globe. They are filled with people of every race, stature, and occupation. It is the one place in the world that people can come together, in a shared state where each person can enjoy their own form of religion.

The aroma that fills these coffeehouses and the streets touches our senses. When one person removes the top from the glass canister, it sets off streams of International scents that travel through the air and into our nose. Much of the pleasure from this experience is from its immediate sensual appeal and primitive flavor.

Unfortunately, the life of the coffeehouse has become so commercialized and complex that a person with no decision making abilities can make 10 decisions on one cup of coffee. Instead of savoring coffee in its richest form, you can now design a cup of coffee on the basis of Tall, Grande, Venti, Decaf, Caf, Slim, Whole, Foam, No Foam, Non-Fat, Latte, Mocha, and so on and so forth.

The most interesting of the coffeehouse culture was that the evolution of the tip was suggested by a location in English where customers stated to ante up a little extra "to insure promptness" in service, the gratuity called the tip was born.

"The British called their coffee houses, "penny universities" because that was the price for the coffee and the social upper-class of business-men were found there. In fact, a small coffee shop run by Edward Lloyd in 1668 was such a business hub; it eventually became the still-operating Lloyd's of London insurance company."

Regardless of the nature of the cup, coffee is now considered a national drink for people of all faiths with the exception of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints whom actually claim that coffee is spiritually and physically unwholesome. "This comes from the Mormon doctrine of health, given in 1833 by Mormon founder Joseph Smith, in a revelation called the Word of Wisdom".

Of course, everyone and every religion are entitled to their own preference on the basis of their beliefs. However, there are scientific examinations of coffee consumption which have led to many positive aspects and benefits including its ability to reduce the risk of, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, and gout.

Much of the negative contradictions of coffee consumption are due to the fact that no concrete evidence can really state if it's detrimental to the body just by itself. The caffeine content can have an adverse affect on the human body if consumed is mass amounts on a daily basis however, the mainstream opinion agrees that consuming one 8 ounce cup a day has no significant risk to the consumer.

The evolution of the coffee bean has now reached the household in which the bean has taken on many interesting and unique uses. Not only is the bean being consumed in liquid form but, it can also aid in aromatherapy, cleanliness, cooking, bad breath, crafting, potpourri and many others.

Individuals can just as easily pop a bean in their mouth for the sole purpose of eliminating bad breath as opposed to spending the usual $.99 for a pack of breath mints.

In cooking, if you are using an excessive amount of garlic or shallots, then you know the scent can stay on your hands for days even with multiple hand washes. You can grab a handful of coffee beans and rub them between your hands. The heat in your hands will release the oils in the beans which then will get absorbed into your skin.

Coffee, to some is a therapeutic experience in which they feel it cleanses the mind of free radicals and enables them to experience life to the fullest every day. Treating coffee beans like a natural alternative to certain medical remedies has become a growing interest to particular Organic style specialty coffeehouses. A new essence of coffee has been introduced to more health conscience consumers that appreciate the timeless effort that it takes to produce this natural alternative.

As a result of the growing changes in the coffee market, a number of classifications and uses of the coffee bean have lead to certain environmental standards. For instance, Organic coffee is now produced under very strict guidelines; it's grown without the addition of artificial pesticides compared to regular coffee bean cultivation which is grown with more pesticides than any other agricultural resources.

Additionally, Fair trade coffee which is often produced by smaller purveyors is guaranteed at a minimum price which is dependent on the current market price at the time. TransFair USA is the principal organization presently overseeing Fair Trade coffee practices in the United States, while the Fairtrade Foundation does so in the United Kingdom.

In the beginning, coffee was grown under the shade of trees which provided natural surroundings for many living things, reminiscent of the biodiversity of a natural forest. Coffee was free from fertilizers and foreign chemicals before it became so widely traded in the market.

During the Green Revolution, which began in 1945 at the request of the Mexican government, the US Agency for International Development and other groups gave millions of dollars to plantations in Latin America in an attempt to allow production to keep pace with worldwide population growth. These plantations replaced the more Organic techniques of coffee bean cultivation with sun cultivation techniques to increase yields, which in turn destroyed immeasurable amounts of forestry.

The process of sun cultivation eliminated vast amounts of trees around the surrounding areas and contributed to the pollution and habitat destruction that affected many of the modern day coffee farms.

As a result, the traditional methods of growing coffee beans have been revisited to promote a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional sun-grown coffee.
According to the International Coffee Organization the monthly coffee price averages in international trade had been well above 100 US cent/lb during the 1970's and 1980's, but then declined during the late 90s reaching a minimum in September 2001 of just 41.17 US cent per lb and stayed that way until 2004.

The result of the decline was due to the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975-1989 with Cold War pressures, which had held the minimum coffee price at USD$1.20 per pound. In addition, supply pressures occurred after Brazil and Vietnam joined the market in 1994 after a United States trade embargo against both countries had been lifted.

Vietnamese coffee suppliers were more efficient within the market so it put the pressure on lesser coffee bean farmers in Brazil, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua, whose prices were well below the cost of cultivation and production, inevitably leading these farmers to quit the coffee bean business.

The cost of green coffee steadily declined which occurred at the same time as the rise in specialty cafes. These cafe's served up tremendously overpriced coffee yet, the marketability of the coffeehouse itself was appealing to the masses. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, in 2006, 16% of adults were consuming specialty coffee daily and 63% of adult were consuming it occasionally. The number of retail specialty coffee locations, including cafes, kiosks, coffee carts and retail roasters, amounted to 23,900 and total sales were 12.7 billion in 2006. Of course these percentages have increased readily up until 2008 by about 1.5% a year.

It is imperative to note that coffee sold at retail prices is a different economic product than wholesale coffee, which is traded as a commodity. These commodities are ultimately affected by changes in consumption patterns and prices.

Coffee prices rose in 2005 due to an increased consumption in countries like China and Russia along with a harvest which was 15% lower than the years before. Production has become increasingly more expensive due to the packaging, cultivation, and transportation of the coffee beans. Prices are expected to either remain constant or rise an extra 1.5 Billion a year according to recent studies of economical growth.

The coffee market has continued to flourish as new and diverse coffeehouses are opening their doors throughout the continents. The avenues of today are providing a rich and wholesome environment for all walks of life and ages. At certain times of the day, the coffeehouses come alive with amusing entertainment such as poetry readings, musical performances, and story times for adolescents. The demand for this type of environment is unlike any other in the various cities around the world.

The evolution of the coffee bean has survived the times through centuries of war and deprivation and will only continue to grow and transform with the outpouring of International culture and the revolutionary changes happening all over the globe.


Anonymous said...

Great article with some very interesting pieces of information (such as the birth of tipping).

I was drinking coffee as I read. :-)

Anonymous said...

cafe was in america always

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