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Coffee 101

History

Green Mountain

The roots of coffee are widely debated, but here is the most common tale of how coffee worked its way into our daily lives.


Goats will eat anything… and they did. So we give credit to the goats of Ethiopia and Kaldi, their goat herder for the discovery of coffee. The legend goes that around 800 A.D., Kaldi noticed his herd dancing from one coffee shrub to another, munching on the berries containing the beans. He took a few for himself and was soon enjoying his own caffeine dance right along with his flock.


From Ethiopia, coffee spread to Egypt, Yemen and later Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. Coffee as we know it kicked off in Arabia, where beans were first roasted and brewed around 1000A.D. By the 13th century Muslims were drinking coffee religiously. The drink kept workers working; worshippers awake, and soon became a part of their secular life. Its popularity spread to North Africa, the Mediterranean, India and Italy.


Middle Eastern merchants introduced coffee to the wealthy in Venice, making it a hot commodity and very expensive. Soon its popularity spread throughout the rest of Europe becoming more widely received after it was deemed an acceptable beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the "Muslim drink".


The first “Coffee House” opened in Italy in 1645. But coffee remained expensive, so in 1690 the Dutch smuggled seedlings into Europe, much to the disappointment of the Arabs who had put an embargo on exportation of the plant or unroasted seeds. In 1696 the Dutch founded the first European coffee plantation, on Java, now part of Indonesia. Business boomed and Amsterdam began giving coffee trees to aristocrats around Europe.


Soon coffee and coffee houses gained in popularity and spread throughout England, as well as France, Austria and Poland. Coffee made its way to the America’s in the early 1700’s but, it was not immediately a success as it had been in Europe. During the Revolutionary War, the demand for coffee increased so much that dealers had to hoard their short supplies and raise prices dramatically. After the War of 1812, Britain had temporarily cut off tea imports, forcing the Americans’ taste for coffee to grow. Soon coffee became a staple.


Today, coffee has become part of our daily lives. With an abundance of coffee houses, it has never been more popular whether it’s first thing in the morning, during a business meeting or just as a break in the day. A survey conducted in 2001 by “Timothy McSweeney's, Most Censored Press Releases” asked people: “If you had to give up one of the following for a month, which would it be: Coffee, excuses, internet access at home, chocolate or sex?” The results? Coffee was second only to sex on the priority list for both men and women. The majority would give up chocolate, excuses and the Internet -- in that order.


“Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven.” -Jessi Lane Adams