There are many legends about the discovery of coffee’s stimulating effects. One of the oldest tells of a young goatherd in Ethiopia in around 850 AD. He had noticed that after eating a certain kind of berry, his goats would become particularly lively.
Monks then tried the fruit but were so disappointed by the bitter flavour that they threw it in the fire. Soon, a delicious aroma was wafting around their nostrils. The monks were so curious that they used the roasted fruits to create a brew, which they saw as a gift from God because it helped them to stay awake half the night.
Discovery of Coffee
The culture of coffee-drinking goes back to the 11th century. It was then that coffee was first imported to Arabia from its original home in Ethiopia. The Persians were enraptured by the invigorating effects of this new “wine of Islam” because real wine was strictly forbidden to Muslims. The word “coffee” comes from the ancient Arabic “qahwah”.
In the second half of the 15th century, coffee spread to the Kingdom of Arabia via Mecca and Medina and went on to reach Cairo in 1510.
In the first half of the 16th century, the Osmanic Kingdom reached its zenith. Coffee came to play an increasingly important role in Arabia, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and in South Eastern Europe. The first coffee houses were opened in Damascus and Aleppo in 1530 and 1532.
Coffee conquers Europe
In 1615, Venetian merchants brought back the first sacks of coffee to western Europe. Its delicious aroma and invigorating effects rapidly established it as a favourite beverage, and coffee houses were soon springing up throughout Europe. Their minds never far from business, the bourgeoisie were soon singing the praises of coffee’s sobering effects, which turned drunkards into reliable workers. Dutch and Englisch seafarers exported the plant to their colonies all over the world.
When the Turks were forced to break off their siege of Vienna in 1683, they left behind them 500 sacks of coffee. An enterprising Polish businessman used it to open the city’s first coffee house.
The spread of the beverage was accompanied by huge growth of coffee tree cultivation. As early as the end of the 17th century, successful efforts were made to grow coffee trees in greenhouses. One of these plants was sent to Louis XIV in Paris as a gift in 1714. This single plant is thought to have been the ancestor of millions of coffee trees.
Coffee in the 20th century
In the early 20th century, Brazil was the world’s biggest coffee producer. Today almost the entire production of coffee comes from Central America, Brazil and the tropical parts of South America. World coffee production amounts to around 100 million bags a year with Brazil in first place representing about ¼ of total production. 8 ½ million bags are produced in Brazil.
Coffee roasting in the home was definitively replaced by the finished industrial product. In 1901 the Japanese Dr Sartori Kato presented the first soluble coffee powder. In 1938 the Nestlé company laid the foundation for the commercial marketing of soluble coffee (instant coffee).
The scale of coffee use is reflected in the trend of world raw coffee consumption in the last 250 years.
1750: 600,000 bags, 1850: 4 million bags, 1950: 36 million bags, 1995: 94 million bags, 2000: 103 million bags.
The demand for coffee has made this hot beverage the second most important traded commodity after petroleum products. This trend was accompanied by phases of overproduction, incineration of surplus stocks, collapsing prices, world economic crisis, declining consumption during the two world wars and the creation of world coffee agreements to stabilize coffee prices. In Germany after the end of the Second World War, coffee became a symbol of economic reconstruction and the economic miracle. Coffee drinking was synonymous with being able to afford things again.