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the history of coffee on caffezucco.com
coffee beans on caffezucco.comMyths & Legends

The history of coffee is as rich as the brew itself. It was once considered so precious by the Arabs that its export out of Moslem countries was forbidden under sentence of death. It was however finally brought to the attention of Pope Clement VIII in Rome. His Cardinals called it "the devil's brew". The Pope tried it and decided to "bless" the beverage rather than ban it, claiming "it is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it."  Since then, Italy has become home to the world's greatest master blenders, brewers and coffee machine makers.

Early Legends - Caffa and Mocha

An Ethiopian version says the uplifting effect of coffee beans was first noticed by a sheep herder from Caffa named Kaldi.  He noted his sheep became hyperactive after eating the red "cherries" from plant.  A curious fellow, he tried a few himself, and was soon found himself as "pepped up" as his sheep. The local monks scolded him for "partaking of the devil's fruit."  But they soon discovered the virtue of the fruit from the shiny green plant could help them stay awake for their prayers, and began drinking it in earnest!

antique gaggia coffee machine on caffezucco.comAnother legend says the first name for coffee was "mocha."  An Arab was banished to the desert with his followers to die of starvation. In desperation, he and his friends boiled and ate the fruit from this unknown plant. Not only did the brew save them, but their survival was taken as a religious sign by residents of the nearby town, Mocha.

Arabian Coffee

While the coffee plant grew naturally in Ethiopia, once transplanted to Arabia it became a closely guarded monopoly. The Arabs kept it a secret for centuries.  Turkey was the first country to adopt it as a popular drink, often adding spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom and anise to the brew. The first coffeehouse was opened in Istanbul in 1475.

It wasn't until the 1600s that coffee was introduced to countries beyond Arabia. Transportation of the plant outside Moslem countries was still strictly forbidden. The actual spread of coffee was started illegally by an Arab named Baba Budan who smuggled beans to some mountains near Mysore, India, and started a coffee plantation. It wasn't long before coffee found its way to Europe.

SAECO gran crema coffee machine on caffezucco.comThe Chronology of Coffee

800-850 A.D.:   Ethiopia: The uplifting effect of coffee beans was first noticed by a sheep herder from Caffa named Kaldi.  His sheep became hyperactive after eating the red berries from the plant. He tried them himself.  Coptic monks took to it, saying it helped them stay awake during prayers!

1000 A.D.:  Arab traders begin cultivating the plant for the first time on plantations. They also began to boil the beans, creating a drink they call "qahwa" - literally, that which prevents sleep.

1453: Coffee is introduced to Constantinople by Ottoman Turks. The world's first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opens there in 1475. Turkish law makes it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fails to provide her with her daily quota of coffee.

1511: Khair Beg, the corrupt governor of Mecca, tries to ban coffee for fear that its influence might foster opposition to his rule. The Sultan sends word that coffee is sacred and has the governor executed.

pope clement VIII papal medal on caffezucco.com1600: Coffee, introduced to the West by Italian traders, gets attention in high places. In Italy, Pope Clement VIII is urged by his advisers to consider the favorite drink of the Ottoman Empire as part of the infidel threat. However, he decides to "baptize" it instead, making it an acceptable Christian beverage.

1607: Captain John Smith helps to found the colony of Virginia at Jamestown. It's believed that he introduced coffee to North America.

1645: First coffeehouse opens in Italy.

1652: First coffeehouse opens in England. Coffee houses multiply and become such popular forums for learned and not so learned - discussion that they are dubbed "penny universities" (a penny being the price of a cup of coffee).

1668: Coffee replaces beer as New York's City's favorite breakfast drink.

1668: Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse opens in England and is frequented by merchants and maritime insurance agents. Eventually it becomes Lloyd's of London, the best-known insurance company in the world.

1672: First coffeehouse opens in Paris.

1675: The Turkish Army surrounds Vienna. Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a Viennese who had lived in Turkey, slips through the enemy lines to lead relief forces to the city. The fleeing Turks leave behind sacks of "dry black fodder" that Kolschitzky recognizes as coffee. He claims it as his reward and opens central Europe's first coffee house. He also establishes the habit of refining the brew by filtering out the grounds, sweetening it, and adding a dash of milk.

1690: With a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha, the Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially, in Ceylon and in their East Indian colony - Java, source of the brew's nickname.

1713: The Dutch unwittingly provide Louis XIV of France with a coffee bush whose descendants will produce entire Western coffee industry when in 1723 French naval officer Gabriel Mathieu do Clieu steals a seedling and transports it to Martinique. Within 50 years and official survey records 19 million coffee trees on Martinique. Eventually, 90 percent of the world's coffee spreads from this plant.

1721: First coffee house opens in Berlin.

1727: The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start when Lieutenant colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta is sent by government to arbitrate a border dispute between the French and the Dutch colonies in Guiana. Not only does he settle the dispute, but also strikes up a secret liaison with the wife of French Guiana's governor. Although France guarded its New World coffee plantations to prevent cultivation from spreading, the lady said good-bye to Palheta with a bouquet in which she hid cuttings and fertile seeds of coffee.

1732: Johann Sebastian Bach composes his Kaffee-Kantate. Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria, "Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than Muscatel wine! I must have my coffee."

1773: The Boston Tea Party makes drinking coffee a patriotic duty in America.

1775: Prussia's Frederick the Great tries to block inports of green coffee, as Prussia's wealth is drained. Public outcry changes his mind.

1886: Former wholesale grocer Joel Cheek names his popular coffee blend "Maxwell House," after the hotel in Nashville, TN where it's served.

Early 1900's: In Germany, afternoon coffee becomes a standard occasion. The derogatory term "Kaffee Klatsch" is coined to describe women's gossip at these affairs.

1901: The first soluble "instant" coffee is invented by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago.

1903: The origins of decaffeinated coffee begin with German coffee importer Ludwig Roselius who turns a batch of ruined coffee beans over to researchers. They perfect the process of removing caffeine from the beans without destroying the flavor. He markets it under the brand name "Sanka."

1906: George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala, notices a powdery condensation forming on the spout of his silver coffee carafe. After experimentation, he creates the first mass-produced instant coffee. His brand is called Red E Coffee.

1907: In less than a century Brazil accounted for 97% of the world's coffee harvest.

1938: Having been asked by Brazil to help find a solution to their coffee surpluses, the Nestlé company invents freeze-dried coffee. Nestlé develops Néscafe and introduces it in Switzerland.

1946: In Italy, Achilles Gaggia perfects his espresso machine. Cappuccino is named for its resemblance to the color of the robes of the monks of the Capuchin order.

     
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