The Coffee Story
(The Freeman) - February 1, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - There are various versions of the legend of the discovery of coffee, one of which involves a goatherd called Kaldi. One day, while Kaldi's goats grazed, he noticed that they became restless after eating strange berries from a shrub. He tried the berries himself and he, too, became restless.

Another legend tells the story of the dervish Omar, known for his ability to heal the sick by prayer. Exiled from his hometown in Mocha to a cave in the desert and nearing starvation, Omar chewed on berries from a shrub growing nearby. Finding the berries too bitter, he roasted them, hoping to improve the flavor. He decided the berries needed boiling to soften them. He drank the resulting fragrant brew and was instantly revitalized, remaining in this state for several days.

In Arabia, monks usually held long services at night and would fall asleep during prayers. The head priest then gave them coffee to keep them awake for prayers. In 1511, the ruler of Mecca thought that coffee caused drunkenness so he forbade drinking it.

In the 16th century, coffee drinking spread throughout Turkey and the first coffeehouse was opened in Constantinople.

When the Turkish army invaded Vienna in 1683, they brought along coffee with them. When they were defeated by the Polish, all their belongings were confiscated or burned. Part of the loot was coffee that got roasted in the process. This was how coffee started in Europe.

In 1660, a ship carrying coffee from Egypt arrived at the port in Marseilles, France. The famous French ruler Louis XIV received a Turkish sultan in his court who gave him coffee as a gift. The first French coffeehouse was opened soon after in Marseilles.

Up until the 17th century, all coffee came from Yemen in Africa. It was from the Port of Mocha (ALl Mukha in Arabic) that the first coffee shipment came. It was in this plain across the Red Sea from Ethiopia (where coffee grew wild) that coffee was first cultivated and commercialized. Because these were the first beans that became popular in Europe, "Mocha" then became synonymous with coffee.

Coffee was successfully planted and grown in the French colonies in the West Indies and in the Dutch colonies in the East Indies (now known as Indonesia). From Indonesia or Java, coffee may have travelled to the Philippines due to the proximity of Borneo and other Indonesian islands to the Mindanao provinces.

Another way that coffee may have reached the Philippines was through the Galleon Trade and also through the Spanish friars who brought with them coffees from Europe when they brought Christianity to the Philippine shores.

A marker in the Lipa, Batangas cathedral states that Spanish friars came around 1750 and it is also in Lipa and San Jose where the first coffee trees were planted.

In other parts of the world, the British also started to drink coffee in 1652. The first London coffeehouse was opened by a Greek named Pasqua Rosee, who was brought back from Turkey as a servant to a London merchant. The merchant gave Pasqua the opportunity to open his own business.

By 1670, there were about 3,000 coffeehouses in England. These became meeting places where people talked, argued and discussed politics. These coffeehouses also became known as "penny universities."

In the early 18th century, coffee was brought to Brazil by a messenger of the ruler of Brazil who smuggled coffee seeds from French Guiana hidden in a bouquet of flowers. That time, no one was allowed to take coffee seeds out of the country but the messenger became friendly with the French governor's wife who put the seeds in the bouquet and was able to get some seeds out of the country and into Brazil.

The coffee grew well in Brazil and by the mid-19th century, Brazil became the number one producer of coffee in the world, a title that still holds today.

The famous Boston Tea Party in 1774 made coffee the national drink of the United States of America. During the night of December 16, 1774, a group of American settlers threw 340 chests of tea into the Boston harbor as a protest to the British who slapped a high duty on tea imports. This event became known as the Boston Tea Party which led to the beginning of the American war on independence, after which the British no longer ruled in the northern part of the United States.

From that time on, no loyal American drank tea and the people drank coffee instead. Anyone drinking tea then was accused of being a traitor. This made America the world's biggest consumer of coffee, which is still true to this day. In the 1950's, instant coffee was also introduced in America making coffee drinking more convenient and popular. - from An Introduction to Coffee By Pacita U. Juan and Ma. Regina S. Francisco (ANVIL Manila)


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