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Learn about the history of coffee

Everything will be explained from the earliest legends to coffee trade spreading all over the world.

The earliest legend | Coffee in the Moslem World

The earliest legend

The person who thought of the idea of brewing a drink from coffee beans is not known. However, coffee drinking has been known in the Middle-East since long before our era. Rhazes, an Arabic doctor, (approximately 900 BC) mentions coffee in one of his writings. A far nicer story is that of the Arabic goatherd. Different versions are told but the basic story remains the same.

The legend tells the story of Kaldi the goatherd, who lived in Ethiopia about 300 AD. He noticed that after the goats had been eating red berries from a tree, his goats were lively and energetic until late in the evening. He tried the red berries himself and he experienced the same effect. He mentioned this to the monks in the nearby monastery, who from then on took coffee to stay awake during the nightly prayer gatherings. The legend also records that these monks discovered by chance that the beans could be roasted and that a beverage prepared from the roasted beans not only produced the same effect, but also tasted far better. The coffee beans and
the beverage made from them, were from then on regarded as a luxurious stimulant.

The Arabic historical writer Scheha Beddin (15th century) turns the story around: Chadely, a Mohammedan clergyman was tortured by guilt; as he fell asleep during prayer every night. He prayed to Allah for help and was directed in his sleep to the goatherd. The story sounds too good to be true, but illustrates nicely how people in
the past discovered ways in which products of nature could serve them.

Coffee in the Moslem World

Allthough some conservative religious leaders once believed coffee should be forbidden as an intoxicant, secular opinions prevailed and coffee's popularity spread through the Moslem world.

Islamic pilgrims carried roasted beans home with them and coffee became the beverage of choice throughout much of the Middle East. By the 15th century, coffee shops - called 'Kaveh Kanes' - became popular meeting places, launching a coffee culture that eventually spread to the rest of the world.

Coffee monopolised
Arabian traders tightly controlled the lucrative coffee trade, exporting roasted or boiled coffee beans only and forbidding export of beans that could germinate. Using this strategy, they successfully monopolised the coffee trade for two centuries, enjoying highly profitable exports to the rest of the Middle East and Europe. But the monopoly was destined to end by the 17th century, when the Dutch succeeded in breaking the closely guarded monopoly by smuggling a young coffee plant to Amsterdam. They then started to cultivate coffee in their colonies in the East Indies, primarily on the island of Java.

Imported to India
Legend has it that a Moslem pilgrim named Baba Budan hid seven seeds next to his belly and slipped out of the country with the smuggled seeds in 1650. He planted them near his home in Chikmagalgur in southern India. They flourished in the new location and their offspring still produce about a third of India's coffee.

source: Douwe Egberts

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