Ever wondered what is the history of coffee? Where it comes from and since when people have started consuming it? Then you are in the right place, as we are going to discover its incredible origins, where coffee history and myths meet!
The origins between myths and history – The Horn of Africa
The origins of coffee are known more through myths than in proper history, from the legend of the Ethiopian god Waqa that blessed the coffee plant with his tears, to the more credible stories of a Yemeni farmer named Al Shadhilly. The latter is said to have discovered the coffee plant after noticing that his goats were very lively after chewing it. Thanks to this, a local monastery tried roasting its beans in order to create a drink that would help the believers stay awake during the long nights of prayer.
Now, the historical routes can be traced back to the Horn of Africa, more precisely in Ethiopia.
It is here that people initially began to eat the red fruits containing the coffee seeds whole and started refining the process of consumption by extracting the seeds and eventually pulverise them in a mortar. The powder that was obtained through this process was then mixed into a paste with butter and honey, which would eventually be boiled with salt and spices.
The Arab World
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, the coffee plant reached the ‘Arab World’ after crossing the Red Sea and landing in today’s Yemen.
Thanks to the discovery of the “roasting” – where the beans were placed in a pan or skillet over a fire – people started preparing what was known as the Black Elixir. The beverage started being used during the sacred rites and prayers that took place during night time and then became very popular due to its beneficial effects, such as deterring drowsiness, enhancing memory or even suppressing appetite, as well as the fact that the rather popular alcoholic beverages, were actually banned in the Arab World. Coffee culture was well and truly born when in the 15th century, coffee houses started being built and spread all around the Ottoman Empire.
The Spread of The Coffee Plant Through The World
Prior to the 17th Century, coffee was only really known by scholars and sailors alike. However, this changed in the early 17th century, in 1616, when Europe secured the coffee plant. Coffee first reached Europe thanks to those enterprising Venetians. From there, coffee quickly spread through all of the large ports of Venice, Marseille, London, Amsterdam and Hamburg.
Thanks to Europe successfully managing to pry the coffee plant free from the tight grasp of the Arab World, coffee became forever ingrained in Western Culture.
From here on out, the demand for the black elixir kept growing, with Asia and the Americas following suit to fall in love with the mesmerising allure that coffee has.