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History Of Coffee

Today, the world is full of fancy coffee makers that make it easier than ever to get that wonderful ‘caffeine rush’ so many of us coffee lovers need to get going.

However, in the early days, there wasn’t any special equipment like a Quick Mill Alexia espresso machine or the increasingly popular “Aeropress.

Instead, there were much more simple ways to make a great cup o’ Joe. Let’s take a look back…

The dates and events surrounding coffee’s discovery are lost in time. It seems that between 600 AD and 800 AD, goat herders, in what is present day Ethiopia, noticed their goats becoming quite frisky after eating berries on a particular shrub.

The herders decided to eat the berries and found they became more awake and active.  Who actually stared putting them in boiling water is uncertain.

It is told that Holy men who started crushing the raw berries, boiling them in water and drinking the resulting brew were more alert during long hours of prayer.  Raw coffee berry beverages and stews became very popular and highly prized.

It was not until sometime between 1000 AD and 1200 AD that these raw berries were actually roasted.  It is believed that coffee was being grown and roasted on a commercial basis in Yemen between 1200 and 1500 AD.  Its popularity also spread throughout the Arab world extensively during this period.  Coffee plants and seeds were well guarded, but it was only a matter of time until seeds or cuttings were smuggled out of Arabia.
In Turkey many coffee shops opened and were local social meccas.  The Venetians were apparently the first Europeans to import raw coffee in the early  1600’s, and by 1700 there were hundreds of coffee houses opened in each major city from Vienna to London.  Coffee houses became centers of commerce and influence. Two very popular coffee houses in London became what are today “Lloyds of London” and the “London Stock Exchange”.

The sale of tea in Britain was threatened by the growing popularity of coffee, and a tax was applied to coffee imports.  Coffee had been introduced to the American Colonies in the early 1600’s when Britain began taxing tea. By 1773 the “Boston Tea Party” demonstrated what the population thought of taxation on their favourite beverage.  The American Colonies decidedly preferred coffee over tea from that time, as it was more “American”.  The Dutch started growing coffee in Ceylon and Java, and the trade in coffee began to center around Amsterdam.  Colonial coffee production was definitely a desired commodity, and by the early 1800’s Brazil was the top producer and still is today – with a harvest of some 34 million sacs per year.  It was Brazil’s production that enabled the general population of the world to taste this great beverage.

In the 1820’s the French revolutionized the brewing process and invented the first espresso machine.  Not until after the Second world war did the Italian “Gaggia” perfect the machine and launch commercial production, along with “Faema”.  Decaffeinated coffee emerged in the early 1900’s.  “Instant” and “freeze dried” coffees made their commercial debut with the first television commercials of the 1950’s.

An attempt was made at organizing coffee producing countries to allocate a percentage of the market to each country.  It was not until the early 1960’s that the United Nations Council became involved to ensure each country a fair share in the world market.  Agreements were signed and renewed regularly until 1989, and when participating countries failed to agree on terms and coffee prices fell.  Combined with droughts in Brazil, coffee prices went on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

With the emergence of a new coffee producing country, namely Vietnam (whose crops of Robusta coffees rival the amount of Arabicas that Colombia produces), the coffee industry faces yet more challenges with fluctuating prices.