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A History of Coffee

History of Coffee

The importance of the humble coffee bean to today`s economy and culture should not be underestimated. Employing more than 200 million people worldwide, the coffee industry is a booming global market and provides one of the worlds most valuable products for trade. Second only to oil in value as a trade product, coffee has given many developing countries employment and an economy where before there was none and for many of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, coffee provides 50% or more of their export earnings. But where did this fascination with the coffee bean originally come from?

In the early days coffee was first drunk in Eastern Africa in an area we would now recognise as Ethiopia. There is a legend involving a goat herder called Kaldi who noticed hyperactivity in goats following consumption of the bean and then decided to eat them himself. It is said that news of this powerful energy giving bean spread over the land and was popular with monks who used it to give them added energy for prayer.

Soon after this coffee beans were transported into the Arabian Peninsula from east Africa, where they were cultivated in what is now the country of Yemen. The beans travelled from there to Turkey where they were roasted over open fires for the first time, which people found gave the bean a pleasantly earthy, rich flavour when crushed and boiled in water.

The first coffee bean to arrive in Europe had a mixed reception, with members of the Catholic Church declaring it the drink of the devil. However, the Pope, already a regular coffee drinker, declared it a worthy Christian beverage and the European passion for coffee sprang to life. Coffee houses sprang up all over Europe and became hubs for exchanges of knowledge and creative nurturing.

Coffee travelled to America in the 1700`s, reportedly by means of a French captain who nurtured a single plant across the Atlantic and planted it in the soils of Martinique. This solitary plant became the ancestor of the now 19 million coffee plants on the island and instigated the spread of coffee to central and South America.

Today coffee is the world`s most popular drink and a multi million pound industry. Worldwide around 400 billion cups of coffee are drunk each year, from quick fix instant cups to extravagant speciality coffees. Whether you buy supermarket freeze dried or spend your time searching for premium coffee beans online, you are part of a global phenomenon which shows no sign of slowing down.


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