A History of Coffee

image of coffee berries

One story about the early use of coffee regards an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed how much more lively his goats were after chewing on the red berried of a coffee plant.

Slaves traveling from modern-day Sudan through the port Mocha into Yemen chewed on the flesh of the berries. Mocha is now a type of coffee drink. Coffee shops called "kavah kanes" began appearing in Mecca and were centers for entertainment. However, Arabian coffee houses soon became centers for political activity, and coffee houses were banned. A solution to the situation was formed when it was decided that coffeehouses and coffee could be taxed.

Although importing live coffee plants were illegal, the Dutch managed to snag some in 1616 and took them back to Holland where the plants were grown in greenhouses. The Dutch also took plants to Malabar in India and Batavia in Java, which is known today as Indonesia, which is known today as the world's fourth largest exporter of coffee.

Coffee was brought to Europe in 1615 by Venetian traders, where it was sold by lemonade vendors. It was believed to have held medicinal qualities. The most famous coffee shop, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco was opened in 1720, and is still open today.

It is recorded that coffee was drunk in the United States as early as 1668, when coffee shops began popping up in New York, Philedelphia and Boston. The United States is now the world's largest consumer of coffee. Seattle is known as the nation's coffee capitol, where Starbucks was first opened in 1971.

Coffee shops now serve as meeting places where people hang out with friends, students go to study and where hipsters go read '50s beat poetry and discuss philosophy.