Coffee today is truly a global commodity. Furthermore, even though coffee is grown in a handful of countries its global demand makes it one of the most important commodities both from a social and financial perspective. However, it is interesting to note how coffee became such a global drink. Let’s examine the migration of coffee from its origins in Africa and the Middle East to the eventual plantations in Central and South America.
Ethiopia To begin with, before looking at the migration the origin of coffee needs to be briefly examined. Although there are various legends associated with who actually discovered coffee, it is widely believed that it was discovered somewhere in Ethiopia. The most notable account is one featuring the Ethiopian shepherd who noticed the effects of coffee plants on the goats that ate them. The shepherd decided to try the plant and noticed the burst of energy he got and brought the plant back to his tribe. This story makes sense. The biggest factor that supports this story is that modern day Ethiopian tribes do eat leaves of coffee plants for energy.
Arabian Peninsula It’s believed that around the 15th century, coffee plants were brought from Ethiopia over to the Arabian Peninsula by merchants. Some of the earliest coffee plantations grew in Yemen. Coffee played an important part in the Arabian Peninsula due to its energy factor. More specifically, it was used by monks who would fast or stay awake late at night to pray. For the rest of the 15th century coffee would become a staple in Arabian food culture.
Ottoman Empire In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire began expanding into the Arabian Peninsula by conquering territories. Through this expansion they came across coffee and its effects. The Ottomans were fascinated by coffee. The reason being the Islamic faith of the Ottoman Empire. Drinking wine, which had been a common practise at the time, was forbidden. Thus, coffee provided a substitute for wine. It is also worthwhile to note that in the Ottoman Empire is where the first coffee houses were formed: the first coffee house is believed to have been formed in 1554 in Constantinople (Modern Day Istanbul).
Venice & The Rest of Europe In 17th century, the Republic of Venice (now a part of modern day Italy) was trading significantly with the Ottoman Empire. Eventually the trade of coffee occurred. As coffee began arriving in Venice it soon began to move throughout Europe.
Once coffee was accepted by the Catholic Church it freely travelled all throughout Europe. In 1645 the first coffee house in Venice was opened, followed by in England in 1650 and France in 1672.
Asia & Central America The Arabs essentially had a monopoly on the coffee trade due to the fact that coffee plants were only grown in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Moreover, coffee beans only thrive in certain tropical countries. This wasn’t a big problem for the Europeans as they had numerous overseas territories with tropic climates. The issue at hand was acquiring coffee plants or beans. This was due to the Arabs boiling an parching coffee beans before import in an attempt to preserve their monopoly. However, the Europeans will eventually prevail and start growing their own coffee plants. The Dutch were the first to start growing their own coffee in 1719. They acquired coffee plants through Yemenis trade, and planted them in Java (part of modern day Indonesia), an overseas territory that they possessed. The coffee plants had thrived in Java and the Dutch were now able to control some of the supply of coffee in the world trade market. The Dutch continued to plant coffee plantations through Asia in areas such as Sumatra and Ceylon.
The French Navy had protection treaties with numerous countries in the North Africa which allowed them to eventually acquire coffee plants. They took these coffee plants and started plantations in Central and South America. By 1726 the first coffee harvests took place in Central America.
United States Given the U. S’ British colonial roots coffee had already made its way to the U.S. However, in the late 18th century following the Tea Act (and subsequent taxation) and the Boston Tea Party Protests, tea had become disfavoured by many Americans. Moreover, with the American Revolution following the Tea Party Protests, many Americans switched to drinking coffee. It became unpatriotic to drink tea, given its British roots. This was the beginning of the coffee culture supplanting the tea culture in the U.S.
Worldwide By the 19th century coffee had become a worldwide commodity. Brazil had become the world’s largest coffee producer (it still is today). This was given the success of the plantations and the increased demand from the U.S.
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