Coffee: history of the world's most consumed drink

The history of coffee began more than a thousand and five hundred years ago, in the distant 500 A.D., in Africa, more precisely in Ethiopia, where coffee plants grew abundantly and wildly, at an altitude between 1000 and 1300 metres. To be even more precise, these plants grew in the Kaffa region, in the south-west of Ethiopia, a region from which coffee takes its name.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed a symphony entitled Kaffeekantate, to celebrate coffee

There, the Galla tribe used coffee beans and seeds as ingredients for animal fat based recipes. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, coffee travelled alongside Ethiopian warriors and followed them through their military campaigns. In this way, the plant arrived in Yemen, where it found fertile ground to grow and prosper. From there, it was but a short step to the Red Sea and then to Mecca and Medina.
A coffee plantation

The spread of coffee

As already mentioned, Ethiopians used coffee in its entirety, both beans and berries, as a spice in the preparation of particular foods. The Arabs, however, did not like the taste of the plant used as a spice at all. Therefore, they began to use it to prepare decoctions. Around 1200, someone - whose name was lost in history – had in mind and idea to make coffee more palatable: he burnt and crushed the coffee beans before boiling them. It was then that the coffee we know today was born.
A bartender prepares a cappuccino with espresso coffee
The first coffee shops in history were built in Mecca and Medina at the end of the 1400s. However, the first and proper coffee shops called qahveh or khaveh were instead opened in Istanbul around 1554. Coffee, supported by Islamic culture, took Arabia by storm. Since the consumption of alcoholic beverages was forbidden, coffee was used as a social drink: men gathered around cups of coffee to talk and spend time.

The arrival of coffee in Europe

Drinking coffee arrived in Europe only in 1600, though the Venetians – skilled merchants - had already begun to trade it as a commodity centuries ago, mostly to sell it as a medical drink by the apothecaries at a very high price. How did this "food migration" happen? With the defeat of the Ottomans during the siege of Vienna, bags full of strange dark grains were found in their camps.

Voltaire was one of the most avid drinkers of his time: about thirty cups a day

Kolschitzky, a Polish who had lived in Turkey, convinced the army to have them delivered and opened a coffee shop: this is how the first coffee in the European world was born, The Blue Bottle. By the end of the 1600s there were already more than 3,000 coffee shops in the United Kingdom alone. With such a rapid spread, coffee became the most popular drink by the élite European class during the Enlightenment: in Paris and London in those years you could find 300 shops that served coffee, compared to 10 in Vienna. It was instead a Venetian, Pietro Della Valle, who was the first to announce the opening of a coffee shop in Italy: it was 1615.
Turkish coffee poured into white cups
Legend has it that Beethoven made coffee by counting the beans one by one up to sixty: the exact dose to get a cup. Johann Sebastian Bach composed a symphony entitled Kaffeekantate to celebrate coffee. Voltaire was one of the most avid drinkers: it is said that he drank around d30 cups a day. Honoré de Balzac, writer and playwright, beat him by far with his 50 daily coffees. However, coffee is certainly not exclusive to artists and intellectuals: billions of people all over the world consume it in a myriad of different ways.

Coffee today

To this day, coffee in Turkey is prepared in the cezve, a jug of copper and narrow brass with a long handle. To best preserve the aromas, the grains are ground by hand, in a brass mill, to form a very fine powder. The coffee is prepared by boiling the infusion twice in a row, removing the cezve from the heat between one boil and another, at the end of which a tablespoon of cold water is added so as to facilitate the deposit of the coffee powder on the bottom.
Coffee cup photo on two-tone background
Drink calmly, after waiting for all the residues to settle on the bottom, as tradition dictates. You are not in a hurry to drink coffee. In India, natives drink coffee flavoured with cinnamon, in Arab countries with cardamom, while Creole drink coffee flavoured with nutmeg powder, vanilla and cloves.
In its native country, Ethiopia, coffee is called buna and its preparation is still considered a cult. Everything is done at home, from grinding to infusion, which takes place in a terracotta coffee pot called jebena.

In Vienna, coffee is a lengthy ritual that you must enjoy calmly, perhaps while lingering on a newspaper and not standing at a counter, as it is common instead in Italy.

/related post

Hot Lab and Technogym together for the exclusive FIFTY-FIVE yacht

Award winning design studio Hot Lab chose Technogym to create a prestigious fitness area inside the ...