The History of Coffee

It was in 1908 in Minden, Germany when a housewife named Melitta Bentz experimented with a brass pot and her son's blotting paper to devise a method of coffee preparation – pouring hot water over ground coffee contained in the paper "filter". Previously, to make coffee people soaked ground coffee in a pot of boiling water and then strained the grounds out of the coffee. Melitta Bentz's invention is still considered today as the best method of enjoying coffee, according to coffee experts around the world.

The most widely told story of coffee’s beginnings takes place in the foothills of Yemen in 850 A.D. Goat herders discovered that goats eating the leaves and berries from an unknown tree became full of pep and energy. After consuming the plants fruit themselves, the herders felt the same intoxicating effects. Soon Arab traders began cultivating this new plant sourced from the Galla Tribe of Ethiopia. The resulting beans were then ground up and mixed with hot water in a drink they called Gahwa – and the earliest version of modern-day coffee was born.

By the mid-1400s, the first coffee shop, called Kiva Han, had opened in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire had embraced the beverage into their culture and coffee was consumed widely throughout what is now Turkey.

Coffee caught a major break in the 1600s which aided its push westward by Italian traders. Despite being urged by advisors that this beverage should be considered a threat by the Ottoman Empire, Pope Clement VII endorsed coffee as acceptable by Christianity. No small feat - and an enormous step in coffee’s proliferation.

Coffee Houses had become widespread in England, shortly thereafter – becoming local meeting places bursting with energized conversation and neighbourhood gossip.

By 1668 coffee had become well established in New York City and named the favourite breakfast drink.

The early 1700s proved to be a boon for the beverage as well. A French Naval officer steals a sapling and transports it to the French colony of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. Within 50 years, several million coffee trees would grow on the island.

Coffee came to Brazil, now the world's largest coffee producer, by way of an illicit affair. The Brazilian emperor to France sent his best friend, a Lieutenant Colonel, to Guyana to act as arbitrator in a border dispute between the French and the Dutch. The Lt. Colonel happily solved the dispute. During the negotiations, he stayed at the home of the French Governor of Guyana - and had an affair with the Governor's wife. She, in turn, presented the Lt. Colonel with gifts for his favours - among them a coffee plant. He returned to Rio de Janeiro and planted the tree, which quickly spread into Brazil's interior in every direction.

Coffee’s widespread popularity became further entrenched when Johann Sebastian Bach wrote Kaffee-Kantate – a composition that was an ode to coffee as well as a subtle protest to the movement in Germany that restricted women from drinking it.

By the 19th century, coffee was being harvested in East Indies, West Indies and Ceylon. Brazil was sending coffee throughout the new world and Europe. The Spanish, as well, were enjoying coffee from neighbouring South and Central American countries.

Today coffee is also grown in Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia, Mexico and India as well as over 60 other countries.