A loaf of bread, and thou, and ... a cuppa Joe?
[With apologies to Omar Khayyam.] My September book [Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride] which is set in 12th century Spain and France, elicited a copyeditor’s question: “Did they drink coffee in that era?”
So I researched the history of the brew, and oh, my! Coffee drinking goes back to the 9th century. In Ethiopia, goat herder Kaldi noticed his goats got friskier after eating red berries; curious, he tried the same berries and felt decidedly more springy himself. He couldn't wait to pass the word.
Coffee as we know it originated in Arabia, where the roasted “berries” were pounded to smithereens and brewed in a broth that made the goat herders happy in their work, kept Muslim worshippers in the mosque from nodding off, enlivened conversation, allowed a man to make love all night (!), and drove dervishes to heights of ecstasy.
And where Islam went (the middle east, northern Africa, and Spain), qahwa went, too. In the 10th century, a Persian physician, Razi, refers to “bunchum” which apparently derives from the word “bunn” or “bunna,” as the coffee plant was termed in the Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia. Traditional Islam prohibits use of alcohol as a beverage, but coffee became a suitable alternative to wine. The word qahwa is derived from qahwat al-bun, or wine of the bean.
Though the Arabs guarded the secret of the brew, sometime in the 1600's, one Baba Budan, an Indian smuggler, left Mecca with fertile coffee plant seeds strapped to his belly and launched a coffee plantation near Mysore.
The world’s first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475; the date is significant since in 1453 the Ottoman Turks overran that city and much more. And once again, wherever the Turks went, so did coffee. [I once made the mistake of ordering “Turkish coffee” in a Greek restaurant... talk about instant ugly American! Greek coffee is brewed three times before serving, and it's so thick it
leaves a sediment at the bottom of the cup. A very small cup makes one very talkative.]
By 1600, coffee had flowed into Venice and in 1607 Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia at Jamestown, introduced coffee to the New World.
Even England opened coffee houses, first called “penny universities” because for a penny you could buy a cup of coffee and discourse on timely topics with other happy drinkers. Do you know the origin of “tips”? A sign in an English coffee house read: “To Insure Prompt Service” (TIPS). If you wanted quick service and a soft seat, you tossed a coin into the tin.
Not to be outdone, Paris opened a coffee café, and in 1713, Louis XIV planted the first coffee tree in France.
The Turks, defeated in a battle near Vienna, left behind sacks of coffee beans, and voila! Italy joined the klatch. In 1690 the Dutch smuggled coffee seedlings out of the Arab port of Mocha and started cultivation in Ceylon and the East Indies. Hence, the slang term “cup of Java.”
Berlin opened its first coffeehouse in 1721. And in 1723 Gabriel de Clieu, a French naval officer, transported a seedling to Martinique. Within 50 years there were 19 million coffee trees on the island, and eventually 90 percent of the world’s coffee spread from this plant.
Seedlings smuggled out of Paris in 1727 launched the Brazilian coffee industry. Brewed coffee was considered a delicacy by some, and the “devil’s drink” by Christians. One open-minded pope, Vincent III, decided to taste the banished liquid and fell in love with it: “Coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”
In 1732 Johann Sebastian Bach composed his Kaffee-Kantata, an ode to the delights of coffee: “Ah! How sweet is coffee taste! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter by far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee.”
But the most significant event of all occurred in 1668, when coffee replaced beer as New York City’s favorite breakfast drink.
And the rest is history.
Sources: telusplanet.net; wikipedia.org; nationalgeographic.com.