History of coffee
From the 19th century onwards, coffee has become the world's most popular beverage, after water.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COFFEE: BETWEEN LEGEND AND PASTORAL ORIGINS
The history of coffee is imbued with countless legends. Its stimulating effect on the human body was discovered by chance, as were the therapeutic virtues of tea, but over a thousand years later. According to legend, it all began in the 9th century in Abyssinia, today's Ethiopia. A shepherd living in the province of Kaffa was amazed that his goats could not sleep at night. Not knowing what to do, he turned to the monks of a nearby monastery who solved the mystery: the goats liked to eat the cherry-like fruits of a strange plant – the coffee shrub. Driven by scientific curiosity, the monks prepared an infusion with these berries and after drinking the drink they all felt charged with energy.
COFFEE – “THE SOBER DRUNKENNESS”
Even today, the Ethiopian plateau is considered to be the cradle of coffee. From there, the coffee berries crossed the Red Sea, arriving in Arabia. The cultivation of coffee began in Yemen in the mid-15th century. From the pilgrim cities of Mecca and Medina, coffee spread quickly throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The port town of Mocha was, until 1720, the centre of the world’s coffee trade. For this reason, until the 18th century, “Mocha” was drunk in the cafés throughout Europe. It was a tremendously expensive beverage that only the nobility could afford. With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, coffee spread to Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Southeastern Europe. The whole Islamic world was conquered by the “sober drunkenness” of this black drink, whose name today comes from the Arabic word “qahwah” meaning “wine”, while the Turks called it “Kahweh”. As Muslims are not permitted to consume alcohol, coffee became the “wine of Islam”.
THE END OF THE ARAB MONOPOLY ON COFFEE
The Arabs guarded the coffee berries and its precious fruits jealously, strictly forbidding their export. The trade in coffee beans remained in the hands of the Arabs for many years, until, in the early 17th century, some intrepid Dutch traders had the courage to smuggle coffee beans into Europe. Here the coffee berries were grown in greenhouses and orangeries, before the ambitious colonial powers began to cultivate them on the island of Java, in Colombia and in Kenya. Coffee, now an internationally-available commodity, became the “drink of the people” in many countries during the 19th century. The history of Lavazza began in those years: the company was in fact founded in Turin in 1895. What began in 850 AD with a mysterious plant, is today the most popular beverage in the world, after water.