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Following the History of Coffee

Oct 11, 2007
Of the drinks available to people today, few are as famous as coffee. Perhaps the best source of caffeine short of the new energy drinks being developed, coffee is popular in a variety of places, from the home to the office, from small coffeehouses to swanky restaurants.

The history of coffee can only be tracked a little more than a thousand years, a relatively short period of time compared to alcoholic beverages, which have been consumed since prehistory, and tea, which goes back to over a thousand years BC. Despite this, coffee has spread throughout the world as a popular beverage. A look at the history of coffee will help to show how it became so widespread.

African Origins

The history of coffee begins sometime around the 9th century, with its origins in Ethiopia as a beverage. The legend of coffee is that Ethiopian herders noticed that their goats were especially perky after eating the berries of a particular bush, and thus got the idea to consume it as a stimulant. The reality is that coffee probably had already been developed as a drink by the 9th century as a natural result of cultivation of plants. From Ethiopia, the drink spread to North Africa, including Egypt.

Middle Eastern Success

The introduction of coffee to Egypt make it accessible to ports with trade to the rest of the Middle East, where coffee became a popular drink by the 1500s. Shortly after its introduction, Muslim authorities placed a ban on the drink due to its stimulant properties. But much like prohibition in the United States, the ban on coffee didn't last and was later rescinded. At this point in history, though, tight controls on such a commodity were in place. Though coffee in its roasted form began to be exported to Italy and other European Nations, unroasted seeds and plants were forbidden to be exported.

Colonization and Coffee

This tight control over the export of coffee plants didn't last. This period of the history of coffee ended when Dutch traders smuggled coffee seeds out of the Middle East in the 1600s, where it was planted on the island of Java, which is still a major exporter of coffee today and also shares its name with a nickname for the drink. Interestingly enough, as coffee plants spread to other European colonies, another century into the history of coffee, in the 1700s, the plant was smuggled to Brazil, which is still the largest exporter of the drink.

Coffee in America

The history of coffee in the United States follows that of early wars. Introduced there in the 1700s, coffee's popularity didn't take off until the Revolutionary War, when tea was scarce and colonists turned to other drinks. The drink again gained in popularity during the war of 1812 for similar reasons.

But the time when the history of coffee developed to where it was an American fixture seems to be during the Civil War, when demand was high enough that it became cemented as a beverage in many American households. Through colonization and wars, the history of coffee seems to follow that of the history of people, and its widespread popularity throughout the world shows that it is truly an international sensation.
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