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The legend of coffee

by Jack Foster February 18, 2016

The legend of coffee

There are many myths and stories told of the caffeinated beans journey into our everyday lives, yet there is only one story you hear time and time again. An Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi was reported to be the first who discovered their true potential. The story is told that Kaldi noticed that his goats, upon eating the fruits from a certain tree did not want to sleep at night. Reporting his findings to the abbot of the local monastery they produced a drink with the berries which kept the abbot widely alert for the long evening of prayer ahead. Sharing the discovery with the other monks at the monastery the word was quickly spread, and coffee began a journey which would spread its population across the globe.

Kaldi the goatherd who discovered the coffee berries in Ethiopia

Arab traders brought back the discovery to their homeland and began cultivating the plant on plantations. They also began boiling the beans and drinking the remains, naming their drink 'qahwa' which translates literally as 'that which prevents sleep'.

By the end of the 15th Century coffee has begun to play a pivotal role in Turkey and the worlds first coffee shop had opened in Constantinople called 'Kiva Han'. The Turkish law was established that a woman was allowed to divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee!

Early in the 17th Century coffee was introduced to Italy, Pope Clement VIII decided to baptise coffee and make it an acceptable christian beverage. By the end of the 17th Century coffee houses had sprung up in Paris, America, England and Vienna.

By the 19th Century coffee had reached Hawaii, Australia and China. The first 'cafetiere' or coffee plunger was invented and a hotel in Nashville named its own blend of coffee being served 'Maxwell House'.

Throughout the 20th Century the coffee saga had really started rolling, the first soluble 'instant' coffee was invented by a Japanese-American chemist in Chicago. In Guatemala Red E Coffee (the first mass produced instant coffee) was created and in 1927 the first Espresso machine in the US was installed in Reggio's Cafe in New York. Their La Pavoni machine is still on display at the cafe today. By the end of the 20th Century Nestle had developed Nescafe and invented the freeze drying process of coffee, as an answer to Brazils surplus coffee. Gaggia had improved its espresso machine design to an automatic machine rather than a piston based manual one and begun creating milk based drinks such as cappuccino. Starbucks had opened it first store in Seattle and countries such as Vietnam and New Guinea had begun cultivating the coffee bean.

La Pavoni in Reggios Cafe, New York in operation

By 2003 coffee had become the most popular drink on the planet with an average of 500 billion cups served everyday. In 2014 astronauts in the International Space station are the first to get a decent cup of coffee with an 'espresso machine' in space.

Today coffee is still the most popular drink on the planet and is the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. In the UK alone we drink around 70 million cups of coffee per day and in Britain alone we spend on average £750 million a year on our caffeine fix. So, the story of Kaldi, whether completely true or not is legend enough to us! Time for a brew...

Cup of coffee, brought here by the legend of Kaldi




Jack Foster
Jack Foster

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