The Long Journey of Coffee
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Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? There are many legends about the origin of coffee beans, including the most famous about an Ethiopian shepherd named Kaldi.
While Kaldi was guarding his herd, he noticed that his goats became more vigorous when they ate the fruits of a particular bush. The curious shepherd tasted these fruits and confirmed their energizing properties. Not knowing what to do, he decided to share his discovery with the abbot of a nearby monastery. At first, the abbot believed that the fruits were the devil’s work and threw them into the fire. But as the coffee beans began to roast, they released an alluring smell. The monks then used the roasted beans to help them stay awake during their prayers.
The native inhabitants of coffee growing areas ate green coffee beans until the Arabs discovered how to make the beans into a beverage. In the beginning, they soaked the beans in cold water and then boiled them to extract the coffee juice. The Arabs also discovered the process of roasting around the 14th century. Later, they began to grind the coffee beans before boiling them in water.
Until the 13th century, Muslims drank coffee for religious purposes. The “bean broth” drove dervishes in orbit, kept the pilgrims awake and also became popular to secular life. Because of this, the consumption of coffee expanded to North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and India.
When the Arabs started exporting coffee beans, no fertile berries were allowed to leave the country unless they had been roasted or boiled first, preventing others from growing coffee outside Arabia or Africa. According to tradition, in 1600, Baba Budan, an Indian worshiper and smuggler, left Mecca with fertile seeds tightly strapped to his belly, cultivating the coffee spread around the world.
In 1615, the Venetians were the first to import roasted coffee beans to Europe. Initially, they used coffee for therapeutic purposes, but they quickly learned to make an aromatic beverage.
The Dutch were the first to start producing coffee outside the region of Arabia in 1616. Later, they found the first European-owned coffee plantation on the island of Java, a Dutch colony which is now part of Indonesia, and began selling coffee saplings to aristocrats throughout Europe.
The Dutch donated the desirable exotic plant to Louis XIV around 1714 as a gift for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paris, le Jardin des Plantes. A few years later, a naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, who had just arrived in Paris from Martinique, a French colony in Caribbean, thought the French could turn Martinique into a “French Java”, so he asked to take cuttings from the king’s coffee bush for cultivation.
Unfortunately, his request was denied, but he was not discouraged by the rejection. One night, he jumped over the wall of le Jardin des Plantes, entered the greenhouse and left with a sapling. According to de Clieu’s diary, during his return voyage to Martinique, an envious passenger, unable to get the coffee tree away from him, cut off a branch.
The ship survived pirates and a huge storm that almost sank it. Eventually, the sun came out, but since there wasn’t enough water for everyone, it had to be rationed. De Clieu shared his rations with the little plant, so this little sapling managed to survive in Martinique under the supervision of armed guards, and finally, it proliferated to 18 million family trees in about 50 years.
The Brazilian government also wanted a share of the coffee market, but they had to get access to the golden seeds. So in 1727, Colonel Palheta got permission from the government under the pretense that he was going to mediate in a border dispute.
His plan to steal the seeds was brilliant. Instead of sneaking in the guarded plantation, handsome Palheta, chose the path of least resistance: the governor’s wife. At the farewell dinner of their relationship, she slyly showed him her dedication by giving him a bouquet filled with hidden coffee seeds.
From these few seeds, Brazil developed into the largest coffee empire in the world. By 1800, the soil and climate, which was ideal for the cultivation of coffee, provided Brazil with huge harvests that caused coffee to go from the elixir enjoyed by only the highest class, to the preferred drink of the masses.
After Brazil, other countries entered coffee production. More specifically, small coffee plants were transported and planted in Jamaica (1730), India and Mexico (1740), Venezuela (1784) and, finally, Colombia at the end of the century in. Coffee production spread throughout Latin America and became one of its main sources of wealth.
Since then, these countries have been at the helm of the world’s coffee production, exporting their fine blends worldwide. You can try these varietals and then is a matter of taste to choose which best suits you. Enjoy!
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