Coffee Is Discovered
Although there are many legends surrounding the discovery of coffee, the story of Kaldi the goat herder is the most popular. The story puts Kaldi in the region of Ethiopia during the 8th or 9th century. One day he noticed that his herd was acting very lively after they nibbled the red berries of a bush. He tried some of the berries himself and was soon capering on the hillside with his goats. A passing monk saw him, and when he found out about the berries, he took some back to the monastery with him and brewed the fruit with water. The resulting drink helped him and fellow monks to stay alert during their long hours of prayer. The drink subsequently became well loved by the Moslem population as a gift from God.
Coffee Goes Public
Coffee plants were first cultivated across the Red Sea from Ethiopia in Yemen. The plants were scrupulously guarded by their Islam keepers, and no viable seeds were allowed to leave the country. Legend says that a Moslem pilgrim smuggled seven seeds to southern India, and from there the Dutch and French tried to propagate it in different regions. The Dutch presented a single tree to coffee-loving Louis XIV and he tried unsuccessfully to get it to bloom in frost-prone France. In the early 18th century, a French soldier from Martinique was convinced that coffee plants would grow in Martinique and smuggled three plants to that West Indies island. After a harrowing trip, the one surviving tree was planted and carefully tended. Five years later, it produced two pounds of seed. The soldier gave those seeds to farmers throughout the island, and 50 years later, 19 million coffee trees flourished on Martinique. Today, nearly half of the coffee plants in existence are the progeny of that one tree.
What Exactly Is Coffee?
Coffee as we know it today is made from the pits of a cherry-like fruit grown on evergreen bushes. The best coffees grow on bushes that cannot tolerate frost, and they prefer volcanic soil, a canopy to protect them from direct sun, and high altitude. The fruit is hulled and its two small pits are processed and dried. These green “beans” are then roasted to produce what we know as coffee beans.
A Tree's Yield
The annual average yield of a coffee tree is about 450 grams. This translates into one pound of coffee beans that you would buy off the shelf at a shop.
Coffee House History
In most countries, coffee houses initially were considered the territory of men. Women were either banned or severely discouraged from going into these dens of political, financial and/or religious discussion. The exception was Holland, where from the 17th century, women were as much a part of the coffee house scene as men. It’s a good thing for American women that the enlightened Dutch founded New York and brought their concept of coffee houses to the New World. Perhaps the early American coffee houses were not only a hotbed for the upcoming revolution, but also the first step toward the future emancipation of American women. . .