“I have measured
out my life in coffee spoons.”
-T.S. Elliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock
The history and development of the beverage that
we know as coffee is varied and interesting, involving chance
occurrences, political intrigue, and the pursuit
of wealth and power. There are different variations to the story.
Here is ours:
According to one story, the effect of coffee beans on behavior
was noticed by a sheep herder named Kaldi as he tended his sheep.
He noticed the energizing effect on his sheep after eating the
red berries of a certain glossy green bush with fragrant blossoms
when they changed pastures. He nibbled on a few himself, and was
soon as hyper as his herd. The story relates that a monk happened
by and scolded him for "partaking of the devil's fruit."
However the monks soon discovered that this fruit from the shiny
green plant could help them stay awake for their prayers.
Another legend gives us the name for coffee or "mocha."
An Arabian, named Omar was banished to the desert with his followers
to die of starvation. In desperation, Omar had his friends boil
and eat the fruit from an unknown plant. Not only did the broth
save the exiles, but their survival was taken as a religious sign
by the residents of the nearest town, Mocha. The plant and its
beverage were named Mocha to honor this event. Some say the archangel
Gabriel led them directly to the plant.
One early use for coffee would have little appeal today. The Galla
tribe from Ethiopia used coffee, but not as a drink. They would
wrap the beans in animal fat as their only source of nutrition
while on raiding parties. The Turks were the first country to
adopt it as a drink, often adding spices such as clove, cinnamon,
cardamom and anise to the brew.
Coffee was introduced much later to countries beyond Arabia whose
inhabitants believed it to be a delicacy and guarded its secret
as if they were top secret military plans. Transportation of the
plant out of the Moslem nations was forbidden by the government.
Thus the actual spread of coffee outside the Muslim world was
started illegally. One Arab named Baba Budan smuggled beans to
some mountains near Mysore, India, and started a farm there. Early
in this century, the descendants of those original plants were
found still growing fruitfully in the region.
Coffee was believed by some Christians to be the devil's drink.
Pope Vincent III heard this and in a moment of scientific candor
which was rare in that time (think Galileo) decided to taste it
before he banished it. He enjoyed it so much he baptized it, saying
"coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels
have exclusive use of it."
The world may have been flat according to official Vatican pronouncements
, but coffee consumption in Christian Europe wouldn’t be
from this day forward, especially with this overwhelming Vatican
The English have their tea, but ever since the Boston Tea Party,
Americans have emphasized coffee in protest of British taxation.
In fact 50% of the worlds current coffee production comes through
American ports and into American coffee cups.
During WW II, the world began rationing all edible things including
coffee. Citizens of the world began stretching their coffee by
adding more water to it and thus diluting it. When the terrible
war ended European coffee drinkers quickly went back to the good
thick stuff. They also continued eating pigs head soup. Americans
took a little longer to get back to drinking the pre-war brew.
It wasn’t until the advent of national Gourmet Coffee Chains
success that a new generation of Americans began to resume consumption
of stronger coffee.
Coffee today is grown and enjoyed worldwide, and is one of the
few crops that small farmers in (non-Vietnam) third-world countries
can profitably export.
Excerpt from UTNE READER, Nov/Dec 94, by Mark Schapiro, "Muddy
Prior to 1000 A.D.: Members of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia
notice that they get an energy boost when they eat a certain berry,
ground up and mixed with animal fat.
1000 A.D.: Arab traders bring coffee back to their homeland
and cultivate the plant for the first time on plantations. They also
began to boil the beans, creating a drink they call "qahwa"
(literally, that which prevents sleep).
Coffee is introduced to Constantinople by Ottoman Turks. The world's
first coffee shop, Kiva Han, open there in 1475. Turkish law makes
it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he fail to provide
her with her daily quota of coffee.
Khair Beg, the corrupt governor of Mecca, tries to ban coffee
for fear that its influence might foster opposition to his rule.
The coffeehouses had been the first informal, public, literary
and intellectual forum in Islam attracting philosophers and poets
from afar. It seems that the coffeehouses were also a ripe atmosphere
for criticizing the governor. The sultan, however sends word that
coffee is sacred and has the governor executed instead.
1558: The earliest written history of coffee to date.
1585: The first description of coffee to reach Europe:
sitting in idleness they “continually sit about and have the habit
of drinking in public shops and in the streets- a black liquid, boiling
hot, as hot as they can stand it, which is extracted from a seed they
call Cavee…and is said to have the property of keeping one awake.”
Coffee, introduced to the West by Italian traders, grabs attention
in high places. In Italy, Pope Vincent III is urged by his advisers
to consider that favorite drink of the Ottoman Empire part of
the infidel threat. However, he decides to "baptize"
it instead, making it an acceptable Christian beverage.
Captain John Smith helps to found the colony of Virginia at Jamestown.
It's believed that he introduced coffee to North America.
1620: Pietro della Valle after touring the east credits
coffee for being the one part of the nepenthe drink prepared by Helen
of Troy in the fourth book of the epic, the other part being wine.
First coffeehouse opens in Italy.
First coffeehouse opens in Oxford.
First coffeehouse opens in London in Saint Michael’s Alley
off Cornhill. Coffee houses multiply and become such popular forums
for learned and not so learned - discussion that they are dubbed
"penny universities" (a penny being the price of a cup
An Old English Advertisement on the health benefits of coffee:
“A very wholesome and physical drink, having many excellent
Sir Henry Blount, the ‘father of the English coffeehouse’
assures us an old myth is true: that coffee was the famous drink
of the ancient Spartans: it is the “old black broth used
so much by the (Spartans), it dries ill humours in the stomach
and the brain, and never causeth drunkenness” Now we know
how Socrates got so creative! You too Plato!
Gideon Harvey, English physician wrote that “coffee is recommended
against contagion” ( the bubonic plague).
Coffee replaces beer as New York's City's favorite breakfast drink.
Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse opens in England and is frequented
by merchants and maritime insurance agents. Eventually it becomes
Lloyd's of London, the best-known insurance company in the world.
Yes, that is right, it started out as a coffeehouse!
First coffeehouse opens in Paris.
The Turkish Army surrounds Vienna. Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a
Viennese of Polish descent who had lived in Turkey, dressed in
Turkish clothes slips through the enemy lines spying on the invading
forces. His assistance assures Vienna’s victory. As the
Turks flee they leave behind sacks of "dry black fodder"
used to feed the camels that Kolschitzky recognizes as coffee.
He claims it as his reward and opens central Europe's first coffee
house called the Blue Bottle. He also establishes the habit of
refining the brew by filtering out the grounds, sweetening it,
and adding a dash of milk.
The world’s first modern café opens in Paris serving
coffee and other drinks. Café Procope would entertain the
likes of Voltaire as well as the young officer Napoleon Bonaparte,
who was so poor the proprietor asked him to leave his hat as security
that he would pay his bill.
With a coffee plant smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha, the
Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially,
in Ceylon and in their East Indian colony - Java, source of the
The Dutch unwittingly provide Louis XIV of France with a coffee
bush whose descendants will produce the entire Western coffee
industry when in 1723 French naval officer Gabriel Mathieu do
Clieu steals a seedling and transports it to Martinique. Within
50 years and official survey records 19 million coffee trees on
Martinique. Eventually, 90 percent of the world's coffee spreads
from this plant.
First coffee house opens in Berlin.
1722: Quote: “Great is the vogue of coffee in Paris.
The proprietors know how to prepare it in such a way that it gives wit
to those how drink it. At any rate, when they depart, all of them believe
themselves to be four times as brainy as when they entered the doors.”
Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu, personal
The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start when Lieutenant colonel
Francisco de Melo Palheta is sent by government to arbitrate a
border dispute between the French and the Dutch colonies in Guyana.
Not only does he settle the dispute, but also strikes up a secret
liaison with the wife of French Guyana's governor. Although France
guarded its New World coffee plantations to prevent cultivation
from spreading, the lady said good-bye to Palheta with a bouquet
in which she hid cuttings and fertile seeds of coffee.
Quote from an old French Poem satirizing Louis XV’s grant
of a state monopoly on coffee in order to keep its use to the
court only: “ ‘Alas!’ Cried the women, take
our bread. Can’t live without coffee! We’ll all soon
be dead!’ “
Johann Sebastian Bach composes his Kaffee-Kantate. Partly an ode
to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent
women from drinking coffee, the cantata includes the aria, "Ah!
How sweet coffee taste! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter
far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee."
1757: Samuel Johnson confesses to drinking more than 40
cups a day.
The Boston Tea Party makes drinking coffee a patriotic duty in
Prussia's Frederick the Great tries to block imports of green
coffee, as Prussia's wealth is drained. Public outcry changes
his mind. One of his thoughts was that drinking coffee caused
men to become effeminate and woman to become sterile. Gay coffee
shops in ancient Prussia? Perhaps.
1777: Quote: “Everyone is drinking coffee. If possible,
this must be prevented. My people must drink beer.” Frederick
the Great, from a proclamation against coffee.
The Exchange Coffee House opens in Boston modeled after the English
coffee house Lloyds of London. It was to be the largest and most
expensive coffee house ever built. Seven stories tall built of
marble, stone and brick. U.S. Presidents would enjoy coffee within
its walls before it succumbs to fire in 1818.
The discovery of caffeine by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, a young
physician as a result of an encounter with Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe, baron of the German empire and one of the greatest poets
the world has ever send as well as the preeminent intellectual
and cultural hero of the Europe of the day. Goethe gave Runge
a few coffee beans and requested he find and isolate the active
Up until the early 1840’s, English sea captains based in
Valparaíso, Chile, carried Costa Rican coffee to Europe.
Yet since it arrived via Chile, Europeans weren’t cognizant
of its actual provenance.
Costa Rican coffee planters made their first direct shipments
of coffee to England aboard the British vessels Sirena and Ellersllie.
Another group with a vision for the future exported this ‘grain
of gold’ to London with the cooperation of William Le Lacheur
Lyon the captain of the English ship “Monarch”.
1858: Quote: “The salon stood for priviledge, the café
stands for equality.” Charles Woinez in his leaflet: The
Café, Literary, Artistic and Commercial.
Former wholesale grocer Joel Cheek names his popular coffee blend
"Maxwell House," after the hotel in Nashville, TN where
1900's: In Germany, afternoon coffee becomes a standard occasion.
The derogatory term "KaffeeKlatsch" is coined to describe
women's gossip at these affairs. Since broadened to mean relaxed
conversation in general.
Hills Bros. begins packing roast coffee in vacuum tins, spelling
the end of the ubiquitous local roasting shops and coffee mills.
The first soluble "instant" coffee is invented by Japanese-American
chemist Satori Kato of Chicago.
German coffee importer Ludwig Roselius turn a batch of ruined
coffee beans over to researchers, who perfect the process of removing
caffeine from the beans without destroying the flavor. He markets
it under the brand name "Sanka." Sanka is introduced
to the United States in 1923.
George Constant Washington, an English chemist living in Guatemala,
notices a powdery condensation forming on the spout of his silver
coffee carafe. After experimentation, he creates the first mass-produced
instant coffee (his brand is called Red E Coffee).
1908: Melitta Bentz, a deligent and creative housewife,
invents the modern coffee machine in the form of a filter drip out of
love for her husband and his love of coffee.
Americans chose to amend the United States Constitution for the
first time ever inhibiting the rights of its citizens rather than
to expand and respect human rights. Prohibition of alcohol goes
into effect in the United States. Coffee sales boom. Government
officials put the emphasis on coffee, tea and cola consumption
in the stead of alcohol. Coca Cola agrees to cut the amount of
caffeine in their drinks in half and finally is left alone and
Having been asked by Brazil to help find a solution to their coffee
surpluses, Nestle company invents freeze-dried coffee. Nestle
develops Nescafe and introduces it in Switzerland.
The US imports 70 percent of the world coffee crop.
During W.W.II, American soldiers are issued instant Maxwell House
coffee in their ration kits. Back home, widespread hoarding leads
to coffee rationing and thinning coffee.
In Italy, Achilles Gaggia perfects his espresso machine. Cappuccino
is named for the resemblance of its color to the robes of the
monks of the Capuchin order.
1957: Quote: “If Christianity is wine, and Islam
coffee, Buddhism is most certainly tea.” Alan Watts, The Way of
One week before Woodstock the Manson Family murders coffee heiress
Abigail Folger as she visits with friend Sharon Tate in the home
of filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Starbucks opens its first store in Seattle's Pike Place public
market, creating a new and lasting frenzy over fresh-roasted whole
Tico Todd’s begins importing high-end Gourmet Specialty
Roasted Micro-Climate Coffee from Costa Rica featuring the 6 different
regional coffees of Costa Rica roasted by the nations best roaster
in San Jose.
Gourmet Station opens the first true ‘home away from home’
Coffee House on Biscayne Blvd. and 76th Street in the heart of
the Upper East-Side of Miami, creating a warm and welcoming environment
for all. Exclusively offering Tico Todd’s Coffee.
Set fini libre, non fini quarendi.
For more information and great reading on coffee and the
history of coffee Tico Todd's suggests the following book which is also
coincidently our bibliography:
"The World of Caffeine, The Science and Culture
of the World’s Most Popular Drug", by Bennett Alan
Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer, Routledge Press, 2001
ISBN 0-415-92722-6 on acid free paper
Available at a local mom and pop bookstore near you.
Think globally, buy locally!