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Every morning, millions of people get up and head for their jobs. They work at banks, on construction sites, for community programs, for the military, but they all have one thing in common: they pick up a cup of coffee on their way in. The morning coffee ritual is seen by many who do it as a modern invention made necessary by the technology/workaholic era. But coffee has been around for much, much longer than these people realize. This article should enlighten you on just how far back coffee's origins go.
Coffee is brewed from beans that grow on a plant native to Africa. According to Ethiopian stories, it was a goat herder who discovered the energizing effects of the coffee bean in the 800s from watching some unusually energetic birds. From there the practice spread north to the Middle East, where additional stories of coffee drinking appear in Yemen in the 1400s. It was here in Arabia during this time period that the roasted, brewed kind of coffee we would expect to find at a cafe today was prepared and popularized. By the 1500s coffee had spread throughout the Muslim world. Bans on coffee were attempted in several places, but never really caught on.
According to historical records, the first European to mention coffee was a German botanist visiting the Ottoman Empire. This was in 1573, and soon Venetian merchants were importing coffee from Africa to Italy. There was some controversy within the Catholic Church over whether coffee should be banned but Pope Clement VIII approved it and the first coffee house in Europe opened in 1645.
Other European countries weren't far behind in jumping on the coffee bandwagon. While England, France, and Austria traded for the beans, the Dutch actually traded for the plants and began growing their own coffee in greenhouses. It was, of course, the East India Company that introduced coffee into England in the late 1500s. They got their first coffee shop in 1654 and by 1675 there were thousands. It is to the British that we owe our ability to get coffee before we go for an appointment, because our British ancestors brought coffee over with them when they began to colonize what is now Canada.
However, it was the French who first brought coffee to the continent when they imported seedlings to the Caribbean in the early 1700s. Coffee cultivation spread like wildfire across the Caribbean and into South America. This is why if you're looking for some coffee to bring to your craft club meetings, most of the brands you'll see in the grocery store come from these areas.