Coffee: Origins

Dear reader,

Four months ago I wrote a short article about coffee and tea, where I just commented how popular they’re in my native country, Brazil, and here in Japan where I’ve been living for almost twenty years..

Now I intend to write a short review describing the origins of coffee, basically where it came from and when it was introduced in Brazil, Japan and other parts of the world (I also intend to write a similar article related to tea in a near future).

According to the Wikipedia “coffee dates back to the 10th century, and possibly earlier with a number of reports and legends surrounding its first use. The native (undomesticated) origin of coffee is thought to have been Ethiopia. The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, South India, Persia, Turkey, and Africa. It then spread to the Balkans, Italy and to the rest of Europe, to South East Asia and then to America.”

Sufi monasteries of Yemen: the first evidence of coffee drinking!

It’s also very interesting to understand the its meaning: “The word “coffee” entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabic qahwah ( قهوة). The word qahwah originally referred to a type of wine, whose etymology is given by Arab lexicographers as deriving from the verb qahā (قها, “to lack hunger”) in reference to the drink’s reputation as an appetite suppressant. The word qahwah is sometimes alternatively traced to the Arabic quwwa (“power, energy”), or to Kaffa, a medieval kingdom in Ethiopia whence the plant was exported to Arabia.”

Made in Ethiopia: probably the first origin of coffee!

The first coffee bush in my native country, Brazil,  was planted by Francisco de Melo Palheta, a Portuguese military man, in the state of Pará (north of Brazil) in 1727. According to the Wikipedia, “the Portuguese were looking for a cut of the coffee market, but could not obtain seeds from bordering French Guiana due to the governor’s unwillingness to export the seeds. Palheta was sent to French Guiana on a diplomatic mission to resolve a border dispute. On his way back home, he managed to smuggle the seeds into Brazil by seducing the governor’s wife who secretly gave him a bouquet spiked with seeds!”  😉

Here in Japan “coffee was introduced by Dutch people in the 17th century, but didn’t become popular due to the trade restrictions that were lifted only in 1858. However, during the early 1930s there were over 30,000 coffee houses across the country; availability in the wartime and immediate postwar period dropped to nearly zero, then rapidly increased as import barriers were removed.”

It’s interesting to mention that “the introduction of freeze-dried instant coffee, canned coffee, and franchises such as Starbucks and Doutor Coffee in the late 20th century” increased the coffee popularity here at this side of the world to the point that Japan is now one of the leading per capita coffee consumers in the world! 🙂

Finally, the picture below shows how coffee was also spread to other parts of the world. It’s interesting to see the distribution pattern across the continents:

Historic distribution of coffee around the world

If you don’t mind I will take a cup of instant coffee with some powder milk right now since it’s still early in the morning and I’m very tired (slept only five hours last night!)  😉

See you around next month!  🙂

Works Cited

“History of Coffee.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 July 2017. Web. 30 June 2017.

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