All around the world today, people can not start their day without a good cup of coffee. Whether it’s a cafetiere at home or a Starbucks takeaway, coffee is what they want.
And this love of coffee has been with us for many centuries, but how did it start and where?
Well, way back in 600 AD, in Mecca, and Cairo, Egypt, a brew of weak coffee was made from the un-roasted berries of the coffee plant in an Ibrik.
Many of hundred years later, the famous Arabian physician, Rhazed, wrote about coffee in his medical encyclopedia referring to it as Bunchum.
Much later, the first coffee plants were cultivated on the Arabian peninsula when the Arab traders brought coffee beans back to their homelands.
The Arabs would enjoy the drink they named Qahwa, (it means “preventing sleep”), by crushing the green coffee beans and putting them in boiling water to produce the drink. Later, they found that if they roasted the coffee beans first, they made a much better flavour.
One hundred years later, coffee arrived in Turkey, and this was how my interest was piqued as I am living in this country at the moment.
This was the first country where the dried bean hulls and the beans were roasted in stone dishes over an open fire. The roasted beans were then crushed, placed in boiling water, and drunk with the crushed grounds of coffee.
Many coffee houses, known as Qahueh Kaneh, sprang up in Arabian villages and men would enjoy drinking coffee as well as playing games such as backgammon.
But local rulers did not like the idea of these coffee houses, seeing them as a threat, and so tried to impose restrictions on there use. They were ignored and their numbers continued to grow, as well as the numbers of people drinking coffee in their homes.
As the popularity of coffee grew, the first coffee pots appeared in Persia, Turkey and Egypt, made from crafted pottery to serve the people.
At this time, Ethiopia was the main source of the coffee beans but plants were smuggled from there and brought back to what is known today as Yemen. They were successfully planted and produced good crops of coffee beans.
A spice grinder that had been invented here, was found to also be great at grinding up the coffee beans after they had been roasted over large braziers of coals.
The Turkish were exceptionally proficient at this technique and when the Ottoman Turks brought coffee to Constantinople, they would add spices of cloves, anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to their brew.
The first ever coffee shop opened in Constantinople around 1475, opened by the Ottoman Turks and they called it Kiva Han. Coffee was so important around this time that there was an amazing Turkish law allowing a wife to divorce her husband if he did not provide enough coffee on a daily basis! Needless to say, that law soon disappeared.
At the beginning of the next century, the corrupt governor of Mecca, Khair Bey, wanted to ban coffee as he was worried it would encourage rebels against his rule. He also thought it would stop the men going to the mosques to pray, instead spending time in the coffee houses.
For a week, all the coffee houses in Constantinople were shut down until the Sultan of Cairo ordered the execution of Khair Bey and declared coffee as sacred. The execution went ahead and everyone got back to drinking their wonderful coffee.
Over the next few years, coffee drinking bans were tried in Turkey, with sentences of being beaten on the first time of being caught, and on the second, the poor man was sewn into an animal skin and thrown into the Bhosphorus strait.
Religious fanatics tried to stop the growth of the coffee houses and sales of coffee, but it was too late. Coffee had taken its hold on the public and they were not going to stop drinking it!
Coffee spread from the Muslim countries into Italy and later Europe, with the same welcome. Everyone loved the taste and wanted more. The Dutch took it to the East Indies and the Americas, and as we say, the rest is history.
So, the next time you are making your coffee at home or picking up your favourite brew from Starbucks, just take a moment to think about how it got to you.
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