The History of Coffee

Coffee is a beverage made from the roasted berry of the coffee tree. It is believed to have originated from Ethiopia, from where it's cultivation early spread to YEMEN.
In the late 15th century, trade in and consumption of coffee spread throughout the Muslim world. Venetians introduced coffee to Europe in 1615. Both in the Muslim world and in christian Europe for a while it was discussed if the consumption of coffee, other than for medicinal purpose, should be forbidden; Pope Clement VII. had legalized it. Public COFFEEHOUSES opened from 1644 (Marseilles) onward; coffee soon gained in popularity.

Coffee had to be obtained from YEMEN, at the ports of Hodeida or MOCCA, the latter giving it's name to a certain coffee brand.
Attempts were made to grow coffee on plantations, first by the Dutch on Ceylon (1658) and Java (1696), then in 1715 by the French on their Caribbean possessions of SAINTE DOMINGUE (1715) and MARTINIQUE (1723), as well as on REUNION (1717). Already in 1727, coffee found it's way to BRAZIL, which was to become a serious competitor to the French and Dutch on the world market.
The French Revolution and the abolition of slavery harmed coffee production in the French and Dutch colonies; Brazil and other Latin American countries gained a dominant position in the world's coffee production. The preference of United States citizens for coffee ever since the British imposed a tax on tea may have played a role in this development, the Latin American producers being located closer by than Yemen or Java.

Coffee is still grown, in large scale, on plantations, in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Equador, GUATEMALA, where it was introduced in 1870. On many plantations, workers earn extremely low wages; their extremely poor living conditions having contributed to a number of recent civil wars in Central America.

Trade Products in Early Modern History, from James Ford Bell Library at Univ. of Minnesota, click Coffee
The History of Coffee, from Ristretto Espresso Coffee, from Lavazza
Coffee Timeline, from the Donut Gallery
History of the Coffeehouse in Vienna, from See Vienna
DOCUMENTS The First English Coffee-Houses, c. 1670-1675, from Modern History Sourcebook

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 16th 2002

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