History of Coffee
We take coffee for granted and I personally couldn’t ’live’ without my cup of coffee every day. So it seems strange that for us Westerners coffee is only available here since three hundred years and in the beginning very hard to find and only for the nobles. But in the East it was already widespread as a beverage for a long time, and that in every level of society. Already Homer, and many Arabian legends tell the story of a mysterious black and bitter beverage with powers of stimulation, also used as a medicine.
There is also a popular story, dated at around 800 AD, of a Yemeni shepherd named Kaldi who, having observed some goats cropping reddish berries from a bush and subsequently becoming restless and excited. He reported the incident to a monk who after various trials found out that the seeds of this plant had to be roasted, ground and then distilled into a bitter beverage, rich in strength, and capable of dispersing sleep and weariness.
However the discovery occurred, the fact remains that the coffee plant was originating in Africa in an Ethiopian region (Kaffa). From there it spread to Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it developed enormously and entered popular daily life.
By the late 1500’s the first traders were selling coffee in Europe, thus introducing the new beverage into Western life and custom. Most of the coffee exported to European markets came from the ports of Alexandria and Smyrna. But the increasing needs of a growing market, improved botanical knowledge of the coffee plant, and high taxes imposed at the ports of shipment, led dealers and scientists to try transplanting coffee in other countries. The Dutch in their overseas colonies (Batavia and Java), the French in 1723 in Martinique, and later on in the Antilles, and then the English, Spanish and Portuguese, started to invade the tropical belts of Asia and America.
In 1727 coffee growing was started in North Brazil, but the poor climatic conditions gradually shifted the crops, first to Rio de Janeiro and finally (1800-1850) to the States of San Paolo and Minas, where coffee found its ideal environment. Coffee growing began to develop here, until it became the most important economic resource of Brazil.