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National Coffee Day

Updated: Jun 23

A Brief Historical Overview of Coffee.

Coffea arabica- The botanical genus and species name for Arabica coffee, otherwise written as C. arabica. Originated in the forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan, then famously spread throughout the world for the production of its seeds.”

September 29th is National Coffee Day!!!!!!!!!!

(I may have had one too many cups in celebration.)

According to the National Coffee Association, (which is a thing apparently, who knew.) No one really knows how or when coffee was discovered and created; however, there are many theories about its heritage.

One of these theories (by far my favorite) is that coffee was discovered after a goat herder from Ethiopia noticed that when his goats ate berries from a specific plant, the goats became “so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.” Party goats.

Deciding to share his discovery, the herder went to the abbot of the local monastery where the abbot found that the beans could be made into a drink, which would keep him awake and alert during evening prayer. From there it was only matter of time before the energizing drink began to spread.

Reaching the Arabian Peninsula coffee trade became a booming business. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the 16th century, coffee had spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. The bitter drink became so popular Coffee Houses called Gahveh Khaneh were created, quickly becoming the place to be for entertainment and social gatherings. They became a place for people to stay informed of the latest news; live music was performed in these houses, chess was frequently played, and more. Coffee Houses became such a major hub for information and social interaction they garnered the nickname “Schools of the Wise.”

People visiting the holy city of Mecca from all over the world began to hear about coffee and the knowledge of this strange new drink spread even farther.

When coffee begins to make a scene in Europe it sparks controversy, as new and different things often do. Puritanical Europe began calling the drink “a bitter invention of Satan.” It was even condemned by the church in 1615. The controversy grew so great the Pope himself was asked to intervene and well... intervene the Pope did.

Pope Clement VIII decided to actually taste the beverage before making a decision. Surprise, surprise (no ones actually surprised.) Clement found the drink to be so good that he gave it papal approval. Take that coffee haters. Amazing what happens when you don’t immediately judge something because it scares you.

The only thing that scares me are people who haven’t had their coffee yet.

(That ones for the person drinking coffee right now out of this mug.)

Controversy rarely slows down progress; more often than not, it fuels it. Coffee Houses increased in their popularity even more, spreading now to major cities in England, France, Germany, Austria, and Holland.

In London “Penny Universities” became a new name for the Coffee Houses as one could buy a cup for the price of a penny and engage in educational conversation. (Wow, Starbucks for a penny. Imagine.) By the mid-17th century over 300 Coffee Houses, Penny Universities, or Gahveh Khaneh had opened in London alone.

Coffee was becoming so popular it had replaced the number one breakfast drinks at the time, beer and wine. To no one’s surprise when people began showing up to work energized instead of …well… drunk. The work place environment improved! Shocker.

Even though coffee would eventually grow into the powerhouse breakfast drink we see today. In the mid-1600’s when coffee came to New Amsterdam (later New York) tea was still the primary breakfast drink.

Take a wild guess what event historic event pushed the US to make the switch to coffee instead of tea. Yep, you guessed right, the Boston Tea Party. In 1773 colonists dressed as American Indians threw tea overboard into the harbor, protesting the high tax on tea and cementing coffee as the preferred preference to tea in the US. Even today! Over 65% of Americans drink 2-3 cups of coffee daily. That's over 400 million cups of coffee.

What about coffee in Kentucky?

The first mention of “coffee trees” being used comes from George Washington’s diaries from the late 1700’s. Thomas Jefferson also owned “Kentucky coffee tree seeds.” Which he acquired from General George Rogers Clark in 1783 and planted them at Monticello. Though these seeds aren’t exactly coffee seeds, they are similar in color and could be roasted and brewed to make a substitute for coffee, which was expensive and harder to find away from coastal ports. Though nothing beats the real thing and once coffee became easier to access, Kentucky Coffee Trees became an outdated way to make coffee.

One could make a strong argument that coffee helps the world go round today. With over 1 billion drinking coffee daily, it’s hard to imagine a world without this caffeinated beverage.

So brew your favorite blend or swing by your local café and maybe pick up a book about the history of coffee from your local library!

Happy National Coffee Day!

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