HISTORY OF COFFEE
The coffee plant, which was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th Century, has
a white blossom that smells like jasmine and a red, cherry-like fruit.
Back then, the leaves of the so-called "magical fruit" were boiled in
water and the resulting concoction was thought to have medicinal
properties. As the fame of the coffee plant spread to other lands, its
centuries-long voyage was about to begin.
Coffee spread quickly through the Arabian Peninsula. In the mid 14th century, coffee cultivation reached Yemen and for 300 years, it
was drunk following the recipe first used in Ethiopia. Yemen's climate and fertile soil offered the ideal conditions for
cultivating rich coffee harvests.
Istanbul was introduced to coffee in 1543 during the reign of Sultan
Suleiman the Magnificent by Özdemir Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of
Yemen, who had grown to love the drink while stationed in that country.
In the Ottoman palace a new method of drinking coffee was discovered: the beans were
roasted over a fire, ground and then boiled in water.
With its new brewing method and aroma, coffee's renown soon spread even further afield.
Coffee soon became a vital part of palace cuisine and was very popular
in court. The position of Chief Coffee Maker (kahvecibaşı) was added to
the roster of court functionaries. The Chief Coffee Maker's duty was to
brew the Sultan's or his patron's coffee, and was chosen for his
loyalty and ability to keep secrets. The annals of Ottoman History
record a number of Chief Coffee Makers who rose through the ranks to
become Grand Viziers to the Sultan.
Coffee soon spread from the palace to grand mansions, and from
grand mansions to the homes of the public. The people of Istanbul
quickly became enamored with the beverage. Green coffee beans were
purchased and then roasted at home on pans. The beans were then ground
in mortars and brewed in coffeepots known as "cezve".
Most of the general public became acquainted with coffee through the
establishment of coffeehouses; the first coffeehouse (named Kiva Han) opened in the
district of Tahtakale and others rapidly cropped up all over the city.
Coffeehouses and coffee culture soon became an integral part of
Istanbul social culture; people came here throughout the day to read
books and beautiful texts, play chess and backgammon and discuss poetry
Thanks to the efforts of merchants and travelers who passed
through Istanbul, Turkish Coffee's
soon spread to Europe and ultimately to the whole world.
Europeans got their first taste of coffee in 1615 when Venetian
merchants who had become acquainted with the drink in Istanbul carried
it back with them to Venice. At first, the beverage was sold on the
street by lemonade vendors, but in 1645 the first coffeehouse opened in
Italy. Coffeehouses soon sprang up all over the country and, as in many
other lands, they became a platform for people from all walks of life,
especially artists and students, to come together and chat.
Travellers who discovered coffee while staying in Istanbul extolled the
matchless flavour of the beverage in letters they sent home to
Marseilles. In 1644, the first coffee beans, along with the apparatus
used to prepare and serve coffee, were brought to Marseilles by
Monsieur de la Roque, the French ambassador.
In 1660, merchants from Marseilles who had grown to love the
beverage they had first tasted in Istanbul began to import coffee to
the city, thus sating Marseilles's growing appetite for coffee. The
first coffeehouse opened in Marseilles in 1671. Initially, coffeehouses
catered to merchants and travellers, but they soon became popular with
people from all walks of life.
Paris was introduced to coffee in 1669 by Hoşsohbet Nüktedan Süleyman
Ağa, who was sent by Sultan Mehmet IV as ambassador to the court of
King Louis XIV of France. Among the Ottoman ambassador's possessions
were several sacks of coffee, which he described to the French as a
Süleyman Ağa swiftly became the darling of Parisian high
society. The Parisian aristocracy saw it as a great honour to be
invited to share a cup of Turkish Coffee with Süleyman Ağa, who regaled
his guests with his pleasant wit and conversation. The ambassador
related countless stories on the subject of coffee, which earned him
the sobriquet of Hoşsohbet, or raconteur.
Paris's first real coffeehouse, Café de Procope, opened in
1686. It soon became a favourite haunt of the literati, a place
frequented by renowned poets, playwrights, actors and musicians. Many
famous figures such as Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire became enamoured
with coffee at Café de Procope. Following the trend set by Café de
Procope, coffeehouses opened on practically every street in the city.
1683 marked the end of the Second Siege of Vienna. As the Turks
retreated, they left their extra supplies behind. The abandoned goods
included a large number of tents, livestock, grain and around 500 sacks
of coffee. The Viennese had no idea what to make of the mysterious
contents of the sacks. One Viennese captain claimed that the coffee
beans were camel-feed and decided to dump the sacks into the Danube.
News of the mysterious sacks reached a gentleman named Kolschitzky who
had lived among the Turks for many years and had served as a spy for
the Austrians during the siege. He requested the sacks of coffee, with
which he was very familiar, as payment for his successful espionage
services during the siege.
Kolschitzky served small cups of Turkish Coffee to the Viennese, first
going door to door, and then in a large tent that he opened to the
public. Soon, he had taught the Viennese how to prepare and enjoy the
beverage. Thus Vienna became acquainted with coffee.
The Viennese coffeehouses that opened during this period set an example for coffeehouses in many other countries.
England first became acquainted with coffee in 1637 when a Turk
introduced the drink to Oxford. It quickly became popular among
students and teachers who established the "Oxford Coffee Club".
The first coffeehouse in Oxford opened in 1650 and was called the "Angel".
In 1652, a Greek named Pasqua Rosée opened the first
coffeehouse in London. Using his extensive knowledge of how to prepare
and brew Turkish Coffee, he introduced his friends and clients to its
By 1660, London's coffeehouses had become an integral part of
its social culture. The general public dubbed coffee houses "Penny
Universities" as they were patronised by writers, artists, poets,
lawyers, politicians and philosophers. London's coffeehouses offered
customers a great deal more than piping hot cups of coffee: the
entrance fee of one penny allowed them to benefit from the intellectual
conversation that surrounded them.
The history of coffee in Holland is markedly different from that of
other countries, as for many years the Dutch were more concerned with
coffee as a trade commodity than as a beverage.
Coffee first reached the country via Yemen in the 17th
century. The Dutch began cultivating coffee in its colonies. In 1699,
coffee beans were planted on the island of Java, thus laying the
foundation for Indonesia's coffee plantations. In 1711, the first
Javanese coffee beans were sold on the open market in Amsterdam.
The first coffeehouses in Holland opened in the 1660s. With their
unique style that featured rich décor, a warm atmosphere and lush
gardens, they stood out from coffeehouses in other countries. Located
mainly in the financial districts of Dutch cities, they became known as
places where merchants and financiers conducted business meetings.
In the 1680s, the Dutch introduced coffee to Scandinavia, the
region which today has the highest per capita consumption of coffee in
Coffee was introduced to Germany in 1675. The first coffeehouses opened in 1679-1680 in Hamburg, Bremen and Hanover.
At first, coffee was considered a beverage of the nobility. The middle
and lower classes were not introduced to coffee until the early 18th
century, and it was only much later that it came to be prepared and
consumed at home.
As coffeehouses were the domain of men, middle class women established their own "coffee clubs".
The oldest coffee house in Europe beside the Parisian “Café Procope” is
to be found in Leipzig, Germany. In 1694 Heinrich Schütze opened the “Coffe
Baum” in 4 Kleine Fleischergasse and gave out free coffee. Over the following three centuries, many notable personages met
here and enjoyed the popular drink. Gottsched, Klinger, E. T. A.
Hoffmann or Wagner were often seen going in and out. Goethe, Lessing,
Bach and Grieg were also known to be guests there. In the Schumann Room
situated on the ground floor, Robert Schumann would meet with friends
at his regular table between 1828 and 1844. Revolutionaries such as
Blum, Liebknecht and Bebel also made “Coffe Baum” their second
living-room. In 1990 Helmut Kohl and Lothar de Maizičre discussed the
possibilities of reunification here.
The sandstone sculpture above the doorway to “Coffe Baum” is
especially famous. An Ottoman offers cupid a cup of coffee. It
symbolises the meeting of the Christian western world with the Islamic
East. No other than Augustus the Strong was supposed to have donated
this sculpture as way of saying thank you to the landlady, who had
taken immaculate care of him. One of the most important coffee museums’ worldwide is to be found
on the third floor. Over 500 chosen exhibits from 300 years of Saxony’s
coffee and cultural history are presented over 15 rooms.
Coffee reached North America in 1668. The first coffeehouse in New York, "The King's Arms", opened in 1696.
In 1714, the Dutch presented Louis XIV with a coffee sapling from their
plantations on Java. The sapling was planted in the royal Jardin des
Plantes in Paris.
In 1723, a French mariner named Gabriel du Clieu took a
sapling from the Jardin des Plantes to the island of Martinique. From
here, the coffee plant spread to other Caribbean islands, as well as to
Central and South America.
In 1727, a Portuguese sailor named de Mello Palheta carried
coffee saplings to Brazil from French Guyana. Today, Brazil is the
number one producer of coffee in the world, accounting for 35% of
global coffee production.
In 1730, the British began cultivating coffee in Jamaica.
By the mid 19th century, coffee had become one of the most important commodities in world trade.