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Ethiopian coffee history

Origin and Discovery in Ethiopia

According to a legend, the story of coffee begins with its discovery in Kaffa, a region in today's Ethiopia. The unusually vivid and erratic behavior of his goats after consuming a certain type of fruit made the shepherd called Kaldi curious enough to research into the cause. His curiosity eventually led to the discovery of the stimulating effect of the coffee plant.

Known to us is that since the 11th century people were using various parts of the coffee plant in different ways. They ate raw coffee berries, made liquid stock from green coffee beans and even processed it into an edible mixture with the help of animal fat.

Journey to Europe

Through slave traders, the very first coffee plants and the knowledge about their unique effect made their way from Ethiopia to Arabia and into the, at the time much larger, Arabic-speaking area around it. The Arabs started experimenting with the exotic beans and quickly developed the oldest roasting culture in the world. Quickly coffee started to become more and more popular throughout the whole area.
The Arabs also became the first ones to ever cultivate coffee plants in the form of plantations in present-day Yemen. The center of the Arabic coffee monopoly was the nearby city of al-Mukha, also known as Mocca.

Especially during the 16th century, coffee conquered the whole Arab Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire as a revitalizing and therefore popular alternative to the forbidden alcohol. The first opening of a real coffeehouse was documented in Mekka in 1511. Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, and other regions followed shortly and coffeehouses became the lynchpin of social life. Until their prohibition in the late 16th century, friends, businessmen, and families of higher classes frequently visited the popular cafes.

Despite the rigorous enforcement of the coffee ban in the Ottoman Empire until 1839 and the persecution of „coffee-lovers“, the tradition of coffeehouses and cafes survived until the present day and finally made its way to Europe.


Arab Wine spreading to Europe

People traveling to the Middle East were the first Europeans getting to know the perks of coffee. First only writing and talking about it, later taking roasted coffee beans as popular souvenir and then imported through the port of Venice, Europeans quickly started loving the new, fashionable drink from Arabia. The very first coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1647 located at the famous St. Mark´s Square and started importing unroasted but dried coffee beans because roasted beans lost a lot of their flavor during the long journey. In this very coffeehouse in Venice, they then started roasting their own coffee, founding today's world famous Italian roasting culture. They also invent the term Espresso for the first time.

Although Vienna is often considered the birthplace of European coffee culture, their first coffeehouses opened forty years and many cities after Venice. Vienna's first coffeehouse was opened by an Armenian who accidentally took possession of 50 bags of coffee leftover from the unsuccessful siege of Vienna.

Because of the effort of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, coffee also became widely available in England at the start of the 17th century. One of the first British coffee houses, Queen´s Lanes Coffeehouse in Oxford, is still in existence today.

In the course of the expansion of the European colonial powers, coffee conquered the whole world. Latin America, Asia, major parts of Africa and other tropical and subtropical areas all over the globe turned out to be excellent homes for coffee plants. Coffee produced and imported by European colonialists quickly took over the market and former colonies like Brazil still rule the coffee market today.


Name and Reputation

Coffee being sold as Mocca or Mocha does not always live up to the high quality its famous name may suggest. Just like the popular „Brazil Santos“, which is a name not for a certain type of coffee bean but the name of one of the biggest coffee ports in Brazil, Mokka coffee is only named after the city Mokka. Another example for labels misleading customers is the popular phrase „100% Arabica beans“. Arabica beans come in all quality levels. Only 5% of the worlds arabica production is actually considered top-quality.