Good To The Last Drop
Ah, yes! The aroma of freshly ground coffee is the ultimate wake up aphrodisiac which catapults most of us out of bed in the morning. Who knew back centuries ago that the coffee bean would turn out to become one of the most sought after commodity it has become today. It is the coffee bean that has become the source of much needed economic activity in practically every country around the world. The advent and prominence of Starbucks just proves how much coffee has become a very instrumental part of local economies not only here in the United States but in every industrialized country around the world.
To understand how this one simple bean grew into one of the worlds most sought after commodity is to follow the history of coffee's evolution. The global spread of coffee growing and consumption began in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa. Around the time of Columbus is where the first recorded harvesting of coffee beans began. It is pretty much a known fact that the fruit of coffee plants known as coffee cherries, were eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia. The slave trade at that time was a very lucrative businesses. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century while other historians speculate that coffee was brewed much earlier. But no real supportive evidence has yet proved otherwise. In an attempt to prevent coffee plants from being exported and cultivated elsewhere, the Arabs imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans. This restriction was eventually circumvented in 1616 by the Dutch, who brought live coffee plants back to the Netherlands. By the late 16th century coffee houses were springing up all over Europe..
The first coffeehouses or kaveh kanes opened in Mecca and quickly spread throughout the Arab world. It wasn't until the Arabs put a tax on the purchase of coffee that those coffee houses became ligament businesses in which people congregated. As these thriving places grew in popularity so did the prominence of the coffee bean as a major source of income and revenue to the Arab world. Nothing quite like this had existed before: a place where social and business life could be conducted in comfortable surroundings and where for the price of a cup of coffee all were welcome. Perhaps predictably, the Arabian coffeehouse soon became a center of political activity. Much like they are today.
By the late 1600’s the Dutch were growing coffee in India and by 1699 coffee plants had spread to what is now Indonesia. Within the span of ten years the Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe, From early 1600 thru 1650 was a period when Tea and Chocolate the two other globally significant hot beverages became more popular in Europe. Hot chocolate was the first, brought by the Spanish from the Americas to Spain in 1528; and tea, which was first sold in Europe in 1610. At first coffee was mainly sold by individual vendors and at that time coffee was believed to posses medicinal qualities. Those medicinal qualities are now backed up by scientific evidence. Like the coco bean and certain kinds of tea all have beneficial health attributes. The first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683, with the most famous, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in 1720. It's still open for business today. The largest insurance market in the world, Lloyd's of London, began as a coffeehouse. It was started in 1688.
When coffee first came to America back in 1688 the spread of coffee equaled those two other most popular of beverages in Europe, tea and chocolate. It was only a matter of time before coffee houses became very popular in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. A little known fact is that the Boston Tea Party was planned in a coffee house, the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York started in coffeehouses on what is Wall Street today. By the late 1970's coffee played a major role in the ritual of most peoples mornings. But it took a major shift in drunk driving laws that propelled the popularity of coffee to become what it is today; a very fashionable drink with so many variations. When MADD became a national organization is arguably the time when coffee began a sort of Renaissance and rose in stature as a most desirable drink not just for adults but for the young college crowd.
The popularity of coffee in American culture just really began in 1980. When Starbucks opened in Seattle, Washington in 1971 as the place where one could obtain some of the worlds finest coffee. Little did anyone realize at the time just like McDonalds back in the late 1950's Starbucks would become the international success that it is today. As a result of Starbucks rise in stature places like Dunkin Donuts who already began serving freshly brewed coffee as well as their famous donuts now joined the ranks in offering many variations of gourmet coffee. To keep pace with the growing demand for lattes and mochas McDonalds too improved their menu in offering gourmet coffee as well. To this day in every city and town all across the United States there has been a influx of more coffee houses that continue to thrive as more and more people now partake in the experience of enjoying freshly brewed gourmet coffee in practically every city and town across the United States.
It was the Dutch who brought the coffee plant to Central and South America in the early 17th century. Where today coffee is the main continental cash crop. Juan Valdez fresh Columbian coffee became synonymous with fresh South American coffee some 200 years later. Coffee first arrived in the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1718, to be followed by plantations in French Guyana and the first of many in Brazil in the state of Pará. In 1730 the British introduced coffee to Jamaica, where today the most famous and expensive coffee in the world is grown in the Blue Mountains. By the beginning of the 1830’s Brazil was the world’s largest producer with some 600,000 bags a year, followed by Cuba, Java and Haiti, each with annual production of 350 to 450,000 bags. World production amounted to some 2.5 million bags per year. Through-out its "rich" history coffee continues to defy the odds by being one of the most productive economic growth commodities in the world today.