Behind the Beans

Behind the Beans

Ah…wonderful coffee. It’s your best friend every morning. From the sound of the drip to the delightful aroma and finally to the first eye opening sip, coffee is there to help start your day. But what exactly is this brown little bean and where did it come from?

The most popular and established tale is that of the Ethiopian goat herder Kaldi. He had noticed his goats became quite peculiar after eating berries from a certain tree. The goats would become full of energy and some didn’t sleep at night. Kaldi reported his findings to the local monastery and shortly after drinks were being made from the berries. Word soon spread of the new berry that brought energy and vitality to those who drank it and thus began coffee’s journey around the world.

Coffee was soon cultivated and traded along the Arabian Peninsula. Turkish coffee was invented and coffee houses began to appear in cities across the Near East. These coffee houses quickly became a social meeting place for people to discuss the day’s news, listen to music, play chess and spawn new ideas.

Before long, word of this remarkable beverage had spread into Europe and coffee made its way across the continent. Coffee houses now began springing up in the major cities of England, France, Austria, Germany and Holland. In England, coffee houses were referred to as ‘penny universities’ as a cup of the good stuff cost a penny and patrons would engaged in inspiring conversation. By the mid-17th century, there were more than 300 coffee houses in London alone. By the 16th century coffee made its way across the Atlantic to the New World. In New York and Boston, coffee houses began to take root and in 1773 colonists, soon to be Americans, loved coffee so much they dumped all the tea into the Boston Harbor (or something like that).

As new lands were being discovered and opportunity presented itself, coffee seeds traveled across the waters to new countries. The Dutch found fortune in what is now Indonesia and expanded the cultivation of coffee to the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi. Central and South America acquired their coffee from England and France by a more unconventional way: it was smuggled in. New nations grew on coffee economies and fortunes were made and lost. Coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable crops.

Today, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world following oil. More than half of all Americans enjoy coffee every day. And the U.S. imports in excess of $4 billion worth of coffee each year. Small countries and regions around the world depend on the crop to sustain their economies. So next time you brew a pot of black gold or order your preferred espresso drink think of Kaldi’s little goats and know that your favorite potion traveled a long way to get to your cup!

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