Growing up in Southern California in the early 1960s – the product of Sicilian immigrants, circa late 1940s – it would be a comedic understatement to say that coffee was a huge part of my life. By the age of six, I could break down and load up the family espresso maker like it was second nature! Coffee was much more than a hot dark drink poured into a coffee cup. In my household, coffee was plasma – it was our life’s blood. It was the core foundation of family, friends and community. It was the rocket fuel that ran our lives.
Why is Coffee Still So Popular Today?
Because it’s awesome! Coffee is many things to many people. It warms the bones and sharpens the mind on a cold day. Coffee is the relaxing part of the dining experience, and can be the international communication between people. It is the commonality that ties and bonds cultures together. Throw in dessert and you have a party! It creates a smooth mood and mindset. It is the rocket fuel of the Type-A personality, and the substance that leads to the “all-nighter” cram study session in college. Coffee is the foundation for the “coffee clutch” at work, the basis for great ideas! Coffee is the perfect first-date ice-breaker, and the substance that warms conversations between people of all walks of life. Most importantly, coffee never goes out of style! It merely changes form and design. I was born into coffee culture and didn’t even know it!
The History and Origins of Coffee:
The origins of coffee allegedly date back to somewhere around the late 15th century, where legend has numerous stories and versions of its beginnings. Some say that coffee started in Ethiopia, within the Horn of Africa, extending into regions of Turkey. We also know that coffee was being cultivated in Yemen around the same time. Some say the origins of coffee revolve around an Ethiopian goat herder, by the name of Kaldi and The Legend of the Dancing Goats. (Sounds like a bad comedy!) Apparently Kaldi observed his and other goats experiencing“unusual vitality and energy” after chewing on red coffee berries!
One possible origin of both the beverage and the name is the relation to the Kingdom of Kaffa, Ethiopia, where the coffee plant apparently first originated.
The Muslim world strongly embraced coffee as a substitute for wine and alcohol, strictly prohibited in their religion and culture. Coffee beans were allegedly first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen, where Yemeni traders brought coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the beans. The first known coffee house was called Kiva Han, which opened in Istanbul, Turkey, somewhere around the year 1500. But, it was NOT an immediate hit. Some orthodox circles banned it due to its “racy stimulating effects.” It would not be long before that prohibition flew right out the window!
Beans, Trees and Growth – The Race Was On:
The coffee bean is the “seed” of the coffee tree, but when it’s stripped of its outer layers, it becomes infertile. So, it was a foot race to get live coffee trees, or unstripped beans at the very least. Some say it was the Dutch, who in the early 1600s got their hands on the goods, and set up greenhouses for growing. Others say it was the Greeks who stole it from the Turks. Still others insist the Italians stole it from the Greeks! One thing was certain… Europe would soon become a huge player in the world of coffee.
Coffee was also being grown in India and Java. Europeans took beans and trees to Batavia (Java), which is now Indonesia. Within a few years, European colonization would not only supply Europe, but as a result of the growth and expansion into Asia, Indonesia is now the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world. The first European coffee house is said to have opened in Venice in the late 1600s, with the famous Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in 1720. Apparently, rumor has it that it is still open for business today. Now, I call that longevity!
What is Mocha and How Did It Get Its Name?
In the 15th century, Mocha (Al Mukha), Yemen, was the main port for exporting coffee – that’s where it all happened. Some say that the Arabs of the day had a strict policy not to export fertile beans, so that coffee could not be cultivated anywhere else but Mocha. Eventually this would change. To this day, Mocha (Yemen) still produces the strongest, richest, robust bean in the world. With its rich chocolatey taste, the name “Mocha” found its way into the English language. Today, Cafe Mocha is a wonderful beverage made with espresso and cocoa, and is quite popular in our current coffee culture.
Coffee eventually made its way to America. They say it was the French who brought it to South America, and then it traveled North to the first coffee houses in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and so on. Rumor has it the actual planning of the 1773 Boston Tea Party actually took place in a coffee house! Imagine that?
Today, the coffee culture takes us to the heart of Seattle Washington, where it has become a social setting from an American trend. Picturesque coffee houses burn warm images in our hearts and minds. Complete with overstuffed chairs, Internet access, fun gifts, and coffee house music to top off the mood. To hang out with friends or loved ones in the now post-grunge era atmosphere is commonplace. “Americanized” modern Italian-inspired design sets the tone.
Today, coffee brings up a whole new set of images for someone like myself, whereas, “coffee culture” didn’t really exist as an American cliche, but as a community of goodness in our hearts. From sitting in my grandparents 1960s kitchen to visiting local coffee hangouts around the globe, my experience of coffee culture has definitely changed. With new fad espressos, lattes, fancy teas and everything else under the sun, the coffee scene has exploded into the modern age. Yet, whatever changes there have been, the one constant is always the same – the root of it all…. the coffee.
Make sure to visit the Mt. Si online store and indulge yourself in some of the most amazing coffee you will ever have!