History of Coffee - Where does coffee come from?

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History of Coffee

coffee beans
Coffee beans

Coffee plants grew wild in East Africa, and sometime before 1000 AD, the people who lived in Ethiopia, in East Africa, began to mash up the red coffee berries and mix them with fatty meat (like bacon) to make an energy bar like the North American pemmican.

By about 1000 AD, the Ethiopians were selling coffee beans to Islamic traders, who brought the coffee beans back to the Arabian peninsula in the Abbasid Empire to sell there. Slowly more and more people heard about coffee, and traders began selling coffee all over the Abbasid Empire and in India. Farmers grew coffee in the Arabian Peninsula, and did their best to keep anyone else from getting any coffee plants, so that they could charge whatever they wanted for coffee.

men drinking coffee and playing backgammon
Ottoman coffeehouse, 1500s AD
(cf. S. al-Hassani, 1001 Inventions:
Muslim Heritage in Our World, Manchester 2006)

By 1453, people in the Ottoman Empire figured out how to roast the beans, grind them, and brew coffee into a drink. Because Muslims were not supposed to drink wine or beer, a lot of people began serving coffee to their guests instead. (Some caliphs banned coffee and tea too, but people mostly drank them anyway.)

Learn by doing: make and drink a cup of coffee
Where does tea come from?

Bibliography and further reading about coffee:

More about dates
More about African food
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Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

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