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Coffee? The Origin of the Beans to Drink We Love

Who doesn’t like a freshly brewed cup of coffee on a cold morning? With milk, without milk, sugar, or no sugar, the cup has found its plethora of recipes all over the world. But have you ever wondered how it came into the spotlight and in the present colors?

When my blood runs black as the moonless night, and my heartbeat sounds as the Warriors march, only then may you say, I’ve had enough coffee.

The Origins

It all started in the continent of Africa where on the Ethiopian plateau, coffee beans were first discovered when a goat herdsman learned that the consumption of these beans kept the goats and sheep awake. Since then it started to be consumed as a beverage by the tribals of Ethiopia. No significant developments had taken place when in Ethiopia.

The real deal of work began when the beans were exported for the first time by a Somali merchant to Yemen during the 15th century when the Sufi saints discovered its property to ward off sleepiness and helped them keep awake during night prayers and during the times of fasts to keep up energy levels all day.

To India and Elsewhere

An interesting tale about coffee reaching Indian coasts is credited to a Sufi saint from India named Baba Budhan. He was on his trip for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca when he found the taste of this exquisite beverage which left him baffled and wanting more. Clearly, he got addicted to what it did to him and was wanting to bring it to his homeland. Back then, coffee beans were exported by the Yemenis in either roasted or boiled form to prevent the spread of coffee beans to maintain their trade monopoly.

View of Baba Budan Dargah and Datta Peeta

The taste of coffee was so good Baba Budhan went in to risk it all in an attempt to snuggle the beans from Yemen to his place in Chikmanglore on the western coast in the present-day state of Karnataka. As the Yemenis maintained strict checks Baba Budhan was able to hide 7 coffee beans in his long beard and successfully evaded suspicion. The number 7 holds religious significance in Islam. Thus came the beans to India.

Wealth and Coffee

In Europe, coffee was sold for high rates and hence only the elite could afford them. During these times if a person could serve coffee to his guests, he was considered wealthy.

Now we know how coffee came in. But what helped it gain more and more popularity is that presently consuming coffee is viewed as a status symbol. All lies in the beans themselves. Its strong aroma and taste and perhaps the most important, caffeine. Coffee had been used by medieval doctors to treat indigestion and religiously by saints to cleanse the soul and sit for overnight prayers.

When the beans were exported to Europe, they were sold for high rates and hence only the elite could afford them. During these times if a person could serve coffee to his guests, he was considered a wealthy man. By the 17th century coffee houses in Western Europe started to establish and each sold its hot cup of coffee in its own recipe and specially crafted vessels. One among the reasons for the Europeans to go on for discovering new lands was to gain more coffee trade monopoly thereby increasing profits.

Fast forward to colonial India, coffee houses similar to those in the Western European countries were established in the states of Madras and Calcutta by the British. However, these were racial institutions serving only white men.

Indian Coffee House

Indian coffee house was opened in Mumbai under the Coffee Board of India to promote coffee consumption and affordable coffee to the commons.

Indian Coffee House at Trivandrum, Kerala

Close to independent India, the Indian coffee house was opened in Mumbai under the Coffee Board of India to promote coffee consumption and affordable coffee to the commons. Over the years its branches spread all over India but post-independence things changed. The coffee board decided to close the coffee houses which was met with stiff opposition and protest, among the workers under the leadership of a renowned politician Mr. A.K Gopalan, the board has to hand over the coffee houses to the workers who thereby established the Indian coffee house co-operatives run by the workers electing among themselves a committee to manage and run the co-operatives.

Thus the Indian coffee house exponentially popularized the Madras filter coffee. It is prepared by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the infusion obtained by the percolation brewing of finely ground coffee powder served in a dabarah (saucer) locally known as “Kaapi”.

Coffee Today

Presently coffee as a beverage is served in a multitude of forms. Cold, hot, steamed, boiled, iced, cream on top, and whatnot. What coffee has in itself has made it what it is now. Its rich and strong taste though bitter is loved by many. Leading coffee giants like Starbucks and Costa Coffee are making billions of dollars from what coffee has achieved to itself. From the medieval times of trade monopoly to presently the expensive machinery used to make the best blend, coffee has held its pride in being a beverage enhancing the status of an individual.

Remember

“Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all “.

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