Where does coffee beans come from?
So guess who gave us the English word coffee? I'll give you a hint: they were integral to the founding of the New Amsterdam colony. That's right: our friends, the Dutch. The word coffee dates to the late 16th-century, and is derived from the Dutch word koffie. But both the word and the product are much older than this, although the Dutch are a big reason coffee found its way to America. We talked on Monday about how coffee was marketed into our lives, and I mentioned that its value was linked to its origin. But where does coffee come from? Where did it originate and how did it get here, to the bags and cans of roast on the shelves of supermarkets to the coffee shops around the world? Today we'll take a quick look at global travels of the bean and on Friday we'll consider the role of coffee in current times.
Illustration of a Coffea arabica
plant. Source: Wikipedia
Coffeehouse in Palestine, 1900.
Coffee was not only drunk in homes but also in the many public coffee houses—called qahveh khaneh—which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. Not only did they drink coffee and engage in conversation, but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess and kept current on the news of the day. In fact, they quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that the coffee houses were often referred to as "Schools of the Wise."It was perhaps too stimulating for some leaders, who banned coffee partly in an attempt to curb the political fervor that it could inspire on occasion at the coffee house (some of which went on to become powerful institutions in the Western world: e.g., The New York Stock Exchange, The Bank of New York, and Lloyd's of London began life as coffee houses). 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