Have you ever wondered, as you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop or perhaps at your own kitchen table, sipping your morning cup of gourmet coffee, where that wonderful drink originated at? If you live in the United States, you can thank a man by the name of Alfred Peet. In 1955, Alfred Peet moved to California from Amsterdam, Holland. To his despair, he couldn’t find a decent cup of coffee anywhere. As the son of an Amsterdam coffee trader, he knew good coffee when he drank it.
In 1966, Peet opened a small coffee store in Berkley, California, and began to sell his dark roasted coffee beans. At the time there was one other North American store selling quality coffee, but they were in Vancouver, Canada. From that time until now, Peet’s has served the gourmet coffee needs in Southern California.
While gourmet coffee ddidn’tcome to the States until 1966, coffee has been around since the 9th century, when Ethiopian shepherds notice that their goats would “dance” and had more energy after eating wild coffee beans. Since Islam prohibits the use of alcohol, coffee provided an alternative to wine. From there coffee spread to Egypt and Yemen. It wasn’t until it reached Arabia that coffee beans were roasted and brewed to make a drink.
At first, coffee was not well received by the Islamic people. In 1511, it was forbidden by the court at Mecca. The drink was so popular, though, that this was overturned in 1524 by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim. It was also banned for a time in Egypt and Ethiopia, before being accepted as an acceptable Muslim drink. This was largely due to the rulers at the time liking the taste of the beverage, therefore decreeing it acceptable.
By the 15th century, coffee was common throughout the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and North Africa. The word “coffee” came from “caffé” in Italy in the 16th century. Before that it was called, in Arabic, “qahwa”. In Venice traders started buying coffee from Africa and the Middle East, and in 1645 the first European coffee house opened.
The Dutch defied the Saudi Arabians prohibition on exportation of coffee by smuggling seedlings from Aden into Europe in 1616. They were also the first country to import coffee on a large scale. They took plants to Java and Ceylon, where they started exporting to the Netherlands in 1711.
Coffee arrived in the United States during the colonial period. When coffee was first imported, it was not widely drunk in the United States. It wasn’t until the revolutionary war and the shortage of tea, that Americans began drinking coffee on a regular basis. After the War of 1812, America’s taste for coffee grew and it became a common drink.
As the consumption of coffee grew, so did the companies cultivating, roasting and grinding. The larger companies used (and still do) a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans for a commercial blend, while gourmet coffee is roasted from the Arabica bean alone. Arabica beans are considered the tastiest of the three types of bean and also the most expensive.
Today, coffee is the life-blood of the third world countries that produce it. Over a hundred million people depend on the growth, production and exportation of this flavorful bean.
The next time you pour yourself a wonderful cup of your favorite gourmet blend, consider the origins and history of the coffee bean and how it came to be in your favorite store. The rich history of gourmet coffee is almost as rich and full-bodied as the drink itself which will surely give you even more of that warm and cozy feeling that only a nice cup of coffee can give!