School Visit to the Coffee
After our tour around the musical
instruments we learned the history of coffee and how it spread around the world.
A goat herder named Kaldi, in the highlands of Abyssinia, noticed his goats got
agitated after eating the berries of a certain tree. After trying them himself
he gave the berries to a monk who found them useful for keeping his congregation
awake during his long sermons.
The slave trade brought wild coffee
plants to Harrar in Ethiopia, high altitude and the right conditions created a
variety of coffee which saw the origin of all Arabica plants. So the story of
coffee begins. Crushed beans were either eaten mixed with fat, or dry or roasted
leaves were made into “Ethiopian”.
A hermit known as Al-Shahili started
roasting, grinding and boiling coffee beans. Coffee drinking spread quickly
through the Arab world because coffee is non-alcoholic and stimulates the
1200. The first beans arrived from
Ethiopia to Al-Makkha in Yemen, corrupted to mocha, the universal nickname for
1400. After the conquest of Yemen by
the Turks, coffee beans were carried by boats from the ports of Mocha and Jedda
and by camel caravans through the Islamic
Around 1550 in Istanbul, the first
coffee houses open for drinking of ‘quahwa’ which stimulates discussion and
political criticism. Eventually sultan Murad banned coffee and merchants started
introducing coffee on the European market.
1616. A Dutch captain took the seeds from Yemen to Dutch East
Indies to start the great coffee plantations of Java and Ceylon. The rapid
spread of coffee cultivation, brought with it large scale deforestation and
slavery. The mono-culture caused the spread of “coffee rust”, a fungal disease,
which devastated the entire region.
In Medieval Europe the main food was
bread and beer. Breakfast was soup made of beer, A family consumed three litres
of beer every day. The arrival of coffee sobered Europe up,
In 1650 the first coffee houses
opened in England. They were called “Penny Universities” because the entrance
cost a penny. Many famous commercial houses, like Lloyds of London have their
origin in these establishments.
1658. The first coffee plant arrived from Yemen to the botanical gardens in
Amsterdam. A coffee tree from the gardens was presented to Louis XIV of France
who had them planted in ‘Jardin de Plantes’ in Paris.
In 1689 the first coffee house opens
in New York.
In 1683 after their defeat in front
of Vienna, the fleeing Turks left bags of coffee behind. The Viennese thought it
was camel fodder but Kolchitsky, a Viennese spy who spent much time in Istanbul,
recognised the coffee beans and opened Vienna’s first coffee house.
In 1696 coffee arrived in Paris,
introduced by the Turkish Ambassador. It quickly becomes fashionable and Café
Procope is still open today.
In 1720 Café Florian opened in Venice
and is still open today.
Coffee houses became meeting places
for merchants, intellectuals and artists where new political ideas were
discussed. This led to opposition from the government and from the church who
feared the effect of free exchange of ideas, and from tavern owners who felt the
loss of business. Even women complained about the long hours their men spent in
the coffee houses.
1721. Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, after
an adventurous sea voyage which included pirates and near ship-wreck, brought
the plant from Paris to Martinique, from here it spread to the Caribbean and
1727. The Dutch took the coffee
plants from Amsterdam to Dutch Guyana, now Surinam. A
Brazilian official received a young plant concealed in a bouquet of flowers
given to him as a token of affection, by the wife of the colony’s governor.
Coffee cultivation started in San Paulo and by the middle of the 19th century,
Brazil became the world’s largest coffee exporter.
1730. The British introduced coffee
to Jamaica and the “Blue Mountain” brand is still highly regarded. The French
took the plant from the Yemen to the island of Bourbon, now Reunion, in the West
Indian Ocean, from here it spread to East Africa.
1865 saw the first roasted, ground
and packaged coffee in the USA, it was introduced by John Arbuckle.
In 1938, Nestle launched Nescafe on to the market and it quickly became a household
favourite because of its speed and ease of preparation.
In 1963, the USA reached its highest
point when coffee was served with every meal. Since the coffee business became
very profitable, the roasters lowered the quality of the product by substituting
the Arabica variety for the cheaper Robustas and by using a lighter roast to
increase the volume allowing them to change the weight of the package from
sixteen to thirteen ounces. The reduced quality and alienation of the biggest
consumer – women, consumers began switching to soft drinks, causing a decline in
In 1971 the first Starbucks opened
offering the atmosphere of the coffee shops of yesteryear.
The 1990’s saw a rapid growth in high
end coffee houses. Starbucks is the global leader offering high quality Arabica
coffees in congenial places, where people could meet friends, spend relaxing
time, choose coffees from different countries, different roasts and different
ways of preparation. This created a richer coffee drinking experience and a
higher consumption of quality coffees. By reintroducing the consumer to the
pleasures of good coffee, the speciality coffee shops are increasing world
Coffee is grown in a belt from twenty
five degrees north to twenty five degrees south. In tropical areas coffee trees
get frequent rain which causes multiple blooms and several harvests per year.
Robusta type is mostly planted. In sub-tropical regions, a well defined
dry/rainy season produces a single harvest. Arabica coffee is planted. On the league of world coffee production Brazil is by far the
biggest producer, Guatemala comes in at ninth.
selected beans, still in unwashed parchment, are planted in disinfected soil, in
bands two inches apart, in shaded planters. After six weeks, plants called
“Little Soldiers” sprout. Two weeks later two leaves appear, called “butterfly”
or “lettuce”. At this point, the plants are transplanted into plastic bags
filled with soil, two plants per bag and are kept in shadowed nurseries. Nine to
twelve months later, the grown plants are moved to their final place on the
Sun Grown Coffee:
Used on farms in Brazil, Africa and Indonesia. The
absence of trees aids mechanical harvest and increases the yield but results in
lower quality coffee. The increased production depends on the application of
chemical fertilisers and often results in ecological
coffee: Coffee farms in Antigua use shade trees to protect the plants
from frost and strong sun, help control pests, give refuge to diverse animal
species and provides an environment for diversified products such as wood,
legumes and fruits. The quality of the coffee grown in this way is superior to
the sun grown variety.
Each coffee bush produces six and a
half pounds of cherry beans (ripe coffee beans).
After initial drying the weight reduces to one and a
half pounds. The coffee is then sorted and is called green
coffee – one and a quarter pounds and finally after roasting that same plant has produced one pound of actual
coffee – or approximately forty cups.
We had a quick look at modern mass production and tasting.
We were introduced to all the family members who have owned this coffee farm – the
two year old on the right is the current owner, now aged forty six.
We walked across the old drying area and tested beans, hot chocolate and saw
the brightly coloured bags that the coffee is sold
Next, we bimbled
through the plantation and got up close and personal to the coffee beans.
Some of the grounds were laid out to
represent local villages.
ALL IN ALL
I WOULD HAVE LIKED LONGER TO READ ALL THE
THAT’S MY LITTLE