The history of coffee

The history of coffee

The history of coffee and the etymology of the word "coffee" are more than a millennium old. The "qahwah", a word that in the classical Arabic language indicated a drink. It was used to indicate a juice extracted from the seeds, consumed as a dark red wine, or as a liquid which, when drunk, caused such intense exciting effects that it was also used in medicine.

The origin of the word coffee

During his life and as the area changed, the word "qahwah" can be found in a multitude of varieties, such as cave, cava, cihuè, caveah, choana, chnachout, caffe. Up to the "quahvé", a Turkish word, the meaning of which is "that which lifts up". Over time it differentiated itself in a very precise way, unambiguously indicating the drink, which today we call " coffee ". However this derivation of the word is disputed by some scholars. They argue that the word "coffee" comes from the name of the region where the plant grew spontaneously at its origins, namely Caffa in Ethiopia .


The history of coffee and the numerous studies on the origins of coffee lead us to deduce that, in the ancient civilizations of the pre-Christian or pre-Islamic period, the plant and consequently the coffee drink were not known. However, there are some historical and literary references, which lead us to argue that the drink in question had already been used in more ancient times. In his writings on Homer's Iliad, Pietro della Valle (1533-1617) states that in the fourth canto there is a clear reference to coffee. Specifically when Homer speaks of the mysterious and magical drink, the "nepenthe, infused in cups". Another reference to coffee can be found in an eighteenth-century treatise by G. Paschius, who deduces the presence of coffee in some passages of the Bible. Finally, others argue that one of the fabulous gifts that Queen Sheba brought to Solomon was coffee.

Coffee legends

The origins of coffee knowledge certainly mix with versions that have the legendary,. However, every legend cannot be excluded that it hides a small part of the truth. In an ancient legend of Arab countries it is said that coffee was invented by the Angel Gabriel. The intent was to take care of the Prophet Muhammad. Coffee was considered here as a drink and medicine to cure health . Probably the best known coffee legend belongs to the Maronite friar Antonio Fausto Nairone . He told of an Arab shepherd named Kaddi. One day while grazing his goats he noticed that his cattle showed signs of excitement and pawing after eating some berries. These reddish berries are the fruit of coffee plants. Already between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries , coffee as a drink was notably widespread among the Arabs. It was consumed especially to keep awake during the night prayers. Jealous of the secret of the discovery of the "black drink", considering it magical and precious, the Arabs forbade its export. In fact, in Arabia until 1400, coffee beans were also used in the medical field for curative purposes. Over time, however, his knowledge spread from one convent to another, and coffee was brought to the homelands of pilgrims. To then conquer the entire Arab world.

The spread of the drink

The first public taprooms were already present in Mecca and Medina in the 15th century. Paradoxically, however, the affirmation of the drink encountered considerable obstacles precisely within the Arab community. The stimulating effects it produced did not coincide with the strict imperatives of Islamic law . So a decision had to be made whether to prohibit the drink which, like wine, caused euphoric behaviors . However, the diffusion of coffee was facilitated by the expansion of Islam in North Africa, Europe and South Asia. At first under the expansionary pressures of the Ottoman Empire and later thanks to the commercial development, great trips. In the second half of the 16th century, coffee began to arrive as a valuable commodity within the eastern borders to land in Europe. Thanks to the large sailing ships that crossed the Mediterranean, the navigators who increasingly developed their businesses by importing merchandise of all kinds. They began to introduce coffee into the major ports of our continent . Towards the end of the century coffee made its appearance in Venice together with tobacco. Subsequently, already in the following century, coffee also reached other European countries. For example in France, which thanks to some merchants from Marseilles from the East saw the new goods in its ports. It is said that Mosieur Jean de la Roche in the year 1644 was the first person to import coffee into France. In Holland, coffee was brought by the India Company which imported it towards the end of the 17th century. Furthermore, Holland deserves credit for having transplanted the coffee plant to the East Indies.

The first shops

In 1640 the first "coffee shop" was opened in Venice , which was followed by others in various Italian cities. Later, with the spread of the drink and the shops, the price of the goods began to fall. Thanks to the decrease in the price in just over a century, more than two hundred establishments where coffee was served were created in Venice alone . Similarly to the obstacles encountered by coffee among Muslim clerics, some Church leaders in Italy also put up a stiff resistance against the drink. It was in fact considered by them as a "devil's drink". With the attenuation of the resistance from the church, coffee became the most appreciated drink by the men of culture of the eighteenth century. It was in fact called the "intellectual drink". From that moment until today , coffee has played an increasingly important role in the life of Italians. To become today one of the products recognized and appreciated all over the world as an excellence of Made in Italy ! The history of coffee has brought us up to the present day where, in fact, 96.6% of Italians habitually drink coffee. (Source: Astra 2020 research commissioned by the Coffee Promotion Consortium) Its quality is important in choosing coffee, discover the precious Mokito blends !

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