One of Library Journal’s “Best Business Books”
This updated edition of The Coffee Book is jammed full of facts, figures, cartoons, and commentary covering coffee from its first use in Ethiopia in the sixth century to the rise of Starbucks and the emergence of Fair Trade coffee in the twenty-first. The book explores the process of cultivation, harvesting, and roasting from bean to cup; surveys the social history of café society from the first coffeehouses in Constantinople to beatnik havens in Berkeley and Greenwich Village; and tells the dramatic tale of high-stakes international trade and speculation for a product that can make or break entire national economies. It also examines the industry’s major players, revealing the damage that’s been done to farmers, laborers, and the environment by mass cultivationand explores the growing “conscious coffee” market.
“Drawing on sources ranging from Molière and beatnik cartoonists to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the authors describe the beverage’s long and colorful rise to ubiquity.” The Economist
“Most stimulating.” The Baltimore Sun
Read an Excerpt
The Social Drink
IN THE FAR REACHES OF ETHIOPIA'S FORESTED HIGHLANDS a knotted network of tree branches and tropical foliage creates a lush canopy over a forest floor brimming with life of all possible forms. Beneath the towering trees, smaller plants thrive in the dim sunshine peeping down from above. Where patches of this primordial landscape still remain, the scene has barely changed for millennia. But one member of this tropical ensemble has changed the scene everywhere else in the world. One dark, shiny-leafed plant, unremarkable among the wealth of understory greenery, has grown far beyond this ancestral habitat, sprouting up around the world, percolating through countless cultures and endless ages, and stimulating succeeding civilizations to thought and to action: coffee.
Used traditionally by nomadic mountain warriors of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia, where the plant is indigenous, coffee was first eaten as a food sometime between 575 and 850 C.E. — long before it was made into a hot beverage in 1000–1300 C.E. Originally, coffee beans were crushed into balls of animal fat and used for quick energy during long treks and warfare. The fat, combined with the high protein content of raw coffee (not present in the beverage), was an early type of "energy bar" (a recipe for Bunna Qela — dried coffee beans — found in modern Ethiopian cookbooks echoes this early coffee preparation: it recommends mixing fire-roasted beans with salt and butter spiced with onion, fenugreek, white cumin, sacred basil, cardamom, oregano, and turmeric). Concentrated nourishment coupled with caffeine had the added benefit of inducing heightened acts of savagery during warfare. Other tribes of Northeast Africa reputedly used the beans as a porridge or drank a wine fermented from its fruit. Its use seems to have been common and long-standing in its native range before outsiders began their torrid affair with the fragrant bean.
While the Galla and other groups who used coffee traditionally have their own stories of its origin, the Western myths of coffee's incorporation into our culture are variously divine or serendipitous and are closely associated with Islam. One well-known legend has it that coffee was discovered by a young Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi (which means "hot" in ancient Arabic), who noticed his goats behaving frenetically after eating red berries from a nearby bush. Curious and hoping to energize himself, Kaldi tried some. To his delight, his tiredness quickly faded into a fresh burst of energy, and he began dancing about excitedly with his goats. The daily habit that Kaldi soon developed was noticed by a monk from a local monastery. The monk tried the fruits himself, and, noticing the effect, came upon the idea of boiling the berries to make a drink to help the monks stay awake during long religious services. News of the berry drink spread rapidly throughout all the monasteries in the kingdom; the more zealous monks drank it to spend a longer time praying.
1000 Physician and philosopher Avicenna of Bukhara is the first writer to describe the medicinal properties of coffee, which he calls bunchum
1470 – 99 Coffee use spreads to Mecca and Medina
1517 Sultan Selim I introduces coffee to Constantinople after con quering Egypt
1554 The first coffeehouses open in Constantinople
1570 – 80 Religious authorities in Constantinople order coffee houses to close
1600 Coffee is brought into southern India by a Muslim pilgrim named Baba Budan
1616 Coffee is brought from Mocha to Holland
1645 The first coffeehouse opens in Venice
1650 The first coffeehouse opens in England, at Oxford
1658 The Dutch begin coffee cultivation in Ceylon
1668 Coffee is introduced to North America
1669 Coffee catches on in Paris, when a Turkish ambassador spends a year at the court of Louis XIV
1670 Coffee is introduced to Germany
1674 The Women's Petition Against Coffee is published in London
1675 King Charles II orders the closing of all London coffee houses, calling them "places of sedition"
1679 The physicians of Marseilles attempt to discredit coffee by claiming it is harmful to health
1679 The first coffeehouse in Germany opens, in Hamburg
1689 The first enduring Parisian café, Café de Procope, opens
1696 New York's first coffeehouse, the King's Arms, opens
1706 The first samples of coffee grown in Java are brought back to the Amsterdam botani cal gardens
1714 A coffee plant, raised from a seed of the Java samples, is presented by the Dutch to Louis XIV and maintained in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris
1720 The still-enduring Caffè Florian opens in Florence
1723 Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu brings a coffee seedling from France to Martinique
1727 Francisco de Mello Palheta brings seeds and plants from French Guiana to Brazil
1730 The English bring coffee culti vation to Jamaica
1732 Johann Sebastian Bach com poses The Coffee Cantata in Leipzig, parodying the German paranoia over the growing popularity of the drink
1777 King Frederick the Great of Prussia issues a manifesto denouncing coffee in favor of the national drink, beer
1809 The first coffee imported from Brazil arrives in Salem, Massachusetts
1869 Coffee leaf rust is first noticed in Ceylon; within ten years the disease wipes out a majority of the coffee plantations in India, Ceylon, and other parts of Asia
1873 The first successful national brand of packaged roast ground coffee, Ariosa, is put on the U.S. market by John Arbuckle
1882 The New York Coffee Exchange commences business
1904 Fernando Illy invents the mod ern espresso machine
1906 Brazil attempts to increase world coffee prices by with holding some from the market through the "Valorization of Coffee"
1910 German decaffeinated coffee is introduced to the U.S. market by Merck and Co., under the name Dekafa
1911 U.S. coffee roasters organize into a national association, the precursor to the National Coffee Association
1928 The Colombian Coffee Federation is established
1930 – 44 Brazil destroys 78 million bags of coffee in an attempt to raise global prices
1938 Nestlé technicians in Brazil invent the first commercially successful instant coffee, Nescafé — still the world's lead ing brand
1939 – 45 U.S. troops bring instant coffee to a global audience
1959 Juan Valdez becomes the face of Colombian coffee
1962 Peak in U.S. per capita con sumption: more than three cups per person per day
1962 International Coffee Agreement establishes a worldwide cartel to control coffee supply
1971 The first Starbucks opens, in Seattle
1973 The first Fair Trade coffee is imported into Europe from Guatemala
1975 Brazil suffers a severe frost that sends coffee prices skyrocket ing to historic highs
1989 International Coffee Agreement collapses; world prices plum met to historic lows
early 90s Specialty coffee takes off in the United States
late 90s Organic coffee becomes the fastest growing segment of the specialty coffee industry
1999 TransFair USA launches the first Fair Trade Certified coffee in the United States
2000 – 03 World coffee prices fall to their lowest real levels ever; millions of coffee farmers face a devas tating crisis
2005 Specialty coffee represents half of the U.S. coffee market by value; Fair Trade Certified coffee is its fastest-growing segment
Another legend linked to Islam holds that the Angel Gabriel came to a sickly Mohammed in a dream, showing him the berry and telling the prophet of its potential to heal and to stimulate the prayers of his followers. In fact, Islam and the coffee bean seem to have spread through the Arabian peninsula during the same period, so it is perhaps not surprising that they are associated with each other. Subsequent antipathy toward coffee on the part of some Islamic authorities shows, however, that this identification was not absolute.
Kaldi dancing with his goats.
In what was to become a recurring pattern of introduction, early users valued coffee as a medicament more than as a beverage. Although some authorities date coffee's first cultivation back to 575 C.E. in Yemen, it was not until the tenth century that the bean was described in writing, first by the philosopher and astronomer Rhazes (850–922 C.E.), then by the philosopher and physician Avicenna of Bukhara (980–1037 C.E.). Referring to a drink called bunchum, which many believe to be coffee, Avicenna wrote, "It fortifies the members, it cleans the skin, and dries up the humidities that are under it, and gives an excellent smell to all the body."
By the late sixteenth century, European travelers to the Middle East had described the drink in their travel journals, noting that it was commonly used as a remedy for a whole litany of maladies, particularly those relating to the stomach. During this time German physician and botanist Leonhard Rauwolf included in his travel journal from the Middle East one of the earliest European accounts of coffee and the already popular coffee habit he found there: "they have a very good drink they call Chaube [coffee] that is almost as black as ink and very good in illness, chiefly that of the stomach; Of this they drink in the morning early in open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of China cups, as hot as they can ..."
As Islamic law prohibits the use of alcohol, the soothing, cheering effect of coffee helped it to become an increasingly popular substitute in Islamic countries, particularly Turkey. During the sixteenth century most coffee beans were procuredfrom southern Yemen, although a limited amount came from Ceylon, where the Arabs had apparently been cultivating it since about 1500. Mocha, on the Red Sea in Yemen, and Jidda, the port of Mecca, were the main ports for coffee export. Under the expansive Ottoman Empire of the Middle Ages, coffee, increasingly celebrated for more than its medical wonders, continued to grow in popularity and to reach a wider area. The drink came to be considered as important as bread and water and declared to be nutritive, refreshing weary Turkish soldiers and easing the labor pains of women, who were allowed to drink it. In fact, a Turkish law was eventually passed making it grounds for divorce if a husband refused his wife coffee. Eventually, the Turkish word kaveh gave rise to the English coffee as well as the French café and the Italian caffè.
By the mid-sixteenth century the drink had become so popular that drinkers in Constantinople, Cairo, and Mecca formed special areas in which to drink it: the world's first coffeehouses. Such establishments became centers for playing chess and other games, discussing the news of the day, singing, dancing, making music, and, of course, drinking coffee. Known as "schools of the cultured," these gathering places became popular with all classes and increased in number quickly.
The enthusiasm for coffee in this milieu would be startling even for the most committed modern coffee fiend. One of the earliest paeans to coffee was written in 1587 by Sheik Ansari Djezeri Hanball Abd-al-Kadir:
Oh Coffee, you dispel the worries of the Great, you point the way to those who have wandered from the path of knowledge. Coffee is the drink of the friends of God, and of His servants who seek wisdom.
... No one can understand the truth until he drinks of its frothy goodness. Those who condemn coffee as causing man harm are fools in the eyes of God.
Coffee is the common man's gold, and like gold it brings to every man the feeling of luxury and nobility. ... Take time in your preparations of coffee and God will be with you and bless you and your table. Where coffee is served there is grace and splendor and friendship and happiness.
All cares vanish as the coffee cup is raised to the lips. Coffee flows through your body as freely as your life's blood, refreshing all that it touches: look you at the youth and vigor of those who drink it.
Whoever tastes coffee will forever forswear the liquor of the grape. Oh drink of God's glory, your purity brings to man only well-being and nobility.
Despite its growing popularity, coffee remained a monopoly of the Arab world, and the secrets behind its cultivation were jealously guarded; foreigners were strictly forbidden from visiting coffee farms, and the beans could be exported only after boiling or heating to destroy their germinating potential. Nonetheless, increased travel by Europeans coupled with the steady expansion and integration of the Ottoman Empire slowly eroded the producers' capacity to maintain protective walls around this precious commodity ; by the early seventeenth century monopolistic control inevitably began to crumble. A pilgrim from India named Baba Budan allegedly smuggled out the first germinable seeds from Mecca to Mysore around 1600. Not long after, in 1616, Dutch spies succeeded in smuggling out coffee plants that they eventually cultivated in their colonies in Java. Coffee was now in the hands of enough different interests to make its spread around the world inevitable.
Venetian traders, who had well-established commerce with the Levant, were the first to introduce coffee to Europe in the early seventeenth century. With coffee imported through the major ports of Venice and Marseilles, the first European coffee trade infrastructure took form. "Coffee is harvested in the neighborhood of Mecca," reported the Paris Mercure Galant in 1696. "Thence it is conveyed to the port of Jidda. Thence it is shipped to Suez, and transported by camels to Alexandria. There, in the Egyptian warehouses, French and Venetian merchants buy the stock of coffee beans they require for their respective homelands."
In its early days in Italy, coffee was sold with other drinks by lemonade vendors and enjoyed by all classes. By the mid-seventeenth century at least some of the activity had moved into coffeehouses, described by the coffee historian William Ukers:
The coffeehouse gradually became the common resort of all classes. In the morning came the merchants, lawyers, physicians, brokers, workers, and wandering vendors; in the afternoons, and until the late hours of the nights, the leisure classes, including the ladies. For the most part, the rooms of the first Italian caffès were low, simple, unadorned, without windows, and only poorly illuminated by tremulous and uncertain lights. Within them, however, joyous throngs passed to and fro, clad in varicolored garments, men and women chatting in groups here and there, and always above the buzz there were to be heard such choice bits of scandal as made worthwhile a visit to the coffeehouse.
Once coffee was in Europe, news of it spread, inspiring enterprising travelers and recent immigrants to import the bean. The first English coffeehouse opened in 1650, in the university town of Oxford, apparently by a Jewish man named Jacob. Increasingly popular among its natural constituency — students — coffeehouses (quickly growing in number) became regular meeting places for what were to become several of England's first social clubs.
Two years after the first coffeehouse opened in Oxford, an Armenian (or Greek, by some accounts) man from Smyrna named Pasqua Rosée opened the first London coffeehouse. Brought to London as a servant by a merchant named Daniel Edwards, Rosée served coffee each morning to Edwards's house guests, who grew in number over time, curious about the new drink. The practice drew in so many visitors that Rosée, financed by Edwards, eventually opened a coffeehouse in St. Michael's Alley at Cornhill. The idea took off. In the years that followed, the explosive growth of coffeehouses served to firmly establish the beverage in England; by 1715 there were as many as 2,000 coffeehouses in London alone.
Frontispiece of King James I's Two BroadSides Against Tobacco, 1674. Early European coffee imagery highlighted the drink's exotic origins.
In England, doctors were some of the early staunch proponents of coffee, promoting the beverage for its supposed healing abilities. Some even considered it an effective remedy against the plague. In The Virtue and Use of Coffee, with Regard to the Plague, and other Infectious Distempers (1721) Richard Bradley wrote, "It is remark'd by several Learned Men abroad, that Coffee is of excellent Use in the time of Pestilence, and contributes greatly to prevent the Spreading of Infection. ..." Some went so far as to describe coffee as a medical panacea, as demonstrated in a 1657 advertisement printed in the old English newspaper The Publick Adviser:
In Bartholomew Lane, on the backside of the old Exchange, the drink called Coffee, which is a very wholesom [sic] and Physical drink, having many excellent virtues, closes the orifice of the Stomach, fortifies the heat within, helpeth Digestion, quickeneth the Spirits, maketh the heart lightsome, is good against Eyesores, Coughs or Colds, Rhumes, Consumptions, Headache, Dropsie, Gout, Scurvy, King's Evil, and many others, is to be sold both in the morning, and at three of the clock in the afternoon.
Public knowledge of coffee's pharmacological qualities greatly facilitated acceptance of the new drink and made the frequenting of coffeehouses seem almost virtuous in contrast to their alternative, taverns. To Puritans of the time, coffee was widely viewed as an answer to the rather widespread problem of public drunkenness, a natural result of the fact that beer was consumed with almost every meal. In 1660 James Howell wrote, "'Tis found already, that this coffee drink hath caused a greater sobriety among the Nations. Whereas formerly Apprentices and clerks with others used to take their morning's draught of Ale, Beer, or Wine, which by the dizziness they Cause in the Brain, made many unfit for business, they use now to play the Good-fellows in this wakeful and civil drink."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Coffee Book"
Copyright © 2006 Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum.
Excerpted by permission of The New Press.
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Table of Contents
Part 1 - A Brief History of Coffee,
The Social Drink,
Backlash to the Enfeebling Liquor,
Colonialism and the Spread of the Bean,
The Drink of the Modern Age,
Part 2 - Coffee's Odyssey from Crop to Cup,
Life on the Farm,
The International Travels of the Humble Coffee Bean,
Part 3 - The Rise of the International Coffee Trade,
A New World Order,
The Corporations and the Communist Threat,
Today's Traded Bean,
The Coffee Crisis,
The Bottom Line,
Part 4 - Health, Marketing, and the Mega-Roasters,
Branding the Brew,
Part 5 - The Specialty Coffee Boom,
A New Landscape,
The Starbucks Phenomenon,
"I'll Have a Double Tall Low-Fat Soy Orange Decaf Latte",
Part 6 - The Sustainable Coffee Buzz,
A New Form of Food Activism,
New Institutions: Third-Party Certification,
Shade or Bird-Friendly Coffee,
Fair Trade Coffee,
Out of the Murky Depths,
Notes, Bibliography, and Image Credits,