On the Coffee Trail
More than 1.5 billion cups of coffee are drunk worldwide every day—enough to fill nearly 300 Olympic-size swimming pools. If you do not have
a jar of coffee in your kitchen, you are in a minority. Coffee is a global industry and the second largest commodity-based product; only oil beats it.
More than 1,200 years ago hardworking people fought to stay awake without this stimulant until, as the story goes, a herd of curious goats and their watchful master, an Arab named Khalid, discovered this simple, life- changing substance. As his goats grazed on the Ethiopian slopes, he noticed they became lively and excited after eating a particular berry. Instead of just eating the berries, people boiled them to create al-qahwa.
Sufis in Yemen drank al-qahwa for the same reasons we do today, to stay awake. It helped them to concentrate during late night Thikr (prayers in remembrance of Allah). Coffee was spread to the rest of the Muslim world by travelers, pilgrims, and traders, reaching Mecca and Turkey in the late 15th century and Cairo in the 16th century.
It was a Turkish merchant named Pasqua Rosee who first brought coffee to England in 1650, selling it in a coffeehouse in George-yard, Lombard Street, London. Eight years later, another coffeehouse called Sultaness Head was opened in Cornhill. Lloyd’s of London, today a famous insurance company, was originally a coffee shop called Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House. By 1700, there were about 500 coffeehouses in London, and nearly 3,000 in the whole of England. They were known as “penny universities” because you could listen and talk with the great minds of the day for the price of a coffee.
The consumption of coffee in Europe was largely based on the traditional Muslim preparation of the drink. This entailed boiling the mixture of coffee powder, sugar, and water together, which left a coffee residue in the cup because it was not filtered. However, in 1683, a new way of preparing and drinking coffee was discovered, and it became a coffeehouse favorite.
Cappuccino coffee was inspired by Marco d’Aviano, a priest from the Capuchin monastic order, who was fighting against the Turks besieg- ing Vienna in 1683. Following the retreat of the Turks, the Viennese made coffee from abandoned sacks of Turkish coffee. Finding it too strong for their taste, they mixed it with cream and honey. This made the color of coffee turn brown, resem- bling the color of the Capuchins’ robes. Thus, the Viennese named it cappuccino in honor of Marco D’Aviano’s order. Since then, cappuccino has been drunk for its enjoyable, smooth taste.
Excerpted from 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization by National Geographic. Copyright © 2012 by National Geographic. Excerpted by permission of National Geographic, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.