Whether you brew a fresh pot at home or drop by a local coffee shop to get your fix, that steaming cup of java is the life-blood of non-morning and morning people, alike.  Whether mind and body are prepared to rise and start the day, that a.m.-jolt has been a habit for millions of people for thousands of years!

Historians and scientists identify 800 AD as the start-date for human consumption of coffee in its purest form.  Africans combined coffee beans with animal fat to form energy-packed snacks that would sustain them during rigorous daily activities.  Consider that the next time you take a sip of your seasonally flavored pumpkin spiced latte or bite into your chocolate-peanut butter Power Bar ™!

Coffee made its grand entrance in Arabia around 1000 AD. The Arabians began experimenting with the beans and found that roasting and boiling them resulted in a satisfying “bean broth.” The Muslims became particularly fond of coffee and its energizing properties, thus the beverage became an integral part of their culture and as Islam spread, so did the coffee-drinking tradition.

The Arabians were savvy businessmen who saw great potential for wealth in monopolizing the coffee-trade. They went to great measures to isolate coffee growth in Arabia by boiling or roasting all exported beans in order to prevent outside cultivation. They successfully dominated the coffee-production market until the 1600’s when a clever smuggler managed to leave Arabian borders with fertile seeds.

Slowly but surely, coffee began to spread throughout Europe by way of travelers and traders. Europeans were often wary of Eastern products and coffee was no different. While some embraced the new drink, others turned up their noses. Some even called it “the bitter invention of Satan.”  I like to think the devil would be pleased with this credit.

When coffee arrived in Venice in 1615, Pope Clement VIII decided to sample this beverage to determine whether it was an acceptable, Catholic libation. Perhaps Pope Clement hit the communion wine a bit too hard the night before and felt the therapeutic effects of “the caffeine buzz”, but he enthusiastically deemed it satisfying and gave it Papal approval.

In “the New World” (North America to all of you who were drooling on your desks during history class), coffee became the preferred “pick-me-up” of the Colonists who refused to pay the high taxes the British had imposed on their tea.  Just think, if not for the Boston Tea Party (and the ensuing Revolutionary War), Americans might be trading-in their coffee breaks for tea time!

By the 17th century, the Dutch had their own coffee plantations on the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, and Celebes. The Dutch aspired to corner the European coffee market, but failed to convey that message to the Mayor of Amsterdam who gave a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France for his Botanical Garden.  Oops! 

Sure enough, in 1723, a naval officer by the name of Gabriel de Clieu managed to sneak a seedling from the coffee plant and successfully transport it to the Island of Martinique in the French West Indies. The seedling thrived and soon its offspring were flourishing throughout the islands of the Caribbean.

South and Central American leaders soon took notice of this Caribbean cash crop and were eager to get their hands on the magical bean. In 1727, Brazil’s Emperor sent Francisco de Mello Palheta to Cayenne, French Guiana with an overt request for some fertile beans. The French governor flatly refused him; however, the governor’s lovely wife, had her own ideas. No woman can resist a man from Ipenema, tall and tan, and young and lovely – you get the gist.  In a covert act of retaliation against her stingy-husband, she gave a large bouquet of flowers to darling Francisco in which she had sewn the precious seedlings. Today, Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and is becoming a significant player in the specialty coffee industry. Hope he was worth it!

It seems coffee has been coveted for generations with well-documented occurrences of covert operations, Papal acceptance, and misguided Mayors.  Roll it in fat, cover it in chocolate, or simply wake to that gorgeous aroma every morning – folks played hardball for that cup o’ joe – enjoy it!

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