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The word "coffee" entered English in 1598 via Dutch koffie,borrowed from Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun 'wine of the bean'. A possible origin of the name is the Kingdom of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant originated; its name there is bunn or bunna.

First uses

There are several legendary accounts of the origin of the drink itself. One account involves the Yemenite Sufi mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. When traveling in Ethiopia, the legend goes, he observed birds of unusual vitality, and, upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality.

Other accounts attribute the discovery of coffee to Sheik Abou'l Hasan Schadheli's disciple, Omar. According to the ancient chronicle (preserved in the Abd-Al-Kadir manuscript), Omar, who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer, was once exiled from Mocha to a desert cave near Ousab. Starving, Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubery, but found them to be bitter. He tried roasting the beans to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the bean, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. As stories of this "miracle drug" reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.

Another story involves a goat-herd, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a Muslim holy man in a nearby monastery. But the holy man disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed and the holy men came. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world's first cup of coffee. The Ethiopian ancestors of today's Oromo tribe, were the first to have recognized the energizing effect of the native coffee plant. Studies of genetic diversity have been performed on Coffea arabica varieties, found to be of low diversity but which retained some residual heterozygosity from ancestral materials, and closely related diploid species Coffea canephora and C. liberica; however, no direct evidence has ever been found indicating where in Africa coffee grew or who among the natives might have used it as a stimulant, or known about it there earlier than the seventeenth century.

Arab world and spread to Europe

The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.From Mocha, coffee spread to Egypt and North Africa, and by the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Turkey. From the Muslim world, coffee drinking spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, and coffee plants were transported by the Dutch to the East Indies and to the Americas.

The earliest mention of coffee noted by the literary coffee merchant Philippe Sylvestre Dufour is a reference to bunchum in the works of the 10th century CE Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known as Rhazes in the West, but more definite information on the preparation of a beverage from the roasted coffee berries dates from several centuries later.

The most important of the early writers on coffee was Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa.[10] He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani (d. 1470), mufti of Aden, was the first to adopt the use of coffee (circa 1454).

He found that among its properties was that it drove away fatigue and lethargy, and brought to the body a certain sprightliness and vigour.

Coffee's usefulness in driving away sleep made it popular among Sufis, who used it to keep themselves alert during their nighttime devotions. A translation traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (the present day Yemen) northward to Mecca and Medina, and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Istanbul.

Coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders brought coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the bean.The first coffeehouse opened in Istanbul in 1554.[13] Coffee was at first not well received. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca[citation needed]. However, the popularity of the drink led these bans to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I, with Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi issuing a celebrated fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee. In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked.

Similarly, coffee was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some time before the 18th century. However, in the second half of the 19th century, Ethiopian attitudes softened towards coffee drinking, and its consumption spread rapidly between 1880 and 1886; according to Richard Pankhurst, "this was largely due to [Emperor] Menilek, who himself drank it, and to Abuna Matewos who did much to dispel the belief of the clergy that it was a Muslim drink."


Dutch engraving of Mocha in 1692
Coffee was noted in Ottoman Aleppo by the German physician botanist Leonhard Rauwolf, the first European to mention it, as chaube, in 1573; Rauwolf was closely followed by descriptions from other European travellers.

The vibrant trade between Venice and the Muslims in North Africa, Egypt, and the East brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to this leading European port. Venetian merchants introduced coffee-drinking to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage. In this way, coffee was introduced to Europe. Coffee became more widely accepted after controversy over whether it was acceptable for Catholics to consume was settled in its favor by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the drink. The first European coffee house (apart from those in the Ottoman Empire, mentioned above) was opened in Venice in 1645.

Born in 1767, Franco Anglo was the son of a wealthy Italian land owner & farmer. In 1809 (now a wealthy Italian Merchant in his own right, living in England) Franco travelled to Martinique in search of the world's finest coffee beans. Once found, he continued his search onto Port Antonio, Jamaica, where we venture into the Blue Mountain region. Then onto Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua where he gathered some of the finest beans.

After travelling back to England to trade his fine collection, Franco then journeyed to the Island of La Reunion (located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar in 1814. Then onto Ethiopia and Yemen, where he learnt age old techniques of growing & roasting coffee. In 1819, Franco decided to travel to Indonesia and Vietnam, where his collection of the rarest coffee beans made him one of the wealthiest and most respected coffee traders of his time. Franco's dedication to continue his search around the world was never fully realised, when he suddenly died on board a ship bound for South America in 1826.[citation needed]


Largely through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, coffee became available in England no later than the 16th century according to Leonhard Rauwolf's 1583 account. The first coffeehouse in England was opened in St. Michael's Alley in Cornhill. The proprietor was Pasqua Rosée, the servant of Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods. Edwards imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment. The Grand Cafe in Oxford is alleged[who?] to be the first Coffee House in England, opened in 1650 by a Jewish man named Jacob. It is still open today, but has since become a popular Wine Bar. Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses throughout England. Popularity of coffeehouses spread rapidly in Europe, and later, America.