Coffee was first mentioned as a medicine

Coffee was first mentioned as a medicine

The first person known to write about coffee was a Persian physician and philosopher named Rhazes or Razi (850 to 922 AD), who characterized it as a medicine.

Other early writings establish Yemen, on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, as home to the first coffee plantations starting in the early 15th century. Coffee plants were brought over from Ethiopia, Yemen lacking its own indigenous coffee.

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  • The Dutch obtained coffee plants through trade with merchants. They created the first successful coffee plantation away from the Middle East, in their colony of Java in early 18th century Indonesia.
  • France received some plants as gifts in 1720, promptly transporting them to its colonies in Central America.
  • Central America's first coffee harvest occurred in 1726. Today, Brazil reigns as the world's biggest producer.

Venice's first coffee house ("bottega del caffe`") opened in 1645, England's in 1650, France's in 1672, and in the New World, a Boston outpost in 1676.

Coffee plants became much sought after. To preserve their monopoly, Arabian coffee traders intentionally made export beans infertile by parching or boiling them before export to Europe.

It was the Ottoman Empire that brought coffee to entirely new places, for new reasons:

  • The Muslim religion's prohibition of alcohol consumption gave a big lift to coffee.
  • Coffee became a substitute for wine.

Coffee diffused quickly throughout the Ottoman Empire, giving rise to the world's first coffee houses.

The Muslim coffees were introduced to Christian Europe but met with strong resistance from the Catholic Church. The Pope's Councilmen asked Pope Clemente VIII to declare the black beverage "the bitter invention of Satan."

The Pope opted for a taste before deciding. He liked what he tried, declaring, "this devil's drink is so delicious ... we should cheat the devil by baptizing it."

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