Coffee is one of few legal brain-altering substances that scientists say have several health benefits. But have you any idea what you are actually drinking or even know the difference between a Mocha and a Java? Well, here’s a short history of coffee that takes us all around the world and explains a whole lot of things:
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, dating back to perhaps the 9th century. There’s a wonderful story we found on the internet which said a young Ethiopian herder noticed that his goats got frisky after eating a certain berry. It was coffee of course!
Now Ethopia is just a hop and a skip by boat from Yemen, across a narrow straight of the Red Sea. So off went the Yemeni traders and brought back some Ethiopian coffee which they cultivated and began to export from the port of Mocha. Mocha coffee was known for its chocolaty taste and still today we associate the word with that flavour.
Coffee became cultivated all over Arabia but the seafaring trading Dutch nation wanted in on the act. The Arabs tried to keep it to themselves and banned the export of fertile seeds, but they didn’t reckon on Dutch determination! The Dutch acquired coffee trees from Mocha in 1616 and grew them in Amsterdam. They named it Coffea Arabica.
Java & Suriname
Arabica stock began to be cultivated in several countries, but Java in South East Asia and Suriname in South America became the main coffee growers for export to Europe through their Dutch masters.
Having tried and tested the cultivation of coffee, it became clear that the climate in South America proved particularly ideal. The region now produces about 45% of the world’s coffee export. The rest comes from tropical and sub-tropical countries in Africa, Asia and Central America. Each area produces its own particular flavour, acidity and aroma but one thing common to 75-80% of coffee is that it’s made from Arabica beans. The other 20% is from Robusta beans, often used for instant and filter coffee and higher in caffeine.
Hopefully you’ll now know your Mocha from your Java and with the rise in single origin coffees from Cape Town coffee houses like Origin, Truth, Haas and Bean There, and even supermarkets, you’ll be able to find the coffee bean to suit you.
Watch out for more coffee blog posts that will reveal all the other mysteries about coffee and in the meantime, read about the most expensive coffee in the world.