Coffee has been around for centuries and in fact, many people connect it with libraries and reading. It can be comforting to get a cup and settle down with a good book, as you can do at your Abilene Public Library. However, if you've ever wondered where coffee originated, your library has that answer! It is thought to be indigenous to East Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Sudan. According to legend it was first discovered in either the 6th or 9th century depending on the source. A couple of legends about the discover of coffee exist.
The first legend concerns a shepherd who noticed how frenetic his goats became after eating the beans from a particular plant. The other credits a Sheikh Omar, renowned for his healing ability, who was exiled to a desert cave. Starving he ate some berries but found them too bitter. So he roasted them to improve the taste but they became hard. He boiled them to soften them and ended up with a fragrant brown liquid. When he drank the liquid he was energized.
The first written evidence of knowledge of coffee and coffee drinking appeared in Yemen. The writer of these accounts, Sufi Imam Muhammad Ign Said Al Dhabhani, imported goods from Ethiopia to Yemen in the 15th century.
By the 16th century, coffee had traveled to the Isle of Malta and from there spread to the rest of Europe including England by the 17th century. Coffee houses became predominant as meeting places for both social and intellectual activities. There were over 300 coffee houses in London by the 1650's. Many catered to specific groups of the population, such as merchants, brokers, or artists, among others.
The town of Mocha was the center for the coffee trade for much of the early modern era. The Dutch eventually got hold of some seedlings and managed to grow coffee plants on the island of java or a flavoring ingredient with mocha.
Coffee did come to the Americas, although until the Boston Tea Party, tea remained the favored drink. After that, coffee rapidly became the preferred beverage. Until now with specialty coffee houses and their lingo, coffee is everywhere and ordering correctly is a mark of sophistication and key to getting the type of coffee you actually want to drink.
Confessions of a Coffee Bean by Marie Nadine Antol is a guide to brewing coffee and cooking with it. The Joy of Coffee by Corby Kummer is the essential guide to buying and brewing coffee. The Coffee Book by Gregory Dicum and Nina Luttinger provides some history of coffee and the coffee industry. All of these titles are available at the Abilene Public Library, along with a couple of titles about Starbucks. Come to the library and check them out.
Article Contributed by Marie Skufca, Information Services Librarian