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Drinking Coffee - A Centuries Old Tradition

By:  Charles Etungen

Coffee is the product of a seed that is grown both in rows in sun or more traditionally on the hillsides under shade. The coffee plants blossom and the fruit of the blossoms are the coffee berries. The two major species of coffee are the most popular Arabica and the more bitter Robusto. These berries are fermented, soaked, hulled and sorted, dried, and then the beans can be ground, whether at home or commercially, into many different forms of a consumable beverage.

The coffee plant is indigenous to the subtropical areas of Africa and southern Asia. It has spread for cultivation in warm areas all around the tropical Earth. From Columbia to Kona, Viet Nam to Brazil, coffee plants produce some of the most sought after berries on Earth. Coffee was first consumed in Ethiopia, but not in liquid form; the berries from the coffee shrubs were consumed by goats. The goats then seemed to have a positive reaction to the fruit, and their actions were mimicked by the goat herders. The caffeine in the berries, and its affects on the body, were then discovered and the popularity of the plant is now multi-billion dollar history.

The Muslims are credited with introducing the drink to Italy, and the Italians then helped to spread the drink through out Europe. England's first coffee house was built in the late 17th century. What exactly all of these people were drinking isn't always known, but there have been various methods of consuming coffee, from chewing the berries, to drinking coffee as a cold mix of the grounds and water, to the hot drink espressos and lattes of today.

As with many popular substances, coffee has had a past rife with controversy. It has been both banned and blessed by several religious organizations at different time in history. Coffee has been used in religious observances in Yemen and parts of Africa; it was banned by the Ethiopian Church. The Ottoman empire in Turkey also banned its use during a political struggle in 17th century and their have been many political rebellions across Europe regarding its use.

The Dutch imported coffee on a huge scale. They were so enthralled with the beverage that they were more than willing to ignore the trade embargo with the Arabs against exporting coffee. Seeds were smuggled in 1616 by Pieter van den Broeck into Europe and planted in Java and Ceylon.

The Roman Catholics, prior to 1600, considered the black liquid the devil's drink, given to Muslims to replace wine. Pope Clement VII, who really enjoyed the brewed concoction, baptized the drink. Venice became a very popular import site for the beans, and coffee spread across Europe.