The Birth of Coffee
While there are various opinions about the history of coffee, the details of its first use and where it originated remain uncertain. However, historical records suggest that coffee first emerged in Ethiopia, then spread to the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, India, Turkey, and later to Europe through Venetian traders.
Today, the story of coffee, a commodity with the second-largest trade volume globally after petroleum, traces back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. Throughout its history, coffee has been described in various ways, including as a spiritual intoxicant and an erotic stimulant.
In truth, the first discoverers of coffee were naturally herbivorous animals and birds. Nevertheless, if we hadn’t discovered coffee by observing these animals, there might not be something called coffee today.
The History and Discovery of Coffee: Kaldi from Ethiopia
Generally, the individual most emphasized in the history and discovery of coffee is Kaldi from Ethiopia.
Kaldi and the Encounter with the Chief Monk
According to legend, a man named Kaldi is credited with first recognizing the potential of coffee. After Kaldi’s goats consumed coffee fruits, they became more energetic and refused to sleep at night. Observing this, Kaldi reported the situation to the chief monk of the local monastery. The chief monk drank a beverage made with coffee fruits and stayed awake throughout the night for long hours.
The chief monk shares his discovery with the other monks in the monastery, and news about this energizing fruit begins to spread. Coffee reaches the Arabian Peninsula for the first time and from there spreads to Anatolia and then to the whole world.
Coffee Reaches the Arabian Peninsula
Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula in the 15th century. Coffee was grown in the Yemen region of Arabia, and by the 16th century, it was known in Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
According to the 16th-century Arab writer Ceziri, the first person to drink coffee was Yemeni Jamal al-Din Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Said, also known as ez-Zebhani. Zebhani, who went from Aden to Ethiopia, encountered people drinking coffee there. When he returned to Aden, he fell ill, thought of drinking coffee, recovered after drinking it, and noticed its properties of relieving fatigue and providing alertness
According to some accounts, the first person to consume coffee is said to be the Prophet Solomon. Prophet Solomon observes people in a city suffering from an illness and consults Gabriel for a remedy. Following Gabriel’s command, Prophet Solomon prepares a beverage by roasting coffee beans that came from Yemen and administers it to the sick. The patients recover.
Opening of the First Coffeehouses
Later on, coffee not only appeared in homes but also started to be seen in cities in the Middle East. The beverage, known by names like kahwa, qahveh, and khaneh, gained popularity. The coffeehouses became immensely popular, and people frequented them for all sorts of social activities.
Coffeehouses quickly became such crucial centers for social activities and knowledge exchange that they were often referred to as “Schools of Knowledge.”
Times When Coffee Was Believed to Be Sinful
Coffee also has a prohibition history similar to alcohol. Religious concerns, fear, and doubt had to be overcome. In 1511, jurists and academics gathered in Mecca and banned the drinking of coffee. Mecca’s governor, Khair Beg, believed that coffee brought people together, enabling them to discuss the failures of the administration, which he thought would undermine the authority of the government. Thus, a connection between coffee and revolution was established, and it was declared a sin (haram).
The ban was lifted in 1524 by the order of the Ottoman Sultan Selim, and with a fatwa, the drinking of coffee was permitted again. However, debates over whether it was intoxicating continued for the next 13 years. A similar ban existed in Cairo, and in 1532, coffeehouses were looted.
Coffee Comes to Anatolia
Coffee was brought to Anatolia by Özdemir Pasha, the Governor of Yemen during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Initially consumed in Istanbul, coffee quickly found its place as a prestigious beverage in the palace kitchen. A new rank, “kahvecibaşı” (chief coffee maker), was even added among palace duties.
Coffee, spreading from the palace to the entire city, became a beloved beverage among the people of Istanbul. During this period, raw coffee beans were roasted in pans, pounded in mortars, and then brewed in cezves. The first coffeehouse in Istanbul was opened in 1544 by two Syrian Arabs.
The First Coffee Roaster
People observed that after birds, goats, or certain animals consumed coffee fruits, they became more energetic and stayed awake at night. However, they also discovered that these fruits, which seemed to provide animals with an immense amount of energy, were extremely bitter and unpleasant to eat. The undeniable energy source had to be reckoned with, somehow consumed. Thus, the decision was made to brew coffee, and the first coffee roasters were these individuals.
Cooking alone wasn’t sufficient to consume this fruit; after coffee fruits were roasted, the seeds hardened, making them difficult and tasteless to eat. His next thought was to soften the roasted coffee beans by boiling them, and when he did this, as you guessed, he obtained an aromatic brown liquid, and our hero became the inventor of coffee.
Coffee Roasting Becomes an Art
The story that probably began centuries ago by chance is now practiced as a scientific and formulaic craft.
In the past, a pan-like tool with long handles, used to sift the coffee during the roasting process, was employed. The pan had extended handles and was heated on a kind of ceramic vessel with burning charcoal inside.
The First Coffee Roasting Machine
The beans were stirred while roasting, and since this method was done manually, only a small amount of beans could be roasted at a time. In the mid-1600s, a crank-controlled cylindrical coffee roasting machine was invented, allowing the beans to be continuously moved while roasting.
This method roasted the beans more evenly, allowing for the roasting of a larger quantity of coffee beans at once. This roasting machine, with many different versions, became popular in Italy, France, and the Netherlands, and later spread to Europe, England, and America.
The Competition of Coffee Roasters Begins
In the 1800s, patents for commercial roasting machines that could roast much larger quantities of coffee began to be granted in America and Europe. Home roasting remained the primary method for most people until coffee started to be sold pre-roasted in 1864.
Commercial coffee roasters entered into competition to sell roasted coffee. The popularity of pre-roasted coffee highlighted the necessity of the commercial coffee roasting business. People could now purchase ready-to-brew coffee.
In the early 1900s, the quantity of coffee roasted commercially in large machines in America surpassed the amount roasted at home. This trend continued with the introduction of electric coffee roasters launched in America and Germany. The emergence of the commercial roasting sector took a bit longer in other parts of the world.
In Turkey, Kuru Kahveci Mehmet Efendi first roasted and ground coffee for sale in 1871. Industrial coffee roasting machines were first designed and produced in Izmir.
Coffee Shops Boom
With the transformation of ready-made coffee into a specialty beverage, special coffee shops serving coffee enthusiasts began to open. Special coffee shops experienced a boom in the 1970s. A wider variety of roasting options was offered, including coffee beans grown in various parts of the world. During this time, a home roasting device was invented and marketed in Germany. This device was a fluidized bed machine that roasted by spraying hot air and was marketed as a home roasting machine.
The first machine to roast with hot air in America was produced in 1976. It was cheaper than the German-made coffee roasting machine. Today, coffee roasting technology continues to evolve, expanding in volume, and incorporating more user control.
From the discovery of coffee to the present day, there are likely many stories that history couldn’t record. Coffee’s journey continues today. Carefully cultivated coffee beans of different varieties, combined with technology and the craft of coffee roasting, continue to create new flavors with coffee roasting machines.