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Oh Coffee!!! - A series on the world's favorite drink

The wonderful aroma, the heavenly flavors, the warm feeling of true bliss with every sip, we all know of the many excellent qualities of a great cup of coffee. I believe it can change the world one cup at a time if you choose to follow me down the coffee bean road. Here I present a brief history of coffee; the first in a many part series.

Today, coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people but it might just have had its humble beginnings in Caffa Ethiopia were the plan grew naturally. As the story goes a sheep herder Kaldi decided to try some of the "red berries" from this shiny green plant. He had noticed his sheep a bit more hyperactive after consuming them and was pretty soon just as hyped up as his herd! A monk, passing by, might have scolded him for "partaking of the devil's fruit" but pretty soon the monks themselves were all over the coffee beans. They discovered that this fruit could help them stay awake for their prayers!

Long before the Turks became the first to adopt coffee as a drink the Galla tribe in Ethiopia used to wrap the beans in animal fat as their only source of nutrition while on raiding parties. And long before "Starbucks" and "Coffee Cafe day" the Turks often added spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom and anise to the brew.

The Mysore Connection!
The virtues of the drink spread over continents but not without some drama. The transportation of the plant out of Muslim nations was forbidden by the government and like all good products the actual spread of coffee was started illegally. Arabia made export beans infertile by parching or boiling thereby controlling the spread. But only until the 1600s when Baba Budan an Indian pilgrim-cum-smuggler left Mecca with fertile seeds strapped to his belly. Baba Budan smuggled beans to mountains near Mysore, India, and started a farm there. Baba’s beans bore fruit and initiated the coffee industry in India as we know it today!

From Constantinople to Bangalore!
As the virtues of coffee spread around the world each country developed its unique blends and qualities. The First coffeehouse, Kiva Han, opened in 1475 in Constantinople, Starbucks opened its first store in 1971 in the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle and Coffee Cafe day opened on Brigade Road, Bangalore in 1996!

Damn the "Devil's Drink!"
Coffee might have remained an elusive drink hard to come by many orthodox Christians had their way. But Pope Vincent III decided to taste it before he banished the "devil's drink". He enjoyed it so much he baptised it, saying "coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it."

"Devil's Drink" to "National Drink"
In the 1700's, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French infantry captain who nurtured one small plant on its long journey across the Atlantic. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean Island of Martinique, became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonised United States by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown.

Today, coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people. This commodity ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide. With over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is the world's most popular beverage. If you can imagine, in Brazil alone, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants.

Fun Fact: Espresso, a recent innovation in the way to prepare coffee, obtained its origin in 1822, with the innovation of the first crude espresso machine in France. The Italians perfected this wonderful machine and were the first to manufacture it. Espresso has become such an integral part of Italian life and culture, that there are presently over 200,000 espresso bars in Italy.

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