Coffee Timeline Coffee Discovered in Ethiopia Coffee in the Arab World Coffee Reaches Europe The Coffeehouse Phenomenom Which is Modern? Bibliography
Sixth Century: Coffee Arrives on the Arabian Peninsula.

       Ethiopia invaded and ruled Yemen for 50 years during the sixth century and it is thought that during this period coffee spread to the Arabian Peninsula. Eventually the Arabs began to cultivate coffee themselves. Sufi monks living in the region consumed coffee to stay awake for late-night prayers. During this period they were still consuming the wine version of coffee. They called the drink qahwa, which literally means "wine" in Arabic. It is from the Arabic word qahwa that the Turkish word kahve is derived, and from the Turkish kahve, that the English word "coffee" is derived.9.

On the Arabian Peninsula, coffee was first used for medicinal and religious purposes, but its popularity soon made it a part of everyday life. The wealthy began to add coffee rooms to their homes where they would conduct coffee ceremonies. From the private coffee room sprang the first coffeehouses. During the fifteenth century, Muslim pilgrims helped to broaden coffee’s appeal and it rapidly became a valuable trade item throughout Persia, Egypt, Turkey and North Africa.10. By the sixteenth century, coffee and coffeehouses were very common throughout the Muslim world.

9. The Random House College Dictionary, Revised ed., (New York: Random House, 1975, 260.
10. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 6.


Arabian Coffee Pots for Sale at the souk (market).

 

 

Outside of
an Instanbul Coffeehouse.

Life in the Coffeehouses of Instanbul, as depicted by European Painters in the 19th century. During this period European Artists were facsinated with all things Oriental (Eastern).

View of Mecca.
When the governor of Mecca, Khair-Beg, "discovered that seditious verses about him were emanating from the coffeehouses" he decreed that coffee, like wine, is forbidden by the Koran. In 1511, all the coffeehouses in Mecca were shut down but coffee enthusiast sultans in Egypt reversed the ruling immediately upon receiving the news.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Ottoman Turks controlled the coastal city of Mocha in Yemen along the Read Sea. In America, the word "Mocha" is synonymous for coffee, and more recently, has been used to describe the combined flavors of coffee and chocolate. In its day, Mocha was the only port from which coffee was exported. From Mocha, the coffee was shipped by sea to Suez, where it was transferred to camels and transported by land to Alexandria. From there it made its way it way to markets in the rest of the coffee-consuming world. The Ottoman Turks dominated coffee production and exports, and they closely protected their plants and seeds. No plants or raw beans were permitted by law to leave the port without first being roasted to prevent them from being cultivated elsewhere.11.

However, the Ottoman Turks could not hold onto their monopoly forever. The attractiveness of the product made some people go to great lengths to attain it for themselves and for the rest of the world. In the seventeenth century, a Muslim pilgrim smuggled beans back to southern India where the plant was cultivated, establishing southern India as a coffee producing region. The Dutch smuggled a tree from Aden to Holland. From that tree, the Dutch introduced coffee first on the island of Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) and then later on the island of Java (Indonesia). It is thought that much of the coffee we drink today comes from the offspring of that single plant.12.


11. Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 7.
12. Ibid.