Today there are coffee roasters on every corner. In the 18th century, however, the intense smell of freshly burned beans led to high penalties: in Prussia, so-called coffee sniffers used it to track down smugglers and illegal roasters. They were even allowed to enter houses and sniff people out for checks. The reason for the measures: Among other problems, the beans had to be imported at high cost, which was considered bad for the economy at the time. Frederick the Great therefore first banned free import and later also roasting. The rules didn't last long, today coffee is one of the most popular drinks in Germany. A little story about coffee day this Saturday.
There are many legends about the discovery of the coffee plant. For example, that of a shepherd from the Kaffa region in East African Ethiopia. According to tradition, his goats would not rest until late at night after they had eaten from a certain plant with cherry-like fruits. Finally, he tried the fruit himself and noticed the stimulating effect of the berries on himself. He reported his discovery to a nearby monastery. The monks prepared a decoction from the fruit and were able to stay awake longer, pray and talk.
Beginnings of coffee cultivation
The beginnings of coffee cultivation on the Arabian Peninsula probably date back to the 12th or 13th century. Yemeni traders had previously brought the plant to their homeland. A few decades later there were already large-scale plantations. The port city of Mokka became the most important trading center for coffee at this time. The name of the drink was derived from the place name. In the way it is prepared today - i.e. with roasted, ground and brewed beans - coffee was drunk at the latest in the 15th century.
What is coffee?
Monopoly and worldwide cultivation
For years, Arab countries had a monopoly on the coffee trade. The details of production were therefore guarded like a state secret. In order to prevent competitors from growing coffee, the raw beans were doused with boiling water - and thus rendered incapable of germination. But enterprising Dutchmen managed to steal some plants and bring them to their colonies in the 17th century. From 1658 they were cultivated in Sri Lanka, followed later by the islands of Sumatra and Java. Other colonial powers followed suit: Portugal in Brazil, England in Jamaica, Spain in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Puerto Rico, among others. The monopoly of the Arab countries was broken. As a result, coffee became one of the most important commodities worldwide.
Leap to Europe
Even before the end of the Arab monopoly, travelers in the 16th century were becoming more and more interested in enjoying coffee. The drink then first spread to the European royal courts. The first coffee house in Western Europe opened in Venice in 1647. In 1652 London had its first coffee house, followed in 1671 by Marseille, 1673 by Bremen, 1677 by Hamburg and 1683 by Vienna. In the years that followed, the institutions became meeting places for artists and scholars - and thus shaped literature and music, for example. Nevertheless, coffee remained a luxury item in Europe for the time being. Only with the beginning of industrialization in Germany did it also become a food substitute for broad sections of the population: the poor, for example, spooned up coffee and bread soup to combat hunger and exhaustion.
Coffee is one of the favorite drinks of Germans. In 2021, every citizen drank an average of 169 liters. It is most often prepared with a fully automatic coffee machine and filter machine - at home they make up 57 percent of all cups. Coffee is now grown in more than 70 countries. The legendary country of origin Ethiopia is today the fifth largest coffee producer in the world. The world market leader is Brazil: in 2020, a good 69 million sacks, each weighing 60 kilograms, were harvested there - around 40 percent of the total amount of coffee.