Kaveh Kanes, some of the first coffee houses, were opened in Mecca and
used for religious meetings. They were
also popular places for singing, gossip,
and storytelling. Some 50 years after
the coffee houses were first established,
Mecca governor Khayr Bey feared that
the discussions going on inside them
would result in people challenging his
rule, so he banned the drinking of coffee, and shut down coffee shops as far
away as Constantinople. The Sultan
of Cairo later discovered the governor
closed the shops to cover up his own
wrongdoing. So the Sultan lifted the
ban on coffee, and had the governor
executed for corruption.
Coffee arrived in Venice in 1570, but
because Muslim Africa and Arabia controlled coffee production, and their law
forbid the export of fertile beans, it was
only available to the very wealthy and
occasionally sold at lemonade stands for
In 1600, with the increased popularity
of the drink in Venice, the clergy of the
church feared that—because coffee was
a drink of the infidels—it was satanic.
Pope Clement VIII decided to try it for
himself. So enamored with the aroma
and taste of the hot drink, he decided to
“baptize” it and then declared it to be a
In the 1640s, several decades after coffee was first introduced to Venice, coffee
houses were finally opened. The most famous coffee house, the Caffe Florian in
Piazza San Marco, opened in 1720 and is
still in operation today.
A Greek Oxford student introduced
coffee to England when he brewed him-
self a cup in 1637. In 1650, the first coffee
house in England opened near the uni-
versity, followed by coffee houses open-
ing in London two years later. Only males
were welcome in these establishments.
In 1668, the custom of tipping in coffee
houses became prevalent; patrons put
coins in a box labeled, “To Insure Prompt
Service.” (T.I.P.S.) Because of the lively
conversations, heated debates, and po-
litical discussions that seemed to abound
in coffee houses, in 1675 King Charles II
ordered that all coffee houses be closed in
England. Because of the uproar that en-
sued, this only lasted eleven days!
Berlin opened its first coffee house in
1721, and in 1732 Johann Sebastian Bach
composed the humorous Coffee Cantata
about a frustrated father who is trying
to convince his daughter to give up her
In 1773, the Boston Tea Party and, consequently, the American Revolution was
planned in The Green Dragon which, by
many accounts, was a coffee house. Paul
Revere frequented this business with
other patriots and also began his historical “midnight ride” here.
Many years later in 1860, James Folger, who opted to stay in San Francisco
instead of joining the California Gold
Rush, made his fortune by founding the
J.A. Folger Coffee Company.
Over the course of coffee’s history,
beans have been smuggled and cuttings
stolen or secretly gifted. These undercover dealings resulted in the cultivation
of coffee in many different countries and
the subsequent industry that is now the
second most traded commodity in the
Science: Type of Plant
The coffee plant is a flowering evergreen
that grows into shrubs or small trees
and is native to tropical Asia and southern and tropical Africa. The white coffee flowers are highly fragrant and smell
similar to jasmine.
The plant produces a red or purple
fruit called “cherries,” and it’s the seed of
the fruit called “coffee beans,” that is used
to make coffee. It takes three to five years
for a tree to begin producing this fruit
and nine months for the fruit to ripen.
Coffee trees are able to continue growing coffee cherries for 60 years or more.
The cherry contains two seeds, but in five
to ten percent of a crop, a smaller, single
seed called a peaberry, can be found.
These are sometimes discarded, but can
also be processed and sold separately.
Typically, the fleshy part around the seed
is dried and discarded when preparing
• Coffee is the second most traded
commodity in the world. Oil is
• Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President
of the United States, consumed a gallon of coffee a day! In fact, he helped
launch Maxwell House’s slogan,
“Good to the last drop.” According to President Roosevelt’s son, his
coffee cup was “more in the nature
of a bathtub.” (On a side note, one
of my favorite children’s books, The
Golden Name Day—which, unfortunately, is no longer in print—takes
place in the early 1900s and includes
a coffee-drinking cat, Teddy, named
after this president.)
• Turkish bridegrooms, at one point,
were obligated to make a promise
during their wedding vows to always provide their wife with coffee.
If he didn’t, the wife could divorce
• Cowboys, it is said, made their coffee by placing the ground coffee in a
clean sock, submerging it in cold water, and boiling it over the campfire.
• East African tribes mixed ground
coffee cherries and animal fat together and rolled them into balls.
These balls were eaten by warriors
to give them energy for battle.
• In Hawaii, you can purchase a refreshing drink called Kona Red,
which is made from the fruit of
the coffee tree, but not the bean.
The caffeine content of the drink is
about 75% less than a cup of coffee.
In 1668, the custom of tipping in coffee houses
became prevalent; patrons put coins in a box labeled,
“To Insure Prompt Service.” (T.I.P.S.)