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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Used traditionally by nomadic mountain warriors of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia, where the plant is indigenous, coffee was first eaten as afood sometime between 575 and 850 C.E. - long before it was made into a hot beverage in 1000 - 1300 C.E. Originally, coffee beans were crushed into balls of animal fat and used for quick energy during the long treks and warfare. The fat, combined with the high protein content of raw coffee (not present in the beverage), was an early type of "energy bar" ( a recipe for Bunna Qela - dried coffee beans - found in modern Ethiopian cookbooks echoes this early coffee preparation; it recommends mixing fire-ropasted beans with salt and butter spiced with onion, fenugreek, white cumin, sacred basil, cardamon, oregano, and tumeric). Concentrated nourishment coupled with caffeine had the added benefit of incuding heightened acts of savagery during warfare. Other tribes of Northeast Africa reputedly used the beans as a porridge or drank common and long standing in its native range before outsiders began their torrid affair with the frangrant bean.

While the Galla and other groups who used coffee traditionally have their own stories of its origins, the Western myths of coffee's incoporation into out culture are variously divine or serendipitous and are closely associated with Islam. One well known legend has it that coffee was discovered by a young Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi (which means "hot" in ancient Arabic), who noticed his goats behaving frenetically after eating red berries from a nearby busg. Curious and hoping to energize himself, Kaldi tried some. To his delight, his tiredness quickly faded into a fresh burst of energy, and he began dancing about excitedly with his goats. The daily habit that Kaldi soon developed was noticed by a monk from a local monastery. The monk tried the fruits himself, and, noticing the effect, came upon the idea of boiling the berries to make a drink to help the monks stay awake during the long religious services. News of the berry rink spread rapidly throughout all the monasteries in the kingdom, the more zealous monks drank it to spend a longer time praying.

Another legend linked to Islam holds that the Angel Gabriel came to a sickly Mohammed in a dream, showing him the berry and telling the prophet of its potential to heal and to stimulate the prayers of his followers. In fact, Islam and the coffee bean seem to have spread through the Arabisn peninsula during the same period, so it is perhaps not surprising that they are associated with each other. Subsequent antipathy toward coffee on the part of some Islamic authorities shows, however, that this identifications was not absolute.

In what was to become a recurring pattern of introduction, early users valued coffee as a medicament more than as a beverage. Although some authorities date coffee's first cultivation back to 575 C.E. in Yemen, it was not until the tenth century that the bean was described in writing, first by the philosopher and astronomer Rhazes (850 - 922 C.E.), then by the philosopher and physician Avicenna of Bukhara (980 - 1037 C.E.) Referring to a drink called Bunchum, which many believe to be coffee, Avicenna wrote " It fortifies the members, it cleans the skin, and dries up the humidities that are under, and given an excellent smell to all the body".

By the late 16th century, European travelers to the Middle East had described the drink in their travel journals, noting that it was commonly used as a remedy for a whole litany of maladies, particularly those relating to the stomach. During this time German physician and botanist Leonhard Rauwolf included in his travel journal from the Middle East one of the earliest European accounts of coffee and the already popular coffee habit he fond there:"they have a very good drink they call Caube (coffee), that is almost as black as ink and very good in illness, chiefly that of the stomach; Of this they drink in the morning early in open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of China cups, as hot as they can".

As Islamic law prohibits the use of alcohol, the soothing cheering effect of coffee helped it to become an increasingly popular substitute in Islamic countries, particularly Turkey. During the 16th century most coffee beans were procurred from Southern Yemen, although a limited amount came from Ceylon, where the Arabs apparently been cultivating it since about 1500. Mocha, on the Red Sea in Yemen, and Jidda, the port of Mecca, were the main ports of coffee export. Under the expansive Ottoman Empire of the Middle Ages, coffee, increasingly celberated for more than its medical wonders, continued to grow in popularity and to reach a wider area. The drink came to be considered as important as bread and water and declared to be nutritive, refreshing weary Turkish soldiers and easing the labor pains of women, who were allowed to drink it. In fact, a Yurkish law was eventually passed making it grounds for divorce if a husband resuded his wife coffee. Eventually, the Turkish would kaveb gave rise to the English coffee as well as the French Cafe and the Italian Caffe.

By the mid-16th century the drink had become so popular that drinkers in Constantinople, Cairo, and Mecca formed specail areas in which to drink it: the world's first coffeehouses. Such establishment became centers for playing chess and otehr games, discussing the news of the day, singing, dancing, making music and, of course, drinking coffee. Known as "schools of the cultured", these gathering palces became popular with all classes and increased in number quickly.

The enthusiasm for coffee in this milieu would be startling even for the most committed modern coffee fiend. One fo the earliest paeans to coffee was written in 1587 by Sheik Ansari Djezeri Hanball Abnd-al;-Kadir:

Oh coffe, you dispel the worries of the Great, you oint the way to those who have wandered from the path of knowledge. Coffee is the drink of the frineds of God, and of His servants who seek wisdom.

.....No one can understand the truth until he drinks of its frothy goodness. Those who condemn coffee as causing man harm are fools in the eyes of God.

Coffee is the common man's gold, and like gold it brings to every man the feeling of luzury and nobility ... Take time in your preparations of coffee and God will be with you and bless you and your table. Where coffee is served there is grace and splendor and friendshop and happiness.

All cares canish as the coffee cup is raised to the lips. Coffee flows through your body as freely as your life's blood, refreshing all that it touches; look you at the youth and vigor of those who drink it.

Whatever tastes coffee will forever forswear the liquor of the grape. Of drink of God's glory, your purity brings to man only well-being and nobility."

(Source: Abstracted from the book THE COFFEE BOOK by Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:16 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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