If you’re coming here from Part 1 Coffee Article, and you’re excited to learn about how coffee started, keep on reading! (^_^)
Once again, I’m Rhiz, a coffee enthusiast, an avid lover of the bitter beans, and digital marketer; and this is From Bean To Cup: A history of the Devil’s Drink.
But Before that, a fun little coffee recipe.
- A level spoon of Condensed Milk
- A teaspoon of Nestle Cream
- Nescafe Gold Instant Coffee
- Half a mug of Fresh Milk
- Mix the coffee in a mug with 2 tablespoons of water until its the consistency of thick soup.
- Heat the fresh milk to boil.
- Prepare the mug by swashing the sides with the Condensed Milk you’re readied.
- In goes the thick coffee soup you’ve mixed, make sure it runs by the condensed milk coated sides of the mug.
- Add the Fresh Milk, do not stir.
- Get the teaspoon on nestle cream and add it on the surface.
- Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, swirl – don’t stir.
Now that you’re holding your cup of joe, sitting all chill on your recliner, near a warm heater in this cold post-winter season, let’s get on to business.
Which Came First, The Goat or the Jibril?
Over a thousand years ago a goat herder from the ancient kingdom of Abyssinia was tending his flock. He wore a soft wooly, but incredibly light, fabric with a long turban made of wool to keep the desert sun from frying his bald head.
This particular goat herder noticed one of his goats acting all strange, running all wild, and acting more energetic than all the other goats. So when it started walking away from the flock to what looks like a tall plant – between the height of a tree and a tall shrub, the herder followed it.
When, let’s name the goat Billy, started munching on the cherry-like fruits, growing close to the branches of the plant and started acting too energetic, the goat herder understood what was going on. So he picked up several cherry-like fruits and headed for the nearest monastery where he can tell someone of what he discovered.
The monastery’s abbot accepted the cherry-like fruit and listened to the goat herder’s story. When the herder left, the abbot – completely uninterested in what the cherry-like fruits can do threw them into the nearest fire pit.
In the afternoon, as he was passing the same fire pit where he burnt the fruits, he smelled an aroma that had never passed the noses of men. The scent was so intoxicating that he dug through the embers to collect the roasted pits of the cherry-like fruit but he did not know what to do with it – so he left it on the kitchen counter, covering it with a clean rag and went to bed.
The next morning, he noticed his monks acting all energetic – remembering the story of the goat herder, he ran to the kitchen to find that the clean rug he left on the kitchen counter was being used by the kitchen staff to wipe glasses clean. The abbot took one of the glasses and smelled the aroma of the roasted pits on it. He filled it with warm water and drank, noting an immediate increase in his energy.
The abbot invented the cup of coffee.
One night, as the prophet Mohammed was about to sleep, a messenger of Allah flew down from the heavens and appeared before Mohammed.
The angel spoke,
“Mohammed you have been a faithful prophet of Allah. Have these as gifts”.
The angel handed Mohammed some brown beans and spoke.
“These are of heaven. In place of wine Allah’s people are forbidden to drink, you may roast these beans, crush it, and soak it in water. Drink the water, and you would taste heaven.”
The angel’s name? Jibril, or in English, Gabriel.
Gabriel flew back to heaven and left Mohammed with fruit from the gardens above, and the heavenly cocktail it creates, coffee.
Now, it’s nearly impossible to discern what story is true, but one thing’s for sure: coffee rocks!
Another origin story was that of a Yemeni Sheikh who discovered it while on exile – but honestly, who needs stories when you can have the facts.
The earliest known mention of coffee or the drupe of the fruit that the bean comes from was between the 14th and the 15th century AD when Sufi Imam Muhammed Ibn Said Al Dabhani imported the plant from Ethiopia to Yemen, and since then, coffee has been farmed and harvested in there.
Coffee’s Journey Across The Globe
After the Yemenis got a hold of the plant it was only a matter of time before it traveled north and arrived to the capital of the Arabian Muslim world: Mecca. There the first-ever coffee shops were opened and called Qahveh Khaneh.
These establishments would welcome everyone, it was a place where intellectuals can mingle, and where Imam’s can share their wisdom.
Soon the coffee plant grew wings and flew to the east, all the way to the subcontinent of India. Here it took roots in the town of Mysore, wherein businessmen, terrifying as they were ruthless resided. The Dutch East India Company took seedlings of the plant and introduced it to the South East. The business enterprise, the Dutch East India Company was a collective of business moguls from Europe, they used to have holdings all across the known world. They were so named after India and the East. One of their holdings was the archipelago of Indonesia and the islands of Java in South East Asia.
There they sowed the seeds of the plant that took the world by storm, coffee. In Indonesia, and Java, the Robusta variety are grown, and they hold a big percentage of the global coffee bean market. From here, in the 1600s, the plant sprouted jet propellers and flew all the way to Europe.
In 1565, Knights of the St. John together with their Muslim slaves landed on the island of Malta why they went there, no one knows. What’s for certain was that the slaves started brewing coffee. Thus coffee was introduced to Europe.
From here, it landed in Italy, went north toward the Nordic-controlled regions past France and Germany, and finally, it arrived in Spain by the 1800s. The Spanish, brought it to their colonies, in particular, to the Southeast Asian country of the Philippines; while the French brought it to the Bahamas and Haiti.
Unfortunately, because of the Mongols love for tea, and their unrelenting control of the silk road right around the time coffee was discovered, the latter never became a steady trade item within Central Asia up until the late 1990s and the early 2000s – but that’s a story for later.
Seriously..? The Devil’s Drink?
Funnily enough, in spite of already being a well-known table drink for most Europeans, the coffee was a taboo.
It was considered an evil drink by the catholic clergy and so demonized it.
In truth, it has less to do with coffee being of brownish blackish tone, and more to do with how it is the staple drink of choice for most of our Islamic brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, coffee is drunk by most Imam before long religious prayers to help them keep awake while praying.
One day, a devoted catholic clergy handed a cup of coffee to Pope Clemens the 8th, who instead of dumping it tried to taste it and said
“We shall not let this wonderful brew be the infidels drink. I am removing the ban on drinking coffee.”
Then his clergymen asked him,
“But your holiness, everyone is still afraid of the devil’s cup. Can we do something to alleviate everyone’s fear?”
The Pope, in a stroke of genius, brought out some beans to the balcony of the Sistene Chapel and blessed them – announcing to the world, that coffee was here to stay.
Ok fine, I may have taken a few artistic liberties, and have made some theatrical choices, but you have to admit, the scene above was dope.
The Great Coffee Rust
By this time, coffee is an undeniable staple in every person’s brekky. Sadly, during the late 1800s, that was not to last.
In 1880, a blight fell upon this most illustrious drink. The Great Coffee Rust killed almost every single crop of coffee across the world – specifically in Brazil, Java, South Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula; except for one country… The Philippines.
The Philippines became the world’s only coffee exporter between 1880 and 1889, minus some outlying smaller colonies. As a matter of fact, the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where, due to its climate, geographical conditions, and soil fertility, it can grow all the four varieties of coffee. Learn them in my first coffee blog.
They, however, choose to specialize in the 3rd variety, the Liberica – which is still grown and harvested to this day in the town of Lipa, Batangas. Lipa is one of the major exporter of the Liberica coffee in the world, also known as Kapeng Barako.
In 1890, Brazil caught up, and up to now, it is the world’s largest exporter of coffee.
Central Asia’s Unquenchable Thirst For Coffee
In the early 2000s, an American expat decided to throw his anchor and stick his flag of business ownership in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He started one of the first coffee shops in Central Asia whose sole purpose was to provide a location for people to hang-out and share the daily vicissitudes of life. Since then, more coffee shops appeared in Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has a more lively coffee community. Just look at one of the best coffee spots to hang out in Kazakhstan. The Baiterek Tower Platform, where you can look across the cityscape, toward the deserts of the Altyn Emel, and on the other side of the platform you can see the mountains of Tian-Sham that divides Central Asia from China.
On a more, non-acrophobia inducing scale, enjoy a cup of a coffee at Zhibek Zholy – in Almaty, where they can enjoy your cup with a printed-on-foam, colored, image of your loved ones – or maybe that of your puppy.
If your more for the exotic kind of coffee, that where the plant is grown in high-altitude terrain and the fruits are sun-dried instead of washed, why not go to Astana, and enjoy a Guatemalan coffee brew from a coffee shop that has been a member of the Coffee Association of Europe since 2016 – the Probarista Coffee Roasters.
There’s also, some smaller coffee shops in Tajikistan, of note – the Dushanbe Museum, brews the best dark roasts in the country, right after you enjoy your sight of some of Central Asia’s best cultural heritage on display.
We’ll end our tirade of Central Asia’s coffee shops here because we are #notspon (^_^)
Lesson learned: no matter where you go in the world, from the tips of Mt. Everest, down to the depths of the Marianas Trench – and from the rocky deserts of the Karakol in Central Asia, to the snowy wonderlands of Canada, you can always enjoy a cup of joe.
Here at CentrAsia Travel and Tourism Agency, we pride ourselves on being coffee lovers. Let’s have a cup together as we show you the wonders of Central Asia.
Rhiz Manalo is the co-partner to CentrAsia Tours, Co-Founder, and Co-Owner of The White Dog Collective. He is a seasoned digital marketing expert, an experienced blogger, systems architect, web designer, and a loving father to a beautiful 7-year-old girl whom he misses so much!
Check out his portfolio here.