COFFEE. The civilized world is indebted to Africa for the coffee bean. Its name is variously attributed to that of the Abyssinian province of Catfa and the Arabian word K'hatvah. Its early history is clouded in tradition, but it appears to have been known by the Ethiopians of Northern Africa from time immemorial. They used it not only for the making of a beverage, but also as a war food, by mixing the roasted, pul verized beans with grease and molding into balls—this being the only food they carried on short forays.
Its use reached Abyssinia toward the end of the thirteenth century, and traveled about two hundred years later into Arabia. The latter country seems to have been the stepping-stone to its universal consumption—and it was Arabian coffee shipped through the port of Mocha that shed a halo around the name of "Mocha" and led the coffee world into using it as a panoply for millions of tons that never saw Arabia! In those days Arabian merchants were the most enterprising in the world—they stood at the gateway from Asia to Europe, and they added the coffee bean from Africa to the spices and other luxuries of the Orient. The use of coffee quickly spread outward—first to Persia and Syria, then to Cairo and in a few years to Venice. A little later it became the favorite drink at Constantinople, and Oriental coffee-houses sprang up everywhere in the city.
For the next hundred years, the trade appears to have rested content with the conquest of the countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean, but in the middle of the seventeenth century the demand for coffee arose almost simultaneously in London, Paris and other European centers—and coffee-houses in London and cafeA in Paris became important both in point of lumber and for the fashionable, literary and political classes which crowded them daily.
The progress of the coffee bean was beset with many obstacles. Religiously inclined people denounced coffee as an insidiously pernicious beverage, statesmen saw political danger in the discussions which marked the attendance at the coffee-houses —on this ground they were closed by government orders on several occasions and in several countries—and governments found new sources of revenue by heavy taxation on every gallon of coffee brewed—but the beverage proved its real worth by out living all restrictions, and even all changes from the customs and habits of those former generations, and has steadily gained in popularity to the present rather staggering figures of an average yearly con sumption of more than 2,500,000,000 pounds.
Until almost the end of the seventeenth century, only a little more than two hundred years ago, the world was entirely dependent on Africa for its coffee beans—no one had apparently attempted to carry the coffee shrub into any other soil. Louis XIV.is credited with being the first to grow it in the French West Indian Colony of Martinique=and soon after ward it was successfully introduced and culti vated by other European governments in the West Indies and by the Dutch in Java, Sumatra and other islands of the Malay Archipelago.
It was introduced into India in about 1700 ; twenty years later into Ceylon, from Java, by the Dutch, and in 1740 into the Philippines by Spanish missionaries from Java. At about the same time the first shrub was planted in Brazil, now the world's greatest coffee-growing country, and a little later it spread to Cuba, Porto Rico and Mexico, and thence to practically all other parts of Central and South America. To-day Africa, the original source, is a comparatively unimportant factor in the great bulk of coffee production.
Growing the Bean and Preparing it for Market.
The common coffee shrub is an evergreen plant, which in its native growth is a slender tree of eighteen to twenty feet in height, with the greater part of the trunk clear but opening near the top into a few long drooping branches. Under cultivation the shrub is kept in a condition of short close growth, from four to six feet high, so as to increase the crop and to facilitate picking it—the branches, flex ible, loose and expanding out and downwards, the lower ones horizontal, the upper, inclined to trail—the whole very pleasing in appearance. The leaves are oblong ovate in shape, from five to six inches long and from two to three inches in width when full grown; smooth, firm and leathery in texture, dark, shiny green on the upper surface and pale green underneath. The flowers are white and fragrant, resembling the jessamine in odor, growing in dense clusters in the arils of the leaves. The fruit, which quickly follows the flower, is a fleshy berry, green at first, changing to a yellowish tint, then to red, looking then much like a small red cherry, and finally to a smooth glossy purple or dark red.