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Coffee History Part I: African Origins

The coffee tree is indigenous to the Kaffa region in Ethiopia, though other species of the coffee plant have also been discovered growing wild in other regions of Africa. In Ethiopia coffee beans were not brewed as a drink, but were consumed in their intact form. Monks ate these beans in order to stay awake during prayers.

Coffee beans were originally exported from Ethiopia by traders that brought coffee back to their homeland in Yemen, where they began to cultivate the bean. The earliest mention of coffee can be found in the works of the 9th century CE physician Razi, but definite information on the preparation of coffee as a beverage dates from several centuries later.

Coffee was extremely popular with Sufis looking to stave off sleep. Consumption of coffee was outlawed in Mecca in 1511, and in Cairo in 1532, but these decrees were later rescinded due to the drinks popularity. In 1554, the 1st coffeehouse in Istanbul opened, setting the stage for it eventual spread throughout the known world.


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