Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Would the World be like Without Coffee?

What would the world be like without coffee?

People sometimes think that because tea is the national British drink, coffee does not have so much of a historical background in Britain.

In fact, coffee has been around in the UK for about the same time as tea and is just as ingrained in our national culture.

The origins of who first made coffee are lost to history. It became popular across the Arab world first with the first references to coffee dating from 15th century Yemen.

In the years that followed, coffee spread across Arabia to countries including Persia, Turkey and Syria where it was being cultivated by the 1600s.

The first ever coffee houses were in Mecca and coffee became an approved part of Muslim culture and a secret that was closely guarded. Foreigners were not allowed to visit plantations or take plant cuttings or seeds.

That didn’t last long because the Dutch soon found a way to get these vital plants and established coffee plantations in their colonies in India and Java, Amsterdam becoming the European trade centre for coffee.

Coffee spread very quickly across Europe and Britain via the Dutch. The first coffee house in Britain was opened in 1651 and by 1700; there were 3000 coffee houses  in London.

They were used as gentlemen’s clubs by men who would discuss the news of the day over coffee and some led onto becoming national economic institutions.

Lloyds coffee house went on to become marine insurers Lloyds of London and Jonathans – eventually the London Stock Exchange.

At around the same time tea began to be imported into Britain from the colonies and in the 1660s, tea,  like coffee was an upper class aristocratic drink.

However, with the vast export trade in manufactured textiles to India and China, the East India Company were stuck for a return cargo for the journey back to Britain.

It seemed wasteful and expensive sending ships back empty, so they mounted a campaign to popularise tea as a drink for everyone and not just for the rich.

Creating a strong market for tea at a more affordable price proved very successful and as an added benefit, this new taste for tea drinking led to an increase in the import and sales of sugar.

By 1750 Britain was a tea drinking country and coffee, although still popular with the upper reaches of society just was not as affordable or popular.

The tea habit is still firmly ingrained in most British people. A look across the channel to the Netherlands reveals that the Dutch still prefer coffee.

These tastes have been created around trade and colonies!

Even the USA still drinks coffee for patriotic reasons. The USA adopted coffee as its national drink following the Boston Tea Party and the War of Independence – simply to distance themselves from their old colonial leaders.

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What would the world be like without coffee?