|The Tradition of Coffee|
Coffee's character is riddled with social tradition. From the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia's coffee tradition is sacred, ceremonial, and honoured. Native Ethiopians sit around a carpet of newly cut flowers and grass. Over ignited charcoal, the coffee is roasted and brewed in a jebena or clay pot. The coffee's aroma is enhanced by the burning of frankincense. The rich, hot coffee is poured into handless cups and served to the guests. The first serving of coffee is called abol bunna. The jebena is then topped up with more hot water and boiled again before the next serving, tona bunna, is poured. Again the jebena is filled with water, boiled, and then the last serving, baraka or blessing, is provided. This ritual is the original version of a coffee house experience.
Coffee has played a crucial role in shaping spiritual and social life. It is believed that the first coffee houses were opened in Mecca. Known as Kaveh Kanes, they were originally religious meeting places, but soon became social meeting places for gossip, singing and story-telling. The Middle East created the tradition of coffee houses and was the forerunner for the establishment of coffee houses in Europe. Coffee houses became enlightened meeting places where politics, society, entertainment, and revolution were discussed.
The first European coffee house opened in Venice in 1683. The famous Café Florian in the Piazza San Marco, established in 1720, is the oldest surviving coffee house in Europe. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries coffee houses proliferated in Europe. Nothing quite like the like the coffee houses, or café, had ever existed before, the novelty of a place to enjoy a relatively inexpensive and stimulating beverage in convivial company established a social habit that has endured for over 400 years.
The Turkish ambassador's introduction of coffee to Paris sparked a veritable explosion of coffee culture. It was rumored that Louis XV spent $15,000 per year on coffee for his daughters. Even the most avid coffee drinkers are astonished to hear that Voltaire supposedly consumed 50 cups a day.
At the beginning of the 18th century there were 300 cafés in Paris; by 1850 there were 3,000 and more than 15,000 exist today. There was an absolute mania for cafés, leading Abbe Galiani to remark, "Paris is the café for the whole of Europe."
Consumption of coffee in the United States began as early as 1668. It was the famous British tax on tea that elevated the role of coffee forever. The revolutionary Boston Tea Party was plotted in Boston's lively Green Dragon coffee house and made drinking coffee a popular form of protest against the iron fist of the monarchy.
Each country and culture has its own unique coffee tradition. The people of Colombia drink black coffee with sugar in small cups known as tinto. Strong espressos are the norm in Italy. North America drinks coffee on the go, individualized to the temperature of the milk or cream. Coffee in Turkey is usually served with a small glass of water and/or a piece of Turkish Delight. Turkish coffee is never served with milk or cream. Brazil's espresso, cafesinho, is served with a slice of lemon.
Regardless of where you might be or whom you might be with, coffee is a common and celebrated tradition. A coffee drinker will feel at home anywhere in the world when sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a familiar, yet exotic, tinto, espresso, cappacino, or cafeinho. The enjoyment of and delight in coffee is universal.