Thursday, February 7, 2008

While coffee flourished in Arabian lands

While coffee flourished in Arabian lands, the legend of its powers of sobriety and mental clarity quickly spread far beyond Arabian borders.

While its historic roots are still shrouded in legend, by the middle 15th century the people of Arabia were roasting and brewing coffee to enjoy a beverage much as we know it today. Wine was forbidden to Moslems, so coffee became an integral part of Arabian society. Sharing coffee became ritual, and should a man of Arabia to fail to provide his wife with coffee, it was grounds for divorce.

Venetian traders were introduced to coffee by Arabian merchants, who'd insist on a cup as they bartered and bargained for hours. Soon coffee was offered by apothecaries in Venice — by prescription only. Some feared the power of "the devil's cup" and brought coffee before Pope Clement VII, hopeful he might condemn it from Christendom. To their dismay, Clement immensely enjoyed the beverage, and baptized it, so that all could enjoy the beverage without guilt… and without a prescription.

While Arab traders were keen to ship boiled or parched seeds the entire world over, they were careful to never allow beans or cuttings that could create new coffee plants to leave Arabian borders... coffee had become so precious to them, it was made illegal to export fertile beans.

On pilgrimage to Mecca in the middle 1600s, Baba Budan, a revered holy man from India, discovered for himself the wonders of coffee. In his zeal to share what he’d found with his fellows at home, he smuggled seven coffee beans out of Arabia, wrapped around his belly. On his return home, he planted the beans in the hills of Mysore, India, and nurtured the young coffee bushes that resulted. Coffee flourished in the hills of India – hills now named after Baba Budan.

In short order, enterprising Dutch traders bought some of these coffee plants, and shipped them to faraway colonies in Indonesia and Ceylon. The Arabian monopoly of the coffee trade was over, and the Western world was waking up to a new aroma… one that would play a fateful role in Europe, and beyond.

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